When an aging military chaplain is forced to move to a different area due to income difficulties, he doesn’t have a very positive outlook on life. However, he soon befriends some of his neighbors and finds that they have needs that he can help with. The chaplain decides that the best way to bring the community together is to plant a healing garden.
Production Quality (2 points)
Overall, The Healing Garden has a good production, including professional video quality and camera work. Though somewhat limited, the sets, locations, and props are well-utilized. However, the audio quality is hurt by loud background sounds, and editing leaves something to be desired as there are a few continuity errors and quick cuts between scenes. Nonetheless, this section still receives an above-average rating.
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
In this narrative, the writers used amusing dry humor and eccentric satire to make things interesting. However, the protagonist is a slightly perfect victim with lots of biblical wisdom platitudes. Time is wasted on montages as conversations that otherwise have potential seem cut-off and unfinished. This leaves the characters unfinished as their subplots meander with no clear direction, themes, or purposes. Also, the character arcs are too steep and based on silly coincidences even though there are several moments of authentic believability. There are a number of intriguing concepts that are not fully explored, and the “big payoff” moments fall flat due to lack of adequate setup. In the end, the conclusion is quite sudden, leaving the audience wondering what was actually accomplished. Nonetheless, because of a small amount of potential, a meager score is warranted here.
Acting Quality (2.5 points)
Despite the previous shortcomings of the film, the acting is the strongest aspect of the screenplay. There are some slightly forced emotions and overly staged scenes, but as a whole, the cast members appear to be comfortable in their respective roles. Line delivery is solid throughout the movie. Thus, this rounds out an overall average effort.
The Healing Garden is essentially an unfinished idea that needs more expansion and fleshing-out. With stronger themes, a clearer direction, and more substantial dialogue, this film could have been something. However, we’ll have to wait and see what this creative team does in the future to build off this starting point.
Finley Sinclair didn’t pass the audition to be accepted into the music school that she’s always dreamed of attending. Thus, Finley decides to take a semester of school abroad, heading to Ireland where her brother spent some of his final days on earth. Along the way, Finley gets tied up with a famous movie star who’s tired of his fake life. Will they be able to discover what they are looking for?
Production Quality (2 points)
Per usual for Brian Baugh, the production of Finding You is very professional. This includes good video quality, camera work, and audio quality. The soundtrack is engaging, and sets, locations, and props are up to industry standards. The only drawback to this section is the significantly choppy editing that detracts from the viewing experience. Nonetheless, this section still receives an above-average rating.
Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)
With a reliable track record, it’s evident that Brian Baugh will likely never produce a bad film due to his commitment to strong characters. Finding You is no exception to this rule, even if the characters in this narrative outshine the meandering plot. Despite strong dialogue and character development, the characters are tossed along by silly coincidences and somewhat lazy storytelling. Voice and expository conversations are used to fill gaps in the narrative as several disconnected subplots are crammed into the same movie. The writers needed to pick a lane and decide what this screenplay is actually about: a simple love story with some creative riffs and satirical treatment of cheesy films or an exploration of a mysterious elderly woman’s past. By trying to two both things at once, the story became very muddled, lacking clear purpose and focus, which led to a rushed conclusion. Nonetheless, the characters are strong enough to keep this aspect of the movie above par.
Acting Quality (2 points)
As a whole, the cast members in Finding You are mostly acceptable in their roles. Rose Reid was in her comfort zone, by Jedidiah Goodacre seemed to lack range, posting some moments of unsure emotions. At times, line delivery from various actors and actresses was a bit off, but all performances were overall good enough to justify a score just above the middle line.
It’s encouraging that Brian Baugh is applying his directorial talents to novels, which is an absolute necessity as the Christian entertainment field is undergoing a major transition. However, the book that was chosen for this screenplay adaptation did not have a very sizeable audience. Baugh certainly has more potential than is seen in Finding You, so hopefully, in the near future, he’ll be afforded the chance to adapt a better novel.
Jonathan Hickory lost his dad at an early age, so he tried to fill the void by becoming a cop. Jonathan was successful and soon settled into a simple life with his family. However, after developing and subsequently hiding PTSD as a result of his police work, Jonathan enters a downward spiral of substance abuse to cope with the pain. Will Jonathan find his way back before his family is destroyed?
Production Quality (2 points)
Break Every Chain is surprisingly one of the best productions ever crafted by the JC Films team. This includes good video and audio quality as well as an effective soundtrack. Despite some wild action camera work, the sets, locations, and props are professional. For the most part, editing is acceptable except for some lagging scenes. Nonetheless, this section is overall above average.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)
Based on a true story and possessing no writing credits from Jason Campbell, Break Every Chain is an excellent look at how police officers are surrounded and affected by trauma every day without being properly prepared or supported. However, the protagonist’s trauma progression is a bit quick, sped up by time jumps as voiceover attempts to bridge these jumps in the timeline. Nonetheless, the writers did a great job with portraying how police officers are expected to push down all their inner turmoil, which can lead to substance abuse and other vices. To capture these concepts, the writers used artistic psychological scenes that are good but tend to isolate the viewer with an ethereal quality that lacks balance. Also, there is a lot of gloom and doom in this narrative without much positive, which is only compounded by a “wise” Christian character who is essentially sarcastic and condemning in the face of the protagonist, who’s struggling with trauma. These matters are not aided by the somewhat simplistic view of psychology that the writers possess. While dialogue is mostly effective at building characters, the extensive timeline stunts realistic character growth, leading to a somewhat empty and forced conclusion. However, there are enough strong points in this plot to justify a meager rating.
Acting Quality (2 points)
As a whole, the acting in this film is mostly average. At times, the performances are somewhat stilted and overly practiced. Emotions are inconsistent in some instances. Some cast members are more genuine than others, and the lead actor is a standout. throughout the screenplay, the acting improves with time, leading to an above-par score for this aspect of the movie.
In a stunning turn of events, the JC Films team actually produced a mostly acceptable film. It can’t be a coincidence that Jason Campbell had no hand in writing or directing Break Every Chain. Basing the screenplay off of a true story was a good way to present a mostly realistic narrative. Demonstrating the cause-and-effect relationship between police trauma and PTSD is an important conversation to have in the context of Christian entertainment. However, a number of issues held this movie back from being all that it could have been. As a result, Break Every Chain is yet another example of why it’s important to focus on quality over quantity.
Pastor Dave is up to another one of his escapades, this time standing up to an evil social worker, as well as a local judge, who wants to shut down a homeschooling co-op for not teaching certain curriculums. Thus, the only option for Dave is to take the homeschooling families to testify before Congress just as the government is debating a radical education bill that would take over all education in the entire country. Will Dave’s unhinged diatribes be enough to save the nation’s homeschoolers from total annihilation???
Production Quality (2.5 points)
Like many recent PureFlix movies, God’s Not Dead 4: We the People contains a fine production with few errors. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all either average or better. Sets, locations, and props are also up to industry standards. The only concerns in this section pertain to very poor CGI and some aspects of unprofessional editing. Thus, a relatively high score is warranted in this section.
Plot and Storyline Quality (-1.5 points)
With this unnecessary fourth installment of a half-baked film franchise that almost no one cares about anymore, the PureFlix team returns to their original God’s Not Dead and Do You Believe? roots by serving up a hodge-podge of politically charged subplots, smashed together in a salad of madness. This screenplay also calls back to the older days of PureFlix when their patented in-your-face dialogue, issue-representing characters, and absurdly childish villains reigned supreme. With literally no real-world precedent for a local government successfully regulating the curriculum of a homeschooling co-op, the writers of this narrative look for persecution under every rock while espousing a very backwards fundamentalist worldview. As conversations are used to dump one-sided information, culture war buzzwords, and extremist talking points on the viewers, We the People has the feel of an anti-Common Core docu-drama, complete with cheesy stock footage of Washington DC and quotes from President Ronald Reagan to fill time. While attempting to riff on and pay homage to whatever random and irrelevant hill on which the ultra-conservative Christian audience is trying to die these days, the writers of this “movie” craft overly contrived scenes and situations that are full of ridiculous coincidences and unrealistic portrayals of legal proceedings. It all crashes into a bombastic conclusion complete with an impassioned David A. R. White meltdown. Therefore, due to the propaganda nature of this plot, negative points are awarded here.
Acting Quality (1.5 points)
Although many cast members are average or slightly better in their performances, David A. R. White stands out for all the wrong reasons. Between slurry line delivery and bad phone acting, it’s hard to ignore White’s typical unprofessionalism. Elsewhere, some emotions come off as mechanical even though line delivery is mostly acceptable. Some performances are better than others, which produces an average rating.
This unwarranted creation is an embodiment of how PureFlix is being hollowed out as a company and replaced with better prospects. The noticeably shorter runtime and lower budget of We the People demonstrates the overall decline of PureFlix, once at the pinnacle of Christian entertainment. However, this dethronement is a sign of progress for Christian media, leaving the fourth God’s Not Dead film as just a relic of a bygone era that can remind us to never go back to those days.
One day, a man wakes up under a bridge with no recollection of how he even got there. Thus, with no identification or memory of his former life, the man becomes instantly homeless. Mistreated by the system, the man has no one to turn to but God. Will the man ever regain what he lost?
Production Quality (.5 point)
This production has many pitfalls in it, such as terrible editing that sometimes cuts off scenes, causes obvious continuity errors, and creates poor transitions. Also, audio is overdriven, and there is a generic soundtrack that, at times, covers up over audio, possibly by design. Despite okay video quality, camera work is wild, including weird camera angles and tight shots. Special effects are cheap, and sets, locations, and props are cheap and limited. Due to all these concerns, only a small score is warranted in this section.
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
In Godsend, the writers actually explore an interesting tale of how someone can suddenly become homeless and therefore be on the receiving end of prejudice and discrimination. However, it’s very unrealistic how and why people are rude, and this fact is facilitated by over-the-top “bad” characters that hate the protagonist for no reason at all. Obvious dialogue leaves nothing to chance, and several occurrences are mostly unbelievable and implausible, thus demonstrating a poor understanding of how institutions really work, such as the legal system. Also, a fundamentalist view of Christianity taints the messaging even though there some very interesting concepts to ponder in this narrative. There was a lot of potential to portray the struggles of real people, but the slight possibilities that were inherent to this idea are placed in a poor package. Therefore, because of the unrealized potential, a meager rating is awarded here.
Acting Quality (.5 point)
Between extremely forced emotions and out-of-sync line delivery, the acting in this film leaves much to be desired. Many scenes appear to be done in one-take, and performances are generally mechanical. However, a tiny amount of potential in some of the cast members keeps this section from receiving a score of zero.
Once again, the JC Films team wasted an otherwise good idea. Imagine what would have happened if they had refrained from making so many screenplays and instead made one or two good ones. However, as their quantity-over-quality assembly line approach continues, we’ll probably never know what could have been.
When David Burrows is fatally shot in the line of duty as a security guard, he is rushed to the hospital but medically dies. However, David comes back from the other side with a wild story to tell. Will anyone believe his experiences in the afterlife?
Production Quality (1 point)
This film contains another sub-pair production due to shaky camera work and inconsistent audio quality that includes loud sound effects and background sounds as well as a stupid free soundtrack. There are also some very tight shots and terrible special effects. Nonetheless, this section is kept from being worse by fine video quality and acceptable sets, props, and locations. Thus, a meager score is awarded here.
Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
In a generally off-the-wall storytelling style, this narrative is full of mindless sequences that don’t accomplish anything. The writers managed to squeeze content out of nothing and filled the runtime with total nonsense as the plot jumps all over the place. Thus, it’s very difficult to keep up with the timelines. Dialogue is ridiculous obvious, and the overt message-pushing produces blank characters. There are also too many characters in general. There is no focus or purpose in this story, and there is a bizarre tone that overshadows everything. In the end, with no notable potential, zero points is the appropriate rating for this aspect of the film.
Acting Quality (1.5 points)
Surprisingly, the acting of The Man Who Went to Heaven is not horrible. However, this doesn’t mean that the performances are any more than generic and average. Line delivery and emotions are okay but not dynamic. Therefore, an average scored is awarded here.
At this point, it’s painfully clear that the JC Films team will continue to pump out random screenplays however they can. It’s commendable to base movies on source material, but the JC Films model just isn’t the way. Thus, there’s nothing further to say here as constructive criticism has no effect on this team’s choices.
The Chosen has been a transformational series, and it’s now in its second season. Its audience has exploded in the past year and only has more potential to grow. As the first multi-season Bible series to be created, it has the potential to 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 saw in the second season’s final episode, entitled “Beyond Mountains.”
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
Jesus and Matthew
In the days leading up the sermon event, Jesus and Matthew meet early in the morning so that Jesus can dictate parts of the sermon to Matthew. Once most of the sermon is written, Jesus asks for Matthew’s opinion, so Matthew says that it seems like that the sermon is full of ominous pronouncements, lending a few examples. As a result, Jesus and Matthew have a dialogue about how Jesus did not come to maintain the status quo or initiate a revolt but to start a revolution so that the Jewish people could participate in the healing of the world. Matthew believes that some of the rules in the sermon are impossible while others are not presented plainly. Jesus says that He’s using metaphor like Solomon did because He wants truly committed followers to peer deeply into His teachings, thus weeding out passive observers.
Throughout their talks, Jesus continues walking over to a cliff that oversees the disciples’ camp. He makes remarks about what His students are doing, and Matthew wonders if the students can get along while they are handing out notices about the upcoming sermon. Jesus says that conflict is expected during the trying times in which they lived, especially since He was building something new that was open to all people from various walks of life.
Previously, Matthew had said that he thought the the opening of the sermon needed more, and Jesus agreed with him. Thus, Jesus said that He needed some time to work out the beginning. After meeting with and praying to the Father, Jesus wakes up Matthew at night, saying that He has the beginning of the sermon, which will be a map. Matthew asks what kind of map, and Jesus says that it’s a map of where His followers can be found. Then, Jesus proceeds to give the Beatitudes to Matthew.
Simon son of Jonah, Andrew, John son of Zebedee, Big James, Philip, Thomas, and Simon son of Zebulon
As Simon son of Jonah, Andrew, John son of Zebedee, and Big James do various tasks around camp, Andrew is still worried about everything, and his brother makes veiled comments about this. Big James is annoyed that Jesus keeps giving Matthew extra attention, but Simon son of Jonah seems to defend Matthew, which frustrates everyone. Simon son of Zebulon says that Jesus and Matthew have been up early every morning. John son of Zebedee takes issue with how Simon son of Zebulon seems to value physical health over spiritual health, but the former zealot is nonplussed about this.
Philip and Thomas stay out of the conflict as they bring food that they had foraged. Thomas makes a point to tell Tamar that he specifically found apricots for Ramah instead of the apples that Philip had gotten. Thomas wants Tamar to tell Ramah this fact.
Later, as the group worries about no one showing up for the sermon, Simon son of Jonah, along with the women, tries to calm everyone down. Thomas think he’s doing everything wrong but is silenced by Ramah praising his work. At the sermon, Philip, Big James, Simon son of Zebulon, and John son of Zebedee help with crowd control. This is where John reunites with his parents.
Nathanael, Thaddeus, and Little James
Jesus’ mission for Nathanael, Thaddeus, and Little James is for these three disciples to secure a location for the sermon. Jesus gave them exact specifications to look for in the prospective land, but when they arrive at where Thaddeus believes the location to be, a goatherder tells them to go away. Thus, the three disciples schedule a meeting with the landowner at a public house.
However, landowner is not enthused about many people coming on his land, and he doesn’t think that Nathanael, Thaddeus or Little James are good at negotiation or have convincing arguments for why he should donate the use of his land. The three disciples appear to be losing their case before the businessman steps in. Later, Nathanael and Thaddeus help design and construct the stage that Jesus would later use to begin the sermon.
Mary Magdalene, Ramah, Mary Mother, Tamar, and Eden
As Mary Magdalene copies notices for the sermon that the disciples would later hand out, she helps Ramah finish reading Psalm 139. When Ramah makes mistakes, Mary corrects the errors from memory, which prompts Ramah to ask Mary how she knows the entire Psalm. Mary says that she has to have tools so that she doesn’t fall back into problems but doesn’t want to talk any further when Ramah tries to console her. As Ramah keeps practicing, Mary seems to sadly contemplate the meaning of the fact that God knew what she was going to do before she was born.
In another tent, Tamar and Mary Mother prepare for the day, and Tamar wants to know if she’s required to learn how to read. Mary Mother explains that it’s optional and that Ramah just wanted to keep up. Later, Tamar takes Thomas’ apricots to Ramah and seems to pick up on the potential romance between Thomas and Ramah.
Just before Jesus is ready to go out onto the stage for the sermon, Mary Magdalene, Ramah, Mary Mother, and Tamar magically produce four different colored sashes and try to convince Jesus to wear one of them even though the Son of Man (and some audience members) couldn’t care less. The four women are split 2-2 on what color Jesus should wear, so Jesus asks Eden to break the tie. Previously, Eden had showed up for the sermon and reunited with her husband.
Just before the sermon, Jesus and Mary Mother have a private moment in which they discuss how they wish that Joseph was there to witness Jesus’ earthly ministry.
Shmuel, Yanni, Shammai, Quintus, Atticus, and Gaius
Using the testimonies of Madai and Lamech, Shmuel and Yanni finally gain an audience with Shammai, the leader of the legalistic sect of Pharisees in the Sanhedrin. Shammai is beside himself with excitement about the opportunity to get back at his rival, Shimon. Shmuel and Yanni share various things that they learned about Jesus’ revolutionary activies, but Shammai wants more than just facts. The elder Pharisee wants to use rumors and conjecture to stir up trouble when the time is right so that Shimon can be politically damaged for not dealing with Jesus sooner. Shammai expects Jesus to become more popular and wants to wait until this happens before exposing the fact that Shimon did nothing when Jesus was still virtually unknown. However, Shammai wants everything documented beforehand and plans to stoke his followers with Shabbat sermons about Jesus.
Throughout the conversation, Shmuel seems uncomfortable with some of Shammai’s methods and comments, such as derogatory remarks about Nicodemus, but Yanni silences Shmuel because Yanni is salivating over the opportunity for political advancement. As such, Yanni fully agrees to Shammai’s terms and plans.
When Quintus receives a notice about Jesus’ sermon event, the praetor is not happy. Atticus seems to be amused at this, and Gaius feigns innocence. In the end, Atticus and Gaius join the sermon crowd to watch and wait.
Judas and the Businessman
Judas is the apprentice of an unnamed businessman, and they begin their day by running a con on an elderly landowner. The businessman discovered that there was a hidden salt mine on the older man’s property, so the businessman and Judas schemed to buy the land for cheaper than it was worth under the guise of digging graves for middle class Jews. However, the elderly man is skeptical of their offer and hesitant to give up the land that has been in his family for many generations because the land is a piece of the promised land. Nonetheless, the businessman is uninterested in sentiment and only increases his offer buy a small amount. When the elderly man continues to probe about why the two men are so desperate for the land, Judas pretends to care about the elderly man, which softens the older man enough to accept the businessman’s low offer.
Later, the businessman celebrates the success of their scam, saying that they will be set up like kings for the rest of their lives. However, Judas is frustrated about how they conned the older man out of valuable land and is disillusioned to what the purpose of money is if one cannot make a lasting difference in the world. The businessman tries to brush Judas’ concerns aside by saying that more money means that they can devote themselves more to God, but Judas is worried about growing scales on his eyes. In the end, the businessman gives Judas an advance on the sale of the land, and this causes Judas to perk up.
While Nathanael, Little James, and Thaddeus are in the public house trying to convince the owner of the land that they want to use for the sermon to let them use the land, the businessman overhears the conversation and decides to show off his negotiating skills. When the land deal is about to fall through, the businessman steps in to convince the landowner that the products that come from his land could be associated with the success of the miracle worker’s ministry, which eventually convinces the landowner to let the disciples use the land.
The businessman and Judas leave the public house before the disciples can thank them for helping, and on the way out, the businessman gloats to Judas about how they can use these negotiating skills to influence many people. The businessman also says that he’s interested in hearing from Jesus of Nazareth, and Judas is excited about the idea of going to the sermon, so the businessman agrees to go.
At the sermon, the businessman salivates over the number of people who are attending the event and immediately tries to assert himself as a helper for the disciples who are directing the crowds. After the businessman leaves, Judas runs into Barnaby, who insists that he can take Judas to see Jesus. However, Judas becomes confused after Barnaby goes a different way from the crowds but follows anyway. Eventually, Barnaby leads Judas right to where the disciples are waiting for Jesus, and Nathanael recognizes Judas. Nathanael thanks Judas for his help in getting the land and introduces Judas to Simon son of Jonah. Later, Judas watches in anticipation as Jesus goes out onto the stage.
Barnaby, Shula, Zebedee, and Salome
Barnaby and Shula attend the sermon event and end up bumping into Judas. Barnaby says that he can take Judas to Jesus and proceeds to go the opposite direction of the others, saying that he wants to meet some old friends. When Barnaby calls the event “a show,” Shula corrects Barnaby, saying that it’s not a show even though this fact is debatable. Barnaby and Shula end up sneaking behind the curtains that are hiding the disciples from the waiting crowds, and the two from Capernaum reunite with their old friends.
Zebedee and Salome also attend the sermon event, which is where they reunite with their younger son. Zebedee pretends to cause trouble while Salome playfully chastises her husband. Salome is concerned that her son John is not eating enough.
The Chosen has been a transformational series, and it’s now in its second season. Its audience has exploded in the past year and only has more potential to grow. As the first multi-season Bible series to be created, it has the potential to 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 saw in the second season’s seventh episode, entitled “Reckoning.”
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
Simon son of Jonah, Andrew, Big James, and John son of Zebedee
After Jesus sends the sons of Jonah and the sons of Zebedee on a quest to catch enough fish to feed the group, the two sets of brothers decide to have a competition to decide who will do the work. Andrew is on edge, but the others want to have some fun. However, Andrew insists that they need to obey Jesus, or bad things will happen. The three other men brush this off and go through with the contest, which leads to the Sons of Thunder winning, leaving the sons of Jonah to fish.
John son of Zebedee and Big James rejoin some of the others who are listening to Jesus as He shares information about the upcoming sermon. As soon as the sons of Zebedee arrive, Jesus asks them if they won a competition, which the Sons of Thunder affirm. Later, when Gauis and Atticus, along with their detachment, come to detain Jesus for questioning, John and Big James try to defend Jesus, but Jesus instructs them to drop their weapons and step back. The two brothers reluctantly do this and helplessly watch as Jesus is taken away.
Previously, Simon son of Jonah and Andrew had been arguing while they were fishing. Their conflict ranged from Jesus drawing too much attention to Himself by angering the Pharisees and Romans to how Mary Magdalene hurt the group with her temporary backslide. Simon is more cool than usual and tries to encourage his brother to embrace what’s happened and to not be so hard on Mary Magdalene. However, Andrew is extremely on edge about everything that’s happened because of the recent arrest of John the Baptizer.
The two brothers put their argument on hold to fish, but their silence is interrupted by Simon noticing Gaius’ detachment of soldiers approaching Jesus on the shoreline. Simon tries to calm Andrew before his brother sees the Roman troops, but it’s too late. Andrew flips out and the sons of Jonah scramble to get back to shore. However, by the time they arrive back at camp, Jesus is already gone. Simon and Andrew accuse the group of not doing enough to stop the detainment, but some of the disciples tell them what Jesus said about coming back. This fact seems to calm Simon son of Jonah, but Andrew is inconsolable as he angrily tells the others that they’re not doing enough. Andrew also goes off on Mary Magdalene, blaming her for the problems of the day, before storming off to find Jesus.
Andrew is joined by Philip in his quest to save Jesus since Andrew could not save John the Baptizer. They make their way to Jotapata to see if Jesus is at the local jail, but Andrew becomes distracted by Tamar and Ethan, who are preaching about Jesus to a crowd of protesters. Andrew freaks out again because he thinks that they are drawing too much attention to Jesus, which is why he drags Tamar and Ethan away from the crowd to tell them this.
While Philip checks out the jail, Andrew explains what’s going on, and Tamar doesn’t want to be silent until Yussif comes to warn Tamar about Shmuel and Yanni looking for her. This prompts Ethan to decide to lay low for awhile and Tamar to ask Andrew if she can follow Jesus, which Andrew reluctantly agrees to.
Later, after Jesus returns to the camp, Simon son of Jonah asks the Rabbi to teach the group to pray like He does, which Jesus agrees to do.
Mary Magdalene, Mary Mother, Ramah, Nathanael, Philip, Simon son of Zebulon, Thomas, Thaddeus, and Little James
When Jesus is detained by the Roman detachment, Mary Mother is visibly affected by this event. Nathanael tries to protect and help her during this. Later, Mary Magdalene and Ramah also provide comfort to Mary Mother. As the group argues about what to do regarding Jesus’ detainment, Mary Magdalene, Ramah, Mary Mother, Nathanael, Thaddeus, and Little James all firmly believe that they need to trust what Jesus said about His coming back. However, Simon son of Zebulon asserts that Jesus could have been speaking in code, trying to let the group know that they needed to break Him out of jail. Nathanael takes issue with this interpretation, saying that zealots are always looking for codes and riddles in plain speech.
Mary Magdalene offers to help Andrew find Jesus. However, when Andrew accuses Mary Magdalene of being responsible, she apologizes for her mistake and insists that she will wait and hold on to what Jesus said. Mary Mother becomes afraid when there’s talk of imprisonment, and Ramah and Matthew come to the defense of Mary Magdalene. After Andrew storms away, Philip tells Mary Magdalene that he will go with Andrew because he has experience waiting for a rabbi outside of jails.
In Jotapata, Philip helps to calm Andrew and checks the jail, finding nothing. Philip returns to find Andrew talking to Tamar, Ethan, and Yussif but is confused about what’s going on.
After Jesus returns to the camp, the entire group of disciples is glad to see Him, and He tells them that He had already promised to return. The sons of Zebedee agree that they need to do better and want to know what type of prayer they can pray like John the Baptizer taught his disciples. Jesus congratulates His followers for behaving like true students by asking questions and begins to teach them the Lord’s prayer.
Later, Jesus awakes Matthew early in the morning to begin organizing Jesus’ thoughts for the upcoming sermon.
Shmuel, Yanni, Yussif, Madai, and Lamech
Shmuel returns to Capernaum with Yanni and is greeted by Yussif, who appears excited to hear about Shmuel’s work in Jerusalem. However, Shmuel is more interested in tracking down Tamar to see if he can find the leper who Jesus healed so that Shmuel can determine where this took place on the Sabbath. Yussif is quietly suspicious of this endeavor but tries to conceal this. Yanni seems wary of Yussif because of Yussif’s veiled attitude. Eventually, Yussif tells Shmuel that an informant told him that Tamar was seen preaching in Jotapata, which draws ire from Shmuel.
Before heading to Jotapata, Shmuel and Yanni visit Quintus’ office but are stonewalled by the clerk and attending soldier. Quintus’ office is not interested in outdated intel about Jesus being in Jerusalem because they are more concerned about his affiliation with the Zealot Order of the Fourth Philosophy. In the end, Shmuel and Yanni are run out of the office because Rome has no time for them.
In Jotapata, Shmuel and Yanni are unable to talk to the Pharisees who are standing around on the street praying because these Pharisees will not interrupt their rituals. Thus, Shmuel and Yanni are forced to pay a beggar for information about where Tamar is, which she gives to them. However, Yussif, in disguise, reaches Tamar first to warn her of the plans of his colleagues.
While Shmuel and Yanni are searching for Tamar, they find the group of pilgrims to whom Tamar was preaching. However, Tamar is nowhere to be found, but before they can look for her, Shmuel and Yanni are interrupted by Madai and Lamech, who overheard Shmuel and Yanni discussing Jesus. The two pairs of Pharisees compare notes about what they’ve seen Jesus do.
Atticus, Quintus, and Gaius
Once Atticus enter Capernaum, he sees one of the notices that Quintus had put up regarding reporting the whereabouts of Jesus of Nazareth to Quintus’ office. Atticus takes the notice to Quintus’ office and demands an audience. The clerk gives Atticus trouble at first but admits Atticus when he discovers that Atticus is a member of the Cohortes Urbanae. Once with Quintus, Atticus demands that Quintus do something about Jesus based on the evidence that Atticus provides.
Thus, Quintus instructs Gaius to lead a detachment of Roman soldiers to detain Jesus for questioning. Atticus tags along with a cagey motive that Gaius doesn’t buy. After prodding from Gaius, Atticus reveals that he’s both perplexed and scared by Jesus because Jesus doesn’t seem scary and has seemingly accomplished amazing things. Throughout the course of the conversation, Atticus also convinces Gaius to go around Jotapata because of the potential danger in that town.
Once Gaius, Atticus, and the detachment arrive at the area around Jesus’ camp, Gaius orders Jesus to come peacefully and to have everyone else step back. When asked if anyone was armed, Jesus said that some of His followers were, which draws aggression from the soldiers. After Jesus calms His students and tells Gaius that Matthew was back at the camp. Gaius pretends to be tough when he remarks that many of the followers seemed underfed, and quietly to Jesus, Gaius says that Matthew was used to eating well and asked Jesus what He had to offer Matthew. When Jesus says that they should talk about it later, Gaius leads Him away with his detachment.
When Gaius brings Jesus to Quintus, Quintus orders Gaius to leave, but Atticus stays in the room. Atticus looks on as Quintus and Jesus have a philosophical conversation about how Jesus has both helped and hurt Quintus’ standing with Rome with impossible feats and annoying situations. Jesus remains calm and collected while Quintus tries to get a rise out of Him. In the end, Quintus can’t find anything to punish Jesus for and lets Him go with a warning to stop causing trouble, which Jesus doesn’t agree to. Quintus also leaves a parting swipe by referencing the arrest of John the Baptizer. After Jesus leaves, Quintus smugly says that the experience was fun, but Atticus is confused as to why Quintus sees no issues with Jesus.
Tamar and Ethan
Tamar and Ethan are preaching about Jesus in Jotapata, sharing with a group of pilgrims about how Ethan was healed of paralysis. Tamar also shares what she saw Jesus do for the leper. The pilgrims want to know where Jesus is and why Tamar is sharing about Him when He told the leper not to do so. Tamar is unsure of Jesus’ whereabouts but says that she cannot remain silent because Jesus never told her to be quiet.
After being interrupted by Andrew, Tamar and Ethan retreat to the alley with Andrew. There, Tamar learns of Jesus’ detainment but is confused as to why she cannot speak of His miracles since she is not part of the Jewish religion. At this point, Yussif appears to warn Tamar of those who are looking for her. Ethan says that they need to lay low, and Tamar tells Andrew that she wants to follow Jesus.
The Chosen has been a transformational series, and it’s now in its second season. Its audience has exploded in the past year and only has more potential to grow. As the first multi-season Bible series to be created, it has the potential to 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 saw in the second season’s sixth episode, entitled “Unlawful.”
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
Simon son of Jonah, Matthew, and Mary Magdalene
Simon son of Jonah and Matthew continued their search for Mary Magdalene in Jericho, sleeping in someone’s stable overnight. In the morning, Matthew is intent on making a plan to find Mary and forgot to stay clean while lying in the hay. Simon takes note of this and also realizes that Matthew has an attraction to Mary as Matthew describes Mary to Simon. Simon appears to soften to Matthew as a result of this. The two men are interrupted by a hungover Roman soldier stumbling by the stable, making comments about having quite a night at a bar called The Nomad. Simon tries to help the solider, but the soldier is obviously prejudiced against Jews. However, Matthew infers from one of the soldier’s comments that The Nomad has stairs, implying that Mary could be there based on what Jesus told him about remembering the verse from Psalm 139.
In The Nomad, Mary Magdalene is getting drunk and gambling on knucklebones. She has turned her one shekel into a pile of shekels, but she is being heavily scrutinized by the rough men at the gambling table. When one of the men, Hohj, is angry about losing all his money, he tries to move toward Mary, but Jethro stops him. Nonetheless, after looking around and remembering what her father told her about what to do when she was scared, Mary abruptly exits the bar, leaving her gambling winnings behind.
Matthew and Simon enter The Nomad later, and Matthew awkwardly asks the crowded room if they had seen someone fitting the description of Mary. Hohj recognizes Mary as Lilith and blames her his losing all his money. After leaving The Nomad, Matthew insists that he and Simon need to split up to cover more ground, but Simon is worried about Matthew getting lost. Matthew says that they have to do what they can to find Mary because it’s important to take her back to Jesus. Simon reluctantly agrees, but just as he’s pointing out directions for Matthew to follow, Mary calls to them from an alleyway.
Mary is sitting in an alley, hungover from being drunk. She wasn’t sure as first if seeing Simon and Matthew was a dream, and the two men rush over to her. They want to help her to return to Jesus, but Mary insists that she’s not going anywhere because Jesus fixed her once and probably couldn’t fix her again. Matthew tells Mary that he’s a bad person and used to live only for himself without any faith. Matthew also reminds Mary of what she contributes to the group and encourages Simon to do the same. Simon reminisces about how Mary helped Tamar bring the paralytic to the roof of Zebedee’s house, and Matthew says that Ramah is learning more about Torah because of Mary. At this point, Mary seems convinced but is interrupted by hangover vomiting. Rather than being repulsed, Matthew takes off his handkerchief to help Mary clean up. Matthew directs Simon to go get water, and Simon does, surprised at what Matthew is doing.
Simon and Matthew lead Mary Magdalene back to the camp of disciples where they are greeted by Ramah and Mary Mother. Mary Magdalene is hesitant to see Jesus, but Mary Mother insists that she needs to see Him immediately. Mary Mother leads Mary Magdalene to Jesus’ tent, where He is sad and praying after the news of John the Baptizer’s arrest. Jesus tells Mary Magdalene that He’s not distraught over her but that there’s a lot going on, which is why it’s good for Mary Magdalene to be back. Mary Magdalene is still inconsolable because she feels like there’s no reason why she should have thrown away what Jesus had given to her. Jesus says that redemption can’t be lost in a day and that He knows how painful Mary’s trauma was for her. Jesus explains that no one can be instantly perfect and that these things take time. Mary, although she apologizes, still isn’t convinced that she can be fixed, so Jesus verbally forgives Mary, which prompts Mary to cling to Him and finally accept His forgiveness.
While Jesus talks to Mary Magdalene, Matthew listens outside the tent. When they had first come in, Simon son of Jonah had learned of the arrest of John the Baptizer and gone to find Andrew, who was freaking out about the situation. Later, after leaving the synagogue of Wadi Kelt, Simon begins to subconsciously pick heads of grain while he excitedly recaps for the group what Jesus had just done. However, when the group stares at Simon’s actions, he realizes that he was doing work on Shabbat and spits out what he had eaten. After Simon apologizes to Jesus for this perceived error, Jesus tells the group that they can eat the heads of grain, so everyone does.
After Simon son of Jonah had picked heads of grain, Matthew had asked Philip what the problem was. Matthew had also asked Philip why Madai and Lamech were so concerned about Jesus’ use of the term “Son of Man.”
Ramah and Mary Mother
As Ramah and Mary Mother forage for food by looking for edible plants, Ramah confides in Mary Mother that she is worried about Mary Magdalene and their whole situation in general. Ramah doesn’t understand why Jesus was allowing all of it to happen, especially since He had the power to make things better. Mary Mother says that she didn’t always understand how her Son worked, but she trusts that because the Father always took care of His children and knew what was best for them, Jesus would do the same. Ramah also reveals that she wants to be a teacher and that Mary Magdalene had been a great help to her.
Later, when Simon son of Jonah and Matthew bring back Mary Magdalene, Ramah and Mary Mother rush to greet Mary Magdalene. Ramah is glad to see her, and Mary Mother gives Mary Magdalene a new head covering. Though Mary Magdalene is hesitant, Mary Mother insists that she needs to go see Jesus. Thus, Mary Mother takes Mary Magdalene to Jesus and stays with her the whole time.
Thomas, Andrew, Thaddeus, Little James, Philip, Nathanael, and Simon son of Zebulon
While Simon son of Jonah and Matthew are gone, Thomas counts the group’s remaining food and confides in Andrew that they do not have enough portions left for everyone to eat for the next meal. However, Andrew is mentally distracted because he thinks that Philip has been gone for too long. Andrew absent-mindedly tells Thomas about how he used to follow John the Baptizer and not always have enough food, but sometimes, they would have too much food, depending on the people who had just been baptized. Thomas thinks that John the Baptizer needed better planning, but Andrew says that John never valued money at all.
When Philip returns, he reveals that John the Baptizer had been imprisoned by Herod for life because of what John had told the king. Andrew becomes distraught over this. Simon son of Zebulon confidently says that they could break John out of prison because Simon knew some people. Philip seems to be interested in this idea for a quick second, but he changes his mind and tells Simon that he’s no longer a zealot. Andrew says that nothing could be worse than John being imprisoned for life.
Thomas interjects in this discussion to share that the situation is worse than they know, saying that things like this never used to happen before he met the other disciples. This leads him to interrupt Jesus’ meeting with Mary Magdalene to tell his Rabbi that the group is running out of food. Jesus tells Thomas that this is the perfect time to ask the Father for what they need, especially with Shabbat coming. Jesus suggests that they go to a nearby synagogue in a small town for the Jewish holy day.
Thaddeus, Little James, and Nathanael do not have any substantial scenes in this episode.
Big James and John son of Zebedee
While they chop wood, the two Sons of Thunder talk about the current state of the group. John son of Zebedee tells his brother, in response to watching Simon son of Zebulon perform his zealot exercises, that he once considered joining the zealots. Big James says that he never knew this, and John implies that the thought was short-lived because he liked his comfortable life with Zebedee and Salome.
When discussing Mary Magdalene and feeling sorry for her, Big James discloses to his brother that he really doesn’t understand everything that’s going on because he’s just following. John says that he has a feeling that, for quite awhile, many in the group won’t understand everything that’s happening.
Shmuel and Yanni
Shmuel and Yanni are able to gain an audience with Shimon’s scribe, Dunash, but this higher-ranking Pharisee is dismissive of the claims that Shmuel and Yanni are bringing forth. Dunash loftily explains that Shimon, the current president of the Sanhedrin, is concerned with helping vulnerable populations and alleviating the burden of the Talmud rather than enforcing the rules of Shabbat. Yanni insists that blasphemy is an important matter, but Dunash berates Yanni as being stuck his lower position because he doesn’t listen. Shmuel insists that the law of God is perfect and doesn’t need to be softened, but Dunash, seemingly bored with the complaints, says that Shimon has no time for disputes over doing work on the Jewish holy day.
Later, Yanni rants about Dunash’s arrogant attitude and put-downs. Shmuel seems defeated and resigned to the matter being over. However, Yanni is ready to fight back, insisting that the situation is far from over because they now needed to go to Shimei, the leader of the opposite school of thought in the Sanhedrin. Yanni firmly believes the Shimei will not overlook the Shabbat violations because he is more stringent and will want a chance to one-up Shimon, who ignored the problems. Yanni and Shmuel agree that more testimony is needed before moving forward, and Shmuel wonders aloud why it took all this.
Madai and Lamech
In the small town of Wadi Kelt, Madai is the synagogue priest while Lamech is the teacher. When Jesus and His disciples come into the synagogue, Lamech is reading regulations from the Torah about who can and cannot enter the assembly of the Lord. Madai immediately notices the large group of people entering the building and stops Lamech from his reading. Lamech demands that Jesus tell them what He’s doing, but Jesus focuses on Elam, a man with a withered hand. Jesus highlights Elam’s infirmity for Madai and Lamech, but they insist that it’s not lawful to heal on Shabbat, which visibly frustrates Jesus. Jesus asks the general room if it was lawful for someone to take care of a lost animal on Shabbat, but Madai and Lamech order for Jesus to be silent and warn Elam that Jesus could be a shaman. Jesus ignores them and once again asks the room if it was lawful to save lives on Shabbat before telling Elam to stretch out his hand. Madai and Lamech insist that Elam’s affliction doesn’t impact his life or health, but Elam’s hand stretching out of his hand leads to its healing as the hand returns to full health. This lights Lamech’s fuse as he screams that God could have healed Elam if the healing was meant to happen. Madai angrily tells Jesus to leave before asking what was wrong with Him. Jesus says that apparently everything is wrong with Him as He and His disciples leave. However, Madai and Lamech suddenly call after them to come back.
Madai and Lamech catch up with the disciple group as they are eating heads of grain, complaining about Jesus making a mockery of their synagogue. They demand to know Jesus’ lineage before getting distracted by the disciples breaking off heads of grain on Shabbat and accusing Jesus of this transgression as well. Jesus reminds them of the time that King David ate the showbread, but Madai asserts that this event was an emergency. When Jesus says that the Levites also do work on shabbat, Lamech challenges Jesus to reveal his lineage to see if He’s from the tribe of Levi, but Jesus ignores this, instead telling the two Pharisees that something greater than the temple had come to them. Jesus chastised the two men for not showing mercy and thus condemning the innocent before telling them that Shabbat was made for man not man for Shabbat, for the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. This statement shocks Madai and Lamech, who are speechless as they watch Jesus and His disciples leave.
Later, Madai and Lamech are beside themselves as they breathlessly pen a report for Jerusalem about the events of the day. Madai laments that Jerusalem never gives them attention since their attention was divided by other matters but that this might might be their chance to be noticed even though they are a small town. Madai says that the best thing thing to do is to file the report, but because it might get lost in the paperwork shuffle, they also should see if they can find any fellow Pharisees to talk to in Jotapata, a nearby town. Lamech agrees that this is a good plan and that they also need to pray for justice.
Ahimalech, Yafa, Abiathar, and David
During the Old Testament period, Ahimalech was a priest in Nob. As his wife Yafa helps him get ready one morning, they discuss an ill family member with Yafa being a pessimist and Ahimalech being an optimist. Later, Ahimalech trains his son Abiathar in the practice of changing out the showbread, replacing the old bread with hot bread. As they do this, Ahimlaech explains to his son that God does not eat the bread, but it is a portion for the priests. The father and son are interrupted by David bursting through the door, so Ahimalech tells Abiathar to run home and tell his eema that all was well.
After Abiathar leaves, Ahimalech asks David why he came alone, and David explained that he was on an errand for the King and needed provision for his men, who were in hiding. David wants the showbread, but Ahimalech says that it’s for the priests, so David invokes a Jewish rule regarding emergency situations. Ahimalech relents, warning David that the men could not eat unless they were pure, and David insisted that they were. Before David leaves, Ahimalech says he doesn’t mind putting himself in danger to help the young man because something great would come through David.
Amy Samuel is drowning in depression due to everything that’s happened to her in life. She just wants to give up and leave her life behind. However, a set of circumstances prevents her from ending it all. As a result, Amy is forced to face her past in order to pick up the pieces and move on.
Production Quality (1 point)
Despite this production having fine video quality and okay camera work, there are a number of concerns to contend with. For instance, the audio is quite bad, including background echoes and a loud soundtrack. Special effects are very cheap. Also, sets, locations, and props are a bit limited. Further, editing is quite choppy. Thus, these missteps all lead to another below-average production for JC Films.
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
Although the narrative is based on a true story, Don’t Give Up is a train-wreck of a film. Voiceover bridges time gaps and guides the viewer through the plot in a very heavy-handed manner. Sensationalism crowds out interesting psychological elements that provide the story with a small amount of potential. Some content is unnecessarily edgy, and expository dialogue short-circuits the sliver of potential that the characters had. Implied off-screen content makes for a confusing watch, and too many elements are unexplained as it seems like that the writers expected the audience to read a lot into various things. The time jumps create vacuums of information and a general atmosphere of random ideas being strung together with no clear focus or purpose. The flashbacks are slightly interesting since they make attempts to establish character motives, but the protagonist is fixed way too easily. It’s implied that getting saved will automatically fix clinical depression, and the story has a generally rushed conclusion. Therefore, though there is some potential in this section, only a small score can be awarded.
Acting Quality (1.5 points)
As a whole, the acting in this screenplay is average despite the fact that the performances are just average. Some cast members are way too dramatic in their acting, but they are balanced out by other cast members who are more even-keeled. Line deliver is mostly okay throughout the movie although some emotions are forced. While better coaching was definitely in order here, the performances overall improve with time. However, this section’s rating isn’t enough to save the movie from itself.
It’s commendable that Jason Campbell and his team continue to make films that are based on true stories. However, their flooding-the-market approach is still a detriment to Christian entertainment. Other production companies have tried this method in the past but have ultimately failed. At this rate, it’s hard to see how JC Films doesn’t end up with the same fate.
After Nick Wolfe commits a crime out of desperation, he takes refuge in Billy Ford’s house, taking Billy as a hostage. Nick is injured from the fallout of the crime, but Billy isn’t really afraid of the younger man. Together, the two men forge an unlikely friendship as they wrestle their demons and face their dark pasts.
Production Quality (2 points)
Though this production is above-average, it’s still not quite up to modern standards. Most production elements are fine, such as camera work, but there are some odd camera angles. Audio quality, however, is acceptable, and the soundtrack is intriguing. Nonetheless, lighting is inconsistent, and sets, locations, and props are slightly limited. Moreover, editing is fine, and all aspects of the production improve with time. Thus, this score is warranted.
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
This narrative is mostly a mixed bag. Though the writers sometime push a patriarchal worldview, this concept isn’t fully committed to. Throughout the plot, there is a good use of flashbacks to establish character motive, and most of the dialogue is interesting. However, some conversations are driven by an agenda to imply that older generations were better than younger generations. Doing this wastes opportunities to explore the pros and cons of generational differences. Though there is some character complexity and imperfection, the storyline structure is basically formulaic. Despite some interesting themes, there is a need for more consistency and explanation. Perhaps one of the worst elements is the climax scene that makes no sense and tries to go too big without effective buildup. Then, the narrative meanders around before it ends on an awkward note. Therefore, due to small potential but lots of confusion, only a small rating can be awarded here.
Acting Quality (2 points)
For the most part, the acting in A Father’s Legacy is above-average. Line delivery is very professional, but the few performances that there are are quite dramatic and dour. With such a small cast, the main actors shoulder the whole burden, and neither of them demonstrates much range of emotion. However, the acting does get better as the film progresses, thus leading to this score.
This screenplay contained intriguing psychological elements that needed more fleshing out, and as a whole, the movie was a collection of wasted potential. With mainstream cast members, unsure messaging, and attempts to be authentic, A Father’s Legacy feels like a cash grab. However, this attempt to collect from Christian audiences is very underwhelming. The writers could have tried a bit harder to make this one interesting. In reality, this film is likely to go over viewers’ heads. There was something that could have been done here, but it’s basically a misfire.
The Chosen has been a transformational series, and it’s now in its second season. Its audience has exploded in the past year and only has more potential to grow. As the first multi-season Bible series to be created, it has the potential to 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 saw in the second season’s fifth episode, entitled “Spirit.”
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
Simon son of Jonah, Matthew, and Thomas
While others have gone outside the camp to complete various tasks, Matthew and Thomas are stuck helping each other prepare the meal for the group. Thomas voices his complaints, and Matthew tries to defend himself by saying that Thomas is only frustrated because Matthew was a tax collector. Thomas is sarcastic while Matthew believes himself to be a very humble person. During their spat, the two men are watching Mary Magdalene teach Ramah how to read as the two women sit in a tent. Matthew can tell that Mary is distracted and frustrated, but Thomas is jealous, thinking that Matthew is watching Ramah, which Matthew doesn’t refute.
Matthew and Thomas both hear Caleb, the demon-possessed man, outside the camp. Thomas grabs a knife for defense, so Matthew copies him, grabbing a nearby spoon. The two men rush to Mary Magdalene and Ramah as the two women come out of the tent, having also heard Caleb’s noise. When Caleb jumps out from behind a tent, Thomas and Matthew try to make a show of force, but Mary steps forward, trying to help Caleb get free of his demon. As Mary talks with Caleb, Matthew and Thomas hang back. After Jesus frees Caleb from the demon, Thomas prepares food for the victimized man.
Simon son of Jonah seems wary at the arrival of John the Baptizer but keeps quiet about the situation. After Simon son of Zebulon talks with Jesus, Simon son of Jonah introduces the new disciple to the other disciples. During this exchange, they discover that Mary Magdalene has been missing, so Simon son of Jonah goes to Christ, Who is practicing the Sermon on the Mount. Simon son of Jonah informs his Rabbi about Mary’s disappearance, and Matthew joins them. Simon accuses Matthew of spying, but the Lord tells Simon that Matthew needs to go with Simon to find Mary. Seeing a greater need, Simon relents and agrees. Before they leave, Jesus tells Matthew to keep the verse from Psalm 139 in his thoughts.
Ramah and Mary Magdalene
While picking persimmons for the group, Mary Magdalene is trying to memorize several Jewish prayers as well as the verse that Matthew had given to her and Ramah. However, Mary is distracted by two Roman soldiers who ride up to talk to each other on a nearby path. Mary drops the fruit and accidentally crumples her parchments as she tries to hide in fear.
Later, while trying to teach Ramah how to read, Mary is distracted and frustrated, which she takes out on Ramah when Ramah makes mistakes. After taking a break, Mary apologizes and admits that Ramah was doing fine. Ramah is accepting of Mary’s apology. Mary confesses that she has been frustrated about how she ignored the prayers that she had been holding and chose to hide from the Roman soldiers. Ramah implies that she has been frustrated with the nature of the group’s travels thus far.
As Caleb approaches the camp, Mary is able to sense the presence of demonic activity. She and Ramah go outside the tent to join Thomas and Matthew, and Caleb jumps out from behind the tent. Belial, the demon that’s possessing Caleb, says that it can smell something vile on all of them. After the standstill between Caleb and Matthew, Mary steps forward, trying to help Caleb by asking his real name. Belial remains in control of Caleb, calling Mary Lilith and reminding her of her past. Belial says that the seven demons that once possessed Mary told it stories about what Lilith was like. Mary insists that Caleb needs to say the name that his mother gave him, and Caleb tries, but Belial prevents him from doing this.
After Jesus casts Belial out of Caleb, Mary quietly leaves the camp, taking her bag with her. Along the road to Jericho, Mary is still distraught about the events of the day, but as a Roman soldier passes her without doing anything to her, Mary regains some of her old confidence. With a new outlook, Mary enters Jericho and goes to a questionable establishment where she asks for a man named Jethro. The man at the front of the business is hesitant to do this at first, calling her a nice girl. However, when Mary takes off her head covering and tells the man to pass along a message about a girl from The Hammer wanting to win back her money, the front man is more eager to find Jethro.
The front man takes Mary to a back room to meet Jethro, who immediately recognizes Mary as Lilith, thinking that she was dead. Mary says that she was sort-of dead and says that she brought her own money to pay for the gambling game.
Andrew, Thaddeus, Little James, Phillip, and Nathanael
When John the Baptizer comes to see the disciple group, Andrew is confused as to why his former rabbi is going back to Jerusalem until John the Baptizer explains his rationale.
Thaddeus and Little James, after witnessing Jesus cast Belial out of Caleb, assist Caleb with his recovery.
Phillip and Nathanael have no substantial scenes in this episode.
Simon son of Zebulon, Jesse, and Atticus
After Jesus had met with Jesse a second time to tell Jesse to go and sin no more, Jesse was questioned by Shmuel and Yanni. Jesse told the two Pharisees that he hadn’t heard much of what Jesus and His disciples had said because Jesse was more focused on his healed legs. Jesse is still excited about his ability to walk, and he ends up disclosing to Shmuel and Yanni that one of Jesus’ disciples had mentioned going to see Jesus’ cousin. When Jesse hears that Jesus is from Nazareth, Jesse is surprised.
After leaving the interrogation, Jesse encounters Atticus, who was spying on the healed man. Atticus pretends to be a friend who just heard about the miracle and wanted to know more because he allegedly believed in the miracle. Jesse is hesitant to share much but reveals that he had encountered his brother soon after the healing. Jesse also reluctantly disclosed to Atticus that Jesse’s brother believed the healer to be the Messiah. Atticus pretends to be excited about this fact.
Simon son of Zebulun is searching for Jesus in the wilderness, which is where Simon encounters Caleb. Trying to remain hidden from the demon-possessed man doesn’t work because Belial can smell Simon following Caleb. Caleb begs for Simon to kill him, but Simon decides against this since Caleb was neither a Roman nor a tax collector and because the demons would go somewhere else. Simon reasoned that Caleb was strong enough to have lucid moments and would be fine. When Belial takes control again, the demon says that Simon has a vile smell on him, and Simon thinks that it’s because he hugged Jesse, who had not taken care of personal hygiene in a while. However, Belial insists that the smell is of a holy person, but Simon says that Jesse had not been holy for quite a long time.
Simon leaves Caleb and finds the camp of the disciples, watching them from a tree. However, Caleb follows Simon to the camp and startles Thomas, Matthew, Ramah, and Mary Magdalene. After the exchange between Belial and Mary, the demon forces Caleb forward to attack her, but Simon jumps out to stop the demon-possessed man. Nonetheless, Belial has allowed Caleb to be very strong, and after knocking Simon’s sica dagger away while Simon wasn’t looking, Caleb forces Simon to the ground and begins to strangle Simon to death.
Simon is only rescued by Jesus ordering Belial to get out of Caleb. Afterward, Simon tries to recover, and John the Baptizer recognizes that Simon was a zealot. Jesus tells the group that the newcomer is also Simon before directing the disciples to help Caleb. Then, the Lord takes Simon aside to discuss Simon’s future with the group. As Simon and Christ walk alone along the river, Simon conveys that he wants to do whatever he can to use his skills for Jesus. However, the Lord isn’t interested in Simon’s training, and after holding Simon’s sica dagger, Christ throws it into the river. Jesus tells Simon that He needs no one but wants Simon for specific reasons. Christ says that no one buys their way into the disciple group because of special skills, and Simon says that he’s concerned about people coming after Jesus due to the healing of Jesse. The Lord asks what Simon will do about this, and Simon says that he would be more likely to protect Christ if he still had his dagger. In response, Jesus says that Simon will have to wait and simply accept walking with the Lord for now.
Later, Simon son of Zebulun watches Christ say goodbye to John the Baptizer. Atticus had been following Simon through the wilderness, finding the remains of Simon’s campfire. As the Lord bids farewell to John the Baptizer with Simon looking on, Atticus watches the three men from a tree. Atticus had retrieved Simon’s sica dagger from the river, and Atticus begins making a connection between Jesus and John the Baptizer.
Shmuel and Yanni
After finding Jesse talking with Christ, Shmuel and Yanni bring in the healed man for questioning. It’s implied that the two Pharisees bribe Jesse with a pair of sandals. Shmuel attempts to extract information from Jesse, wanting the healed man to stop pacing and paying more attention to his legs than to the two Pharisees. From the interrogation, Shmuel and Yanni are able to derive that the mysterious Healer told Jesse to go and sin no more, which Shmuel thought matched what he had seen Jesus do in Capernaum. Yanni says that there were too many people named Jesus in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles.
After the questioning, Yanni and Shmuel go to a records clerk, demanding that the formal inquiry about the paralytic being healed in Capernaum be updated with new information about a second healing. The clerk is perturbed at this disturbance, taking his time to examine the archives. He eventually reveals that the formal inquiry was opened and then closed before it even advanced to the Sanhedrin. Yanni wants to know why, but the clerk is cagey, citing confidentiality. The clerk only discloses that a powerful member of the Sanhedrin used his influence to close the case, saying that it was a one-off incident by a rogue. Thus, the clerk insists that the inquiry would never be questioned or reopened.
After leaving the clerk’s office, Shmuel and Yanni fume about what they infer were Nicodemus’ actions to shut down the formal inquiry into Jesus before the investigation could even begin. Shmuel is ready to give up, believing that Nicodemus has too much power, but Yanni isn’t ready to relent. He tells Shmuel that he may have a contact who can help.
Later, Yanni is writing a letter to his friend, who is a personal scribe of a powerful member of the Sanhedrin. While writing, Yanni explains his plan to Shmuel: use the situation of healing on the Sabbath as a divisive political issue to split the Sanhedrin in half since either side held different beliefs about the interpretation of the Torah. Shmuel dislikes politics but agrees that this is the best way to either circumvent Nicodemus or convert him. Additionally, Yanni shares that he wants to recreate the events of the healings, possibly returning to Capernaum for investigation. Yanni says that they might be able to find the Ethiopian woman who took the first paralytic to Jesus, and Shmuel says that they can search the census records for Jesus’ cousin.
John the Baptizer
After meeting the Lord and His disciples in Jericho, John the Baptizer wants to meet them outside the city. John the Baptizer startles Jesus, Andrew, Simon son of Jonah, and Phillip, and Christ wants to meet with his cousin alone. The two men sit beside a lake in privacy as John insists that Jesus needs to be moving faster with His earthly ministry and doing more than He currently is. John the Baptizer intends to call out Herod for marrying his brother’s ex-wife. The Lord insists that it’s not His job to deal with the romantic lives of royalty. John wants to know why his Cousin is always going to desolate places, and Jesus says that He’s working on a big sermon and that He’s always ready to do the will of His Father.
Eventually, John the Baptizer becomes more serious as he realizes that everything that was prophesied about him and his Cousin was becoming real, which was heavy. Jesus agrees with this, and John apologizes for being pushy, reiterating his commitment to the Lord and John’s purpose in life.
Later, after witnessing Christ cast the demon out of Caleb, John the Baptizer thanks his Cousin for allowing him to see the miracle. As John leaves, a saddened Jesus tells His cousin that John is doing what he was supposed to be doing and that he only needed to listen to God. As he leaves, John says that he always does this, and the Lord fights back tears as he watches His cousin leave.
The Chosen has been a transformational series, and it’s now in its second season. Its audience has exploded in the past year and only has more potential to grow. As the first multi-season Bible series to be created, it has the potential to 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 saw in the second season’s fourth episode, entitled “The Perfect Opportunity.”
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
Simon son of Jonah, John son of Zebedee, and Matthew
On the outskirts of Jerusalem, Simon son of Jonah, John son of Zebedee, and Matthew all assist Jesus and the disciple group with preparing their tabernacle for the upcoming Feast of Tabernacles. Simon continually wants everything to be organized while Matthew is striving to fit in by lightening up and not focusing so much on semantics. Simon and John seem less hostile toward Matthew after the conflict outside Syria. When asked about why women don’t always go to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, Simon explains that the journey was difficult for the vulnerable but that he had always gone to the holy city with Eden for this feast.
While Nathanael and Thomas are gathering supplies for the Shabbat meal, they see Shmuel preaching in a square, not knowing who he is. Matthew warns the two disciples about the Pharisee and what he had done in Capernaum.
After the Shabbat meal, Simon and John warn Jesus that Shmuel was spotted in Jerusalem preaching about false prophecy. The Lord says that this is a good thing because He’s going to see someone in the city on the following day. Christ invites Simon and John along and tell them to also invite Matthew. Simon and John aren’t thrilled about asking Matthew but do so anyway.
On the way into the city, Jesus reveals that they’ll be going to the Bethesda Pool, which draws skepticism from Simon and John. The group explains to Matthew that this pool is the site of a pagan cult who believes that an angel stirs up the waters such that the first person to touch the bubbling water will be healed of their ailments. After going through the checkpoint, the Lord leads the three disciples to the forum that surrounds the Bethesda Pool. Christ heads straight to where Jesse is lying on the ground, saying that Jesse has been there the longest.
Simon, John, and Matthew watch as Jesus asks Jesse if he wants to be healed. The Lord and the crippled man have a conversation about false hopes and about how the pool is not what Jesse needs. In the end, Jesse agrees that he wants to be healed, and the three disciples witness Christ take away Jesse’s paralysis and tell the man to pick up his mat and walk. John writes down the event, and after Jesus leaves, Simon reminds Jesse to pick up his mat and walk because he won’t be coming back to the pool and because everything is different now. Then, Simon leaves just as Yanni approaches Jesse, accusing the former paralytic of doing work on the Sabbath by picking up his mat. John explains to Matthew that the oral tradition of the Torah adds rules like this to the actual Torah. John berates Yanni for not paying any attention to the miracle before Matthew silently encourages John to leave with him.
As they leave Jerusalem, Simon thanks the Lord for letting him see the healing, and John seems excited about getting under the Pharisees’ skin. Matthew asks Christ why He didn’t wait thirty more minutes for Shabbat to be over to heal Jesse, and Jesus informs the three disciples that sometimes, you have to stir up the water.
Andrew, Mary Magdalene, Big James, Thaddeus, Little James, Thomas, Ramah, Phillip, Nathanael, and Mary Mother
At the Shabbat meal, Andrew remembers one of the Torah passages that was typically read during the Feast of Tabernacles although Simon does not.
While preparing for the Feast of Tabernacles, Mary Magdalene shares that she had never been to the Feast of Tabernacles but that her father had always gone. Mary also wants to know why women weren’t typically invited, and Simon explains that the journey was usually considered to be too difficult. During the Shabbat meal, Mary Magdalene remarks about how the thatched roof of the booth reminds her of her days on the streets and makes her feel protected.
During the Shabbat meal, Big James asks Jesus why the prophet Zechariah prophesied about Gentiles eating at the Feast of Tabernacles. Big James complains that it was the people of God who wandered in the wilderness, so other nations wouldn’t fully appreciate the meaning of the feast. However, the Lord says that everyone wandered in the wilderness from time to time.
Thaddeus assists the group with the construction of the tabernacle and explains a few aspects of the Jewish feast to Matthew.
Little James has no substantial scenes in this episode.
Thomas accompanies Nathanael into Jerusalem to gather supplies for the Shabbat meal. However, Thomas clashes with Nathanael as Thomas doesn’t like Nathanael’s direct nature. Thomas is also annoyed by Matthew’s behavior and Nathanael’s assessment that Thomas and Matthew are almost the same person. Further, Thomas resents Nathanael for exposing Thomas’ desire to impress Ramah.
Ramah has no substantial scenes in this episode.
Phillip works alongside Matthew as they assist with building the tabernacle. Phillip silently encourages Matthew when he sees that Matthew is trying to avoid being overly analytical about everything.
Nathanael takes the lead with the construction of the tabernacle since he drew up the plans for it. While in the city, Nathanael informs Thomas that Thomas shouldn’t eat a pomegranate without washing his hands, especially if Thomas wants to impress Ramah. Nathanael also points out that Thomas and Matthew are both very analytical. Nathanael does not seem bothered by Matthew like others are. During the Shabbat meal, Christ congratulates Nathanael for his craftsmanship in designing the tabernacle.
During the Shabbat meal, Mary Mother shares with the disciples group that the thatched roofs of the tabernacles were to remind the Hebrews of their dependence on God. Mary also asserts, in response to the collective belief that prophecies about Jews and Gentiles coexisting were impossible, that she knew a thing or two about impossible prophecies.
Simon son of Zebulon, Jesse, and the Order of Zealots
Simon and Jesse, sons of Zebulun, grew up as very close brothers. After Jesse was injured from falling out of a tree, his parents were unsuccessful in helping Jesse to walk again. Jesse’s biological mother died giving birth to Simon, and Jesse took care of his younger brother when Simon was an infant. However, their father, Zebulon, eventually remarried. When Simon was older, he switched roles with his paralyzed brother, taking care of Jesse. One day, Simon, angered by the cruelty of Rome, joined a group of zealots who were bent on bringing down the Roman rule and instituting pure Judaism. After leaving a note, Simon began training with the zealots at a remote location.
Later, Jesse began living by the Pool of Bethesda, which was the property of a pagan cult made up of adherents who believed that whoever touched the fountain first when the water bubbled would be healed of their ailment. However, Jesse was never able to get to the water when it stirred because others always pushed ahead of him. For twenty-five years, during which Zebulon died, Simon lived and worked with the zealots while Jesse languished by the poolside, eventually giving up on a chance to be healed.
In the present timeline, Simon son of Zebulon prepares to join zealots in Jerusalem, collaborating with them in an assassination attempt of Rufus, a Roman magistrate in the Jerusalem area. By this time, Simon has received great honor from the zealot leaders and established a strong reputation among the group. However, if Simon was to either succeed with the assassination attempt or die.
The leader of the zealot order had told the zealot rabbi that someone had to assassinate Rufus because of the magistrate’s connection to Caiaphas, the high priest, who the zealots believed to be corrupted by Rome. The rabbi had recommended Simon for the job.
On the way out of the zealot catacombs, Simon son of Zebulon is reminded of a prophecy from Zephaniah about the day when Israel would be purified and when the lame would walk. Along the path leading to the entrance of Jerusalem, Simon sees men being crucified by Roman soldiers and becomes uneasy when he’s searched at the city gate. Simon tells Linus, the soldier who’s questioning him, that he’s early for the Feast of Tabernacles because he’s visiting family. After Simon inquires, Linus informs Simon that the men were being crucified for murder.
Later, after going over the plans for the assassination attempt with the Jerusalem zealots, on the temple steps Simon son of Zebulon hears someone reading the prophecy of Zephaniah about Israel being purified and the lame walking. Looking out at the dead bodies on the crosses outside the city walls, Simon ponders his pending crime. This seems to prompt Simon to visit his brother at the Pool of Bethesda.
Jesse had previously indicated to one of his fellow invalids that he wasn’t sure why he still was by the pool, and when Simon visits his brother, Jesse can’t believe it’s actually Simon. The two brothers discuss their justifications for their chosen paths in life with each brother criticizing the other’s choices. Simon thinks that Jesse has given up and is following a cult while Jesse believes that Simon is breaking the law by working with the zealots. Simon is discouraged the Jesse seems so hopeless now and informs his older brother that he’ll be in the upper city on a mission for the zealots. Jesse, visibly frustrated and distraught, produces the notes that Simon had left him when Simon joined the zealots. This note includes the prophecy from Zephaniah that Simon previously heard at the zealot headquarters and on the temple steps. Simon’s note concluded with a statement that he would know that the Messiah had come when he saw Jesse walking, and as Simon leaves, he tells his brother that he stands by this statement.
Jesse falls into a depression after Simon’s visit, so when Jesus arrives at the pool, Jesse doesn’t really want to talk. However, Jesse agrees to answer the Lord’s questions, thinking that He will help Jesse to get into the pool. When Christ says that Jesse needs Him rather than the pool, Jesse is ambivalent but silently agrees that he wants to be healed. Thus, Jesse stands up when Jesus tells him to do so and picks up his mat when Simon son of Jonah reminds Jesse to do so. When Yanni challenges Jesse for doing work on the Sabbath, Jesse is too excited to care and simply says that he’s standing on two feet. After the Lord and His disciples leave, Jesse tells Yanni that he needs to leave to find his brother. On the way to the upper city, Jesse runs into someone as he seems unsure of walking.
In the upper city, Simon son of Zebulon is preparing to execute the assassination attempt along with several other zealots. The distractions are put in place, but as Simon is about to pull out his knife, he sees Jesse pass by out of the corner of his eye. Distracted by this, Simon abandons the plan and follows his brother, prompting the other zealots to scatter. Simon finds Jesse around another alleyway, and Jesse dances as Simon looks in wonder at his brother’s healing. The two brothers embrace, and Jesse points Simon in the direction of where he thought Jesus had gone.
Shmuel and Yanni
In Jerusalem, Shmuel is being trained by Yanni to speak about Pharisaic teachings in a poor district. Yanni, however, doesn’t want to be around the poor and quickly leaves once Shmuel has found something to stand on during his speech. Shmuel eventually teaches a crowd of people about how many false prophets would be coming to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, which was why they needed to be on alert.
At the Pool of Bethesda with other Pharisees, Yanni witnesses the Lord heal Jesse. After Christ leaves, Yanni accuses Jesse of picking up his mat on Shabbat, which constituted as doing work on the holy day. Yanni then interrogates Jesse about Jesus, and when Jesse says that he doesn’t know the Lord’s name, Yanni says that this was very typical of a false prophet who performed magic tricks on Shabbat, thus causing people to sin.
Later, Yanni rushes to tell Shmuel what he witnessed, and Shmuel appears to understand what’s happening.
Atticus, Pretorius, and the Romans
Atticus, a member of the Cohortes Urbanae, the Roman secret police, begins watching Simon son of Zebulun while Simon practices an assassination attempt. Atticus goes ahead of Simon to Jerusalem and sees Simon check in at the city gate. Recognizing Simon’s ruse, Atticus reprimands Linus for not being more suspicious of Simon before beginning to follow Simon through the city. Atticus watches Simon as Simon uses secret passageways to meet with zealots in Jerusalem, but Atticus frequently loses track of Simon due to the confusing alleyways.
Later, Atticus meets with Pretorius, an associate of Rufus, a Roman magistrate of Jerusalem. Pretorius seems unwilling to meet in public, and Atticus chastises the official for being dressed so conspicuously. Then, Atticus reveals that he suspects that a trained zealot assassin was planning to attempt to assassinate Rufus on Shabbat due to the predictable nature of Rufus’ schedule. Pretorius insists that the scheduling is out of his hands, so Atticus decides to present a plan to Rufus: Atticus should pose as Rufus on Shabbat so that Simon would attempt to kill Atticus, who could use his skills to turn the tables and kill Simon instead. Pretorius doesn’t think that Rufus or Rufus’ wife will agree with the plan, but Atticus is confident that the government official will.
Atticus proves to be right, so he disguises himself as Rufus on Shabbat, keeping his eyes pealed for Simon. However, when Simon is distracted by Jesse, Atticus takes notice and watches the two brothers embrace. Atticus is ready to kill Simon, but the zealot leaves before anything can happen.
The Chosen has been a transformational series, and it’s now in its second season. Its audience has exploded in the past year and only has more potential to grow. As the first multi-season Bible series to be created, it has the potential to 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 saw in the second season’s third episode, entitled “Matthew 4:24.”
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
Simon, Andrew, and Thomas
After Little James finishes his shift helping Jesus with those being healed, Thomas awkwardly asks Little James what the latter’s malady is, and Little James reveals that he has a disability. Thomas wants to know why Little James doesn’t ask the Lord to heal him, which makes Thomas realize that he wants to ask Christ more questions.
While they are resting from helping Jesus as He healed local people, Simon, Andrew, and Thomas set up shelters and rest by the campfire. Simon asks Andrew to ask open-ended questions since Simon was too tired to think. Andrew asks the group what un-sinful things they would do to get money. The disciples offer various responses. During a discussion about education, Thomas says that he never did well in school and was working for the family business as soon as he had graduated.
When Mary Mother mentions that Jesus’ father died, Thomas says that he wants to asked the Lord more about this.
Eventually, the conversation turns to the Roman occupation and the nature of their Jewish culture. After others talk back and forth about this topic, Simon sarcastically asks Matthew how Matthew feels about the Roman impact on Jewish culture. When Matthew doesn’t respond, Simon lays into Matthew, accusing Matthew of what he used to do for Rome, oppressing his fellow Jews. Andrew agrees that Matthew needs to apologize for what he did to his fellow countrymen, and Thomas resents all tax collectors for making him struggle as a business owner. Simon doesn’t let up, saying that he wouldn’t accept Matthew’s apology even if there was one because Simon feels like Matthew forsook everything Jewish just to make more money while Simon remained faithful to the Jewish traditions and had to struggle for everything he had. Simon’s tirade is interrupted by Jesus coming into the campsite.
Big James and John
Big James and John assist Christ with the healing before helping set up the shelters. The brothers have a discussion with the others about why the Lord was choosing to heal people instead of get ready for war. Big James always believed in the rabbinic tradition that the Messiah would be a military leader who would conquer the Romans.
Then, they take a break for the night, sitting around the campfire. The two brothers participate in the various discussions about education and Jewish culture. John seems to take a particular interest in Mary Mother’s stories. John says that he didn’t do very well in school, but his brother did. Big James shares a time when he had to finish cleaning up the fishing supplies just before Shabbat, and he barely got done in time.
Although John asked Matthew about money during the earlier part of the conversation, John defends Matthew from Simon’s later attacks. Big James also steps in to try to stop the conflict, which gets interrupted with the Jesus’ arrival at the campsite.
After Phillip gives him a passage to memorize from Psalm 139, Matthew thinks that it’s not enough. However, Matthew agrees to follow Phillip’s advice to mediate on the passage and write it down to help commit it to memory. Then, Matthew shares the same passage with Mary Magdalene and Ramah, helping them learn it as well.
While Christ was healing people, Matthew tried to keep track of what each individual’s ailment is so that he can write it down, but he’s unable to keep up as the people are excited and quickly leave after being healed.
Matthew did not participate very much in the discussions around the campfire, and he didn’t seem to know how to respond when Simon attacked him.
Mary Magdalene, Ramah, and Mary Mother
When the disciples are discussing why the Messiah came during their time and did not wait for people to become holy, Mary Magdalene asserted that the Lord came to make people holy rather than to wait for them to be holy. Later, during the campfire discussions, Mary Magdalene shares a modified version of her backstory for those who had not previously heard it, saying that she had temporarily left Judaism and forgotten most of the tenets of the religion. Mary Magdalene seems reluctant to talk about this and speaks awkwardly about her past. Later, Mary Magdalene is visibly uncomfortable during the heated arguments but stays out of the conflicts.
As the group talks about their expectations for the Messiah, Ramah shares that she always imagined that the Messiah would rescue her from the Romans. Later, during the discussion about Jewish regulations, Ramah shares that it was always easy for her to follow the rules. Ramah stays out of the arguments among Matthew, the sons of Jonah, and the sons of Zebedee.
Once Mary Mother joins the group, she assists in preparing the evening meal. As the disciples sit around the campfire, after being prompted by the others, Mary Mother shares some of her perspective on the birth of her Son as well as His childhood. When the Lord was younger, Mary Mother said that she was surprised at how much He needed her help as He grew up, but now, she felt like Christ didn’t need her help anymore.
Mary Mother left the group before the arguments broke out but came back as things were getting heated. She stays silent during the conflicts until she notices her Son coming back from the healing, looking exhausted. When no one else assists the Messiah, Mary Mother rushes to His side to wipe the blood from His hands and wash His feet. Then, Mary Mother helps her Son get ready to sleep even though no one else assists her.
Thaddeus and Little James
When Thomas inquires about Little James’ malady, Little James tells Thomas that he’s unsure if he’s supposed to ask Jesus to heal him of his disability, and Little James wonders if some of the people who are being healed only believed in the Lord because they were being healed by Him.
Thaddeus spends most of the episode helping Christ with the healing. At one point, Thaddeus reveals that he once ate pork at a Gentile marketplace. Thaddeus also reiterates that he’s learning to pray more.
Phillip and Nathanael
Phillip tells Matthew to memorize a portion of Psalm 139. When Matthew wants more, Phillip tells him to only focus on the small part for now by meditating on it and writing it down. Then, Phillip told Matthew to get back to him later.
For a majority of this episode, both Phillip and Nathanael were with Jesus, assisting with the healing of the crowds.
Nathanael did not have any substantial scenes in this episode.
When six college students are invited to a mysterious getaway in the snowy mountains of Utah, they have no idea what’s in store for them. What begins as a retreat of self-discovery quickly becomes a life-changing experience that many of them will not soon forget. How will they apply the changes that they have experienced to their everyday lives?
Production Quality (2.5 points)
Faith.Hope.Love. has a good production with very few errors. One of these mistakes is the existence of background sounds. The set is fairly limited but well-utilized. As a whole, the production gets better with time, including high-quality video and camera work. The editing is acceptable, which rounds out a section that warrants a high score.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)
At the beginning of this story, the premise seems very trumped-up. The conversations are awkward and stiff, sometimes cutting off without warning. In the first half of the narrative, the dialogue feels very strained, forced, and unnatural. Many things are said without actually developing the characters, and there’s a tendency for the writers to be fixated on edgy and provocative content. However, the plot tends to get better as it goes as the characters improve due to more natural conversations. The second half of the film presents real people rather than characters representing social issues, but the initial presentation may discourage viewers from proceeding. The backstories of the characters become very strong if you wait long enough, even if the dialogue sometimes steers the screenplay in the direction that the writers want it to go, including some slight elements of propaganda. This is a testament to how strong characters can make up for other shortcomings. The conclusion is bit rushed, and the twist ending isn’t all that shocking. Thus, one point is awarded here.
Acting Quality (3 points)
For the most part, the acting is likely the strongest area of Faith.Hope.Love. Despite lacking a dynamic quality in the first half of the movie, this aspect of the film improves with time. The performances grow stronger by the second half, including believable line delivery and emotions. Thus, this rounds out an overall encouraging effort.
This creative team has demonstrated plenty of potential for the future, so it will be interesting to see what they produce next. With tighter storytelling and better messaging, they have nowhere to go but up. Hopefully, screenplays like this one represent a new positive trend in the Christian entertainment industry.
The Chosen has been a transformational series, and it’s now in its second season. Its audience has exploded in the past year and only has more potential to grow. As the first multi-season Bible series to be created, it has the potential to 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 saw in the second season’s second episode, entitled “I Saw You.”
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
Simon and Andrew
The two sons of Jonah continue a quiet competition with the Sons of Thunder, but the four men are mostly cordial in this episode. When Phillip arrives, Simon is wary of the stranger but surprised when his brother Andrew welcomes Phillip with open arms. Andrew tells his brother that he has a life outside of Simon. Simon still doesn’t fully accept Phillip, especially when the new disciple quickly takes a liking to Matthew and defends the former tax collector from the others’ mistreatment. However, Simon has begun to like Thomas more than the other disciples. Later, Andrew is glad to hear from Phillip that John the Baptizer remembers Andrew. When he discovers Matthew writing down recent events again, Simon chastises Matthew for doing this.
On their way to Caesarea Philippi, Simon makes sure that he has a one-on-one conversation with Jesus because Simon wants to ask the Lord about how the leadership structure should work when Christ is away. Simon is also concerned about Matthew writing everything down, but Jesus is nonplussed by this fact. Simon suggests how he thinks things should go, but the Lord says that Simon’s leadership skills will be needed in the future when things will have to be more structured due to Christ being absent. Simon wants to know what this means, but Jesus says that it’s another conversation for another time and warns Simon that he needs to be kinder to every member of the group and possibly slow down if it helps someone else. Throughout this episode, Simon continues to try to assert himself as the leader of the group while also being threatened by the leadership skills of Phillip.
Big James and John
The Sons of Thunder, after the others find out about their new moniker, settle into their position within the group as manual laborers. After the initial shock, the sons of Zebedee are indifferent to Phillip’s arrival and mostly keep to themselves in this episode.
After Matthew can’t find any dry wood, Simon criticizes Matthew for his lack of skills. However, Phillip uses this opportunity to take Matthew under his wing by showing him that they can dry the wet wood that Matthew found. Phillip treats Matthew differently than the others do, so this prompts Matthew to open up to Phillip about how Matthew feels different from the rest of the world. Phillip says that he also feels different from others but believes that someone’s past doesn’t matter anymore after Jesus calls them. Phillip tells Matthew to remind Simon of this the next time that Simon criticized Matthew about something. Matthew does this when Simon chastises Matthew for writing down all the events that happen to them. Matthew tells Thaddeus that he has to have a good record because the disciples were already disagreeing about how things occurred.
Later, Matthew agrees to assist Mary Magdalene and Ramah by copying portions of the Torah for the women to learn. Matthew tells the women that he will ask Phillip what the most important passages are. Phillip tells Matthew that he will think this over and tell Matthew as soon as possible.
Mary Magdalene, Thaddeus, and Little James
After hearing some of the men recite from the prophecies of Ezekiel, Mary Magdalene is motivated to learn more. In this episode, she seems distracted by something but doesn’t want to talk about it. Thus, Mary throws herself into helping Ramah learn how to read and write, enlisting Matthew’s help by asking for his tablet and help with learning the Torah.
Thaddeus shares with Matthew his newfound love for praying and tries to encourage Matthew even though others do not treat Matthew the same way. Thaddeus attempts to keep the peace between Simon and Matthew during their feud over Matthew’s writing.
Little James has no notable scenes in this episode.
Thomas and Ramah
In this episode, Thomas is still trying to find his place among the group. He becomes slightly jealous of Matthew helping Ramah learn how to read and offers his assistance in her endeavors.
Ramah realizes that following Jesus was harder than she thought and is glad for Mary Magdalene helping her learn how to read and write. When Thomas offers to tell Ramah what she needs to know, Ramah is noncommittal.
Phillip and Nathanael
Phillip visits the main disciple group because John the Baptizer told him to do so. Phillip immediately makes his presence known among the group because he doesn’t immediately conform to their expectations. Phillip makes waves by quickly taking Matthew under his wing to mentor him. As a disciple with two years of experience in the wilderness, Phillip decides to help Matthew collect the wet wood so that they can dry it for later use. During this task, Phillip tells Matthew that the Messiah defines people by who they are rather than who they used to be.
Later, Phillip tells Jesus that he will follow Christ as his new rabbi, and the two men discuss John the Baptizer and the Lord’s future work. Phillip and Jesus agree that the Messiah’s work is unconventional, much like the work of His cousin John the Baptizer. Phillip also asks if they can stop to see a friend in Caesarea Philippi before they continue on, and Christ agrees.
As an architect, Nathanael is proud that he’s a Jew working among Romans, but he also grows impatient with the lack of progress on one of his current projects. While arguing with the foreman about these delays, the unfinished construction collapses, dooming Nathanael’s career. This sends the former architect into a depression as he sits under a fig tree and asks God why He let Nathanael’s projects fail when they were meant to be for Yahweh. Nathanael recites passages from the Psalms, burns his blueprints, and pours the ashes on his head.
Afterward, Nathanael bars himself in his house, which forces Phillip to climb in through the window to see him. The two of them are old friends, and Nathanael recounts his woes. Phillip is sorry for his friend but insists that Nathanael needs to be come and see the Man Who is the Messiah. Nathanael is skeptical because Jesus is from Nazareth, but Phillip insists that He is the Messiah, which is why Nathanael has to come and see him. Nathanael agrees, realizing that he does not have anything else to do, and he admits that he’s never seen Phillip act like this.
As soon as Phillip and Nathanael come to Christ, the Lord calls Nathanael a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit. Jesus informs Nathanael that He saw Nathanael while he was under the fig tree at his lowest point, which prompts Nathanael to immediately call the Lord his rabbi. Phillip is glad about this development. Christ tells Nathanael that he will see even greater things, such as the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man, but for now, the work in Syria will begin the following day.
Sara Hopkins is just a regular perfect little girl who not many people take seriously. However, when she begins praying for miracles and when the miracles actually happen, others begin to take notice. Everywhere she goes, Sara can’t help but encounter a situation where she prays for a miracle that later occurs. Nonetheless, these experiences take a toll on Sara as she suddenly begins dying of an undisclosed medical condition. The only hope for her survival is for her grandfather to concoct a slightly illegal scheme to spring Sara from the hospital and, against all odds, take her to a magical lake. Can they do this questionable act before it’s too late???
Production Quality (2 points)
As a well-funded project, The Girl Who Believes in Miracles has a professional production. This is shown by good video quality and camera work. The audio quality is fine but could be better due to blank portions that lack music and a boring, generic soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props are on par, and lighting is acceptable throughout. However, there are some terrible special effects and choppy editing, but there’s enough positive here to warrant an above-average score.
Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)
This film is essentially a series of disconnected scenes that present one thing after the next, strung together with plenty of expository dialogue. As one miracle after another are spoon-fed to the audience, there’s no way to feel any emotions about what’s happening because the characters are so blank. This nonchalant presentation of important events short-circuits payoffs and prevents the viewers from understanding who the characters are. A matter-of-fact and clinical approach to this topic was a very bad idea as life-changing occurrences are treated as boring or uneventful. Besides this, the dialogue is incredibly underwhelming and empty. Conversations accomplish very little outside of information dumps, and most of the Christian characters are basically perfect. Offscreen content is skipped over for no reason other than the fact that there’s too many new characters to introduce before the absurd conclusion. After aa number of extremely convenient turns and coincidences that suit the writers’ means, the plot escalates into utter madness for the final act. One of the few enduring themes of the narrative is a fixation on a magical lake, so the ridiculous ending sequence of this movie involves all the characters, who you’re expected to care about for no reason, engineering a basically illegal and very dishonest scheme to kidnap a dying girl from a hospital so that she can go to said magic lake. This madness only works due to luck and caps off a story that gets worse as it goes, which is why this section receives negative points.
Acting Quality (2 points)
Despite the obvious flaws of the screenplay, The Girl Who Believes in Miracles actually has good acting without any glaring errors. However, some performances are a bit too dramatic and overwrought, extending beyond the scope of the cast members’ skill sets. There’s also some slight inconsistency with emotional delivery, but line delivery is on-point. Thus, an above-average score is justified here.
After the success of “miracle” films like Heaven is for Real and Miracles from Heaven, it’s inevitable that other creators will try to capitalize. However, The Girl Who Believes in Miracles comes to such an outlandish conclusion that many audiences will feel isolated. In the end, an obvious cash grab like this movie really should not be supported because its funding could have been better served on other projects. Before producing more click-bait like this screenplay, creative teams needs to consider what their intentions are and how their work will leave a lasting impact beyond the opening weekend at theaters.
The Chosen has been a transformational series, and it’s now in its second season Its audience has exploded in the past year and only has more potential to grow. 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 saw in the second season’s first episode, entitled “Thunder.”
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
Simon and Andrew
Continuing his trend from the second half of Season 1, Simon tries to assert himself as an authority over the other disciples, insisting that he cares the most about protecting Jesus. This attitude prompts jealously toward and competition with the sons of Zebedee, especially when Jesus seems to give Big James and John special privileges. Andrew vacillates between supporting his brother in the “competition” with Zebedee’s sons and trying to mediate a truce between the two parties. Simon believes that Jesus needs to set the agenda for the group while Big James and John want to decide how things will go. Also, Andrew tries to make Matthew feel more welcome in the group.
Big James and John
When Jesus gives the two brothers special assignments to plow a field and lead the other disciples in purchasing supplies for a meal, Big James and John become overconfident in their abilities and their seemingly new position in the disciple group. Maintaining their hatred of Samaritans, the sons of Zebedee believe that they should have more power in the group of followers and want to organize a detailed itinerary for their Rabbi. However, Big James and John are disappointed when they discover that they plowed the field and gathered food for a disabled Samaritan and his family.
Additionally, Zebedee’s sons are infuriated when they are mistreated by some Samaritan passersby. The two brothers, emboldened by a statement from Jesus about being given power, demand that the Lord allow Big James and John to call down fire on the people who had mistreated them. Christ reprimands the two brothers by reminding them that they are not better than the Samaritans and that the work they were accomplishing in Sychar would last generations. Jesus told the sons of Zebedee that the people of Sychar were believing in the message of the kingdom of heaven without even seeing miracles and that it was important for Big James and John to be leaders among the disciples by not allowing their tempers to carry them away. After the two brothers admit their wrongdoing, the Lord called them the Sons of Thunder because of their high-strung attitudes that could be used for good but would need to be controlled before they received powerful authority from heaven.
Later, Christ has a private meeting with John in the Torah Room of the Sychar synagogue, asking for John’s opinion on what passage to read. John says that he always liked the very beginning of Genesis when God made the heavens and the earth, so Jesus choose this passage to read to the people.
Matthew continues to be socially isolated from the other disciples, with the exceptions of Mary Magdalene and Andrew. However, Matthew tries to assert himself as useful by calculating how long it would take to reach every person in Sychar. Matthew also keeps careful track of the disciples’ monetary funds, worrying that they will not have enough for the future. Further, Matthew sides with Big James and John, although they do not particularly like him, supporting their proposal to have a detailed schedule for Jesus’ ministry. In their first encounter, Matthew and Thomas do not hit it off very well.
Mary Magdalene, Thaddeus, and Little James
Mary Magdalene disliked the the conflict between the sons of Jonah and the sons of Zebedee, purposely staying out of their discussions. Thaddeus and Little James were mostly quiet about the tension but tried to find simple solutions for it. Mary Magdalene did her best to make Matthew feel welcome in the group and also tried to help Thomas and Ramah settle in comfortably.
Thomas and Ramah
Thomas and Ramah made their way to Sychar with Ramah’s reluctant father, Kaphni, to join the main disciple group. Thomas and Ramah tried to awkwardly accommodate Kaphni as he consistently criticized the two of them for their decision to leave their jobs behind and follow Jesus. Once in Sychar, Kaphni demanded an audience with the Lord, and Thomas began posturing for an important position among the disciples. However, despite wanting to make a schedule for Christ to follow, Thomas chose to stay out of the conflict between the sons of Jonah and the sons of Zebedee.
After continuing to reprimand Thomas and Ramah for wanting to follow Jesus into the unknown, Kaphni tells the Lord that he only came because of the wedding miracle that Thomas and Ramah had described to him. Although Kaphni believed that talk of miracles was blasphemy, he was still grateful for what Christ had done but refused to acknowledge anything further. Jesus told Kaphni that He understood why Kaphni was concerned and wouldn’t ask anything of him. After giving Ramah some money and telling Thomas that he wasn’t sure if he would agree with Thomas and Ramah marrying in the future, Kaphni left them on uncertain terms. After Kaphni’s departure, Thomas and Ramah were more subdued in group settings.
Photina, Neriah, and the Citizens of Sychar
Photina continues to gather the Samaritans who live in Sychar so that they can hear Jesus preach. Many citizens are opening to and excited about the teaching. Neriah listens to the Lord tell how God will leave ninety-nine righteous people to find one lost sinner, and this changes Neriah’s heart. As a result, Photina and Neriah later invite Christ and His disciples to stay in their large house. Later, Photina and Neriah go to the local synagogue to hear Jesus read from Genesis.
Photina also introduces the Lord to Melech, whose field the Sons of Thunder plowed. Christ and His disciples bring food to share a meal with Melech and his family, who are very poor. Melech’s leg is paralyzed from an unhealed broken bone, and after some conversation, Jesus encourages Melech to share the story behind the injury. Melech reveals that he broke it while trying to rob a Jewish traveler who was passing through the area. Melech is ashamed of this and doesn’t understand why the Lord would help him, but Christ says that God leaves ninety-nine righteous people behind to find one lost sinner. Before leaving, Jesus encourages Melech to regularly visit the synagogue and learn what he can. That night, the Lord heals Melech’s leg while Melech was sleeping. The next day, Melech and his family come to the synagogue to hear Christ’s reading.
The Disciples in the Future
Simon, Andrew, Thomas, Nathanael, Thaddeus, Little James, Matthew, Mary Magdalene, and Mary Mother are shown at a future point in time, right after the martyrdom of Big James. John son of Zebedee is interviewing these disciples to get their accounts of when they first met Jesus. However, John is struggling with how to begin his gospel, which he dialogues with Mary Mother about. Mary Mother wants John to wait and mourn his brother’s death, but John insists on writing it down before everyone gets too old. Matthew says that he will write a precise gospel. In the end, John decides to introduce his gospel with a writing based on the opening words of Genesis, which he was reminded of by his memory of the Lord’s reading in the Sychar synagogue.
In this propaganda version of history, Roe v. Wade only happened because a giant conspiracy involving the media, the court system, and the medical field forced it to happen since they were so addicted to abortions. This alleged cabal supposedly loved abortion so much that they regularly sang songs about it. If this film is to be believed, all the conspirators ever thought about night and day was abortion, and anyone who stood against them was to be completely ostracized. With movies like these, it’s no wonder that so many people are skeptical of the pro-life movement.
Production Quality (1.5 points)
As a whole, the production of Roe v. Wade is mostly acceptable, including good video quality and camera work. However, audio quality is uneven, as shown by very poor overdubs and an inconsistent soundtrack. Some scenes are very dark while others have odd soft lighting. Sets, locations, and props are passable, but the editing is quite choppy. Cuts and transitions are all over the map, but this aspect of the film is likely due to the utter disaster that is the plot. In the end, the production section is at least average.
Plot and Storyline Quality (-2.5 points)
Seemingly in a mission to become one of the most obnoxious and in-your-face movies since Assassin 33 AD or The Reliant, Roe v. Wade succeeds on all fronts. Beginning with the very first scene, the screenplay’s extreme pro-life message is pushed on the audience via immediate and constant narration that sometimes covers up dialogue. Moreover, it’s not like the conversations are really worth hearing since most of the dialogue is designed for shock factors and propaganda. Not a single spoken line can exist without a fundamentalist agenda being shoved down the viewer’s throat. Elsewhere, tons of content is forced into the narrative, including random asides that continually interrupt the storyline. Large time jumps and information dumps attempt to connect it all together, so all these pitfalls inevitably create wooden characters. The “bad” characters, such as the abortion activists, could not be worse strawmen, and there are generally way too many characters to keep up with. The most disgusting aspects of the issue are obsessed over, and the pro-abortion side of the argument is portrayed in the most evil way possible. Due to the massive amount of content in this film, many sequences are very rushed, leading to a nonsensical and incoherent conclusion. Needless to say, this section easily earns its negative rating.
Acting Quality (0 points)
A majority of the acting in this movie is quite overplayed and disingenuous. Line delivery is robotic, and emotions are forced. It’s extremely difficult to believe that many of the actors and actresses in this bloated cast are taking the matter seriously. Hence, this aspect of the screenplay rounds out an effort that should have never happened.
Much like the production process of Unplanned, the creation of Roe v. Wade was seemingly based on deception as some of the initial cast and crew were allegedly not given complete information about the film’s intentions. Whether or not this claim is fully or partially true, it seems to shed light on the attitude of the movie’s creators: produce propaganda at any cost and through any means necessary. Thus, we’re left with this finish product, which is a total disaster in every way. Hopefully, in the very near future, we’ll no longer see offerings like this one that further mar the reputation of Christian entertainment.
When Travis Fox returns from war, the trauma of combat still haunts him, especially the death of his Christian friend. Nonetheless, Travis has sworn off Christianity altogether, wanting to move on with his life. However, the past won’t leave him alone, and new complications with Travis’ family don’t help matters. Will he ever be able to find peace?
Production Quality (2 points)
In keeping with most Christian productions that have come out since 2018, My Brother’s Keeper is mostly professional. Video quality, camera work, and audio are all in line with industry standards. For the most part, sets, locations, and props are acceptable although they sometimes don’t adequately represent what they’re supposed to portray. The biggest concern in this section is the choppy editing as some scenes cut and transition in awkward ways. Thus, this portion of the film receive a slightly above-average score.
Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
Throughout this narrative, the conversations and scenes come off as overly staged and unnatural, such as the forceful dialogue and messaging (including overt sermonizing) that leaves nothing to chance. These problems are only complicated by the many subplots that are juggled, which causes the story to lack focus. As a result, every character is a one-dimensional representation of an issue rather than an actual person. Despite potentially good PTSD flashbacks, these experiences are a bit overwrought instead of providing opportunities for the audience to connect with the character. Elsewhere, events in the narrative happen just because the writers want them to, and this extreme level of convenience causes the plot of aimlessly meander through a sea of empty platitudes and disorganized ideas. It goes without saying that there are also some very questionable portrayals of dual relationships and counseling ethics. In the end, there’s unfortunately no potential in this story, leading to zero points.
Acting Quality (1 point)
Despite acceptable line delivery, the emotions in this movie’s performances are very over-the-top. This is evidenced by lots of yelling and screaming, and it’s generally hard to believe that the cast members care about what they’re doing. Many of their performances are robotic and practiced although there are some bright spots. In the end, due to the errors, only a small score is warranted here.
My Brother’s Keeper is essentially another Christian issue screenplay, this time focusing on PTSD. Normally, this would be a good idea, but adequate research and firsthand accounts are needed to keep mental health portrayals realistic. There are many complex factors to consider, so crowding out this concept with subpar content isn’t the way to go. Unfortunately, this film is unable to connect with the audience, which likely means that it will be forgotten in a few weeks.
Youth pastor Guy Sides feels like he’s stuck inside of a well-oiled ministry machine. His boss, lead pastor Skip Finney, wants to find new and outlandish ways to draw people into the church. However, Guy feels like the simple gospel is enough. Nonetheless, Skip charges ahead with zany plans for an Easter production that will have everyone talking about it. Can Guy help everyone see the true meaning of Easter before it’s too late?
Production Quality (2.5 points)
It’s evident from start to finish that Church People is well-funded, and this results in a professional production. This high quality is evidenced by top-notch video, camera, and audio elements. The sets, locations, and props are great, and it’s clear that the money has been well-spent. The only minor concerns in this section pertain to some inconsistency in editing, but overall, a high score is warranted here.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)
This plot begins with a strong opening sequence that refrains from narration and establishes a basis for subtle humor that avoids being too over-the-top. Though the comedy is sometimes a bit dry, the writers were definitely trying to construct effective dialogue as they took a realistic look at the problems with the corporate church mentality. There are many relatable conversations throughout the narrative although there’s also a dose of exposition throughout the course of the conversing. However, as the story continues to develop, some comedy overstays its welcome, being used too much and coming off as too quirky. Rather than expanding as it goes, the premise remains quite thin and has little basis in reality beyond silly conventions. Montages strung together with humor take the place of deeper character development, and some oddly explained off-screen scenes only make matters more awkward. When it comes down to it, Church People is just another return-to-hometown plot, complete with forced romance-with-your-former-love tropes. Despite its promising beginning, this narrative continues its nose dive all the way to a forced conclusion that involves an eye-rolling ‘twist’ that doesn’t really work. Thus, one point is garnered here.
Acting Quality (2 points)
Although Stephen Baldwin once again positioned himself to star as a wise character in a self-produced film, he exhibits an acceptable kind of unusual in Church People. Other cast members are quite good in their performances despite a few slightly awkward moments. Some actors and actresses can be over-the-top and over-extended, but for the most part, they are all well-coached. As a whole, this section is at least above-average.
In the end, some audiences will enjoy this screenplay even though it travels through well-worn church comedy ruts. Unfortunately, the humor just isn’t enough to carry the entire movie: deeper characters are needed to drive the point home. The purpose of Church People is commendable (exposing corporate Christianity), but the audience isn’t left with much beyond the obvious fact that this approach to the faith is insufficient. Therefore, this film boils down to another standard comedy release that will unfortunately be forgotten in a few months.
When Allison goes missing on her birthday and doesn’t turn back up, her parents become very worried. The police won’t do anything for 48 hours, so Allison’s parents do the only thing that any reasonable person would do: contact an old friend from college who deals drugs and happens to know a shady private investigation group that has questionable ethics, such as impersonating police officers and breaking into people’s houses without permission. Allison’s grandmother uses a good portion of her retirement to fund this dubious operation, and time is running out to find Allison, who has been taken by human traffickers.
Production Quality (1 point)
After a long opening sequence wastes time, this film’s remaining production doesn’t get much better. Video quality is acceptable, but camera work and lighting are quite inconsistent. The audio leaves a lot to be desired, such as a very loud and distracting soundtrack as well as awful special effects. Sets, locations, and props are fine, but the editing is quite poor. Some scenes awkwardly cut off while other sequences are very disorienting. In the end, despite slight improvement with time, this section is still below average, which is unacceptable for 2021.
Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
This plot’s main strategy is the shove one thing after the next onto the audience without any continuity. Most events happen because the writers want them to, and some occurrences are quite unrealistic, such as the questionable legitimacy of the narrative’s shady investigative force and their possibly illegal actions. Many scenes come off as overly staged, and the many confusing subplots easily become discombobulated. There are a lot of moving parts in this story, and characters have no chance to be developed due to musical montages and mindless conversations. The villains are stereotypical and over-the-top, often using unnecessary expletives. The Christian message in this movie is fairly vague, and there seems to be an unnecessary political tilt. Overall, with unforced errors and basically no potential, zero points can be awarded here.
Acting Quality (1 point)
Most of the time, the acting in Trafficked is trying way too hard. Line delivery and emotions are much too forceful. Performances come off as overly practiced and unnatural. Despite slight improvement with time, only a small score is warranted in this section.
This screenplay is a true embarrassment for 2021. How much longer must we endure such drivel? Besides a juvenile portrayal of the otherwise serious issue that this human trafficking, this film chooses to give credence to shady and questionable operations wherein people take the law into their own hands. This should have been a major red flag for anyone who thought about investing in this movie. It’s still unbelievable how projects like Trafficked even get funded and make it to the public release, but it’s high time that we see fewer of them.
After his father dies, Cameron Taylor is confused and frustrated with life. This is only compounded by a tragedy that he witnesses and feels guilty about. Thus, Cam’s mother decides that he needs to spend the summer with his aunt, uncle, and cousins in a small town. There, Cam has a life-changing experience that he could have never expected to happen.
Production Quality (1 point)
This production has some acceptable areas and some aspects that are not up to standard. Audio and video quality fall into the acceptable category. However, inconsistent lighting, amateurish camera angles, and terrible sound and special effects detract from this. Also, sets, locations, and props are quite cheap. Further, editing is fairly choppy, and despite some slight improvement as time goes on, this section just doesn’t make the cut for 2021.
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
Although this narrative jumps all over the place and meanders around with little to no purpose, there are actually some slightly interesting ideas contained in the shuffle. One of these is a surprisingly good portrayal of trauma via flashbacks. Another is the protagonist’s relatable struggles with the problem of pain. However, vanilla dialogue and overly scripted conversations short-circuit character development and accessibility. The characters seem incomplete, and the Christian ones are simply too perfect. After a random collection of scenes fills time in the story’s first and second thirds, the final third is ruined by very steep character arcs that lack adequate build-up. As a whole, even though it’s clear that this writing team meant well, the plot is too unfocused, lacking a central theme to tether the random concepts that are mixed together within it.
Acting Quality (1 point)
Unfortunately, the acting of this film leaves something to be desired as it’s overly practiced and stilted. Many of the scenes are very awkward as the cast members simply stand around and recite lines without conviction. Nonetheless, some of the actors and actresses seem to mean well, and they demonstrate slight improvement as the movie goes on. However, it’s only enough to warrant a small score.
This creative team obviously wanted to do the right thing with Second Chances. For this reason, they have lots of future potential. Moreover, while it was a nice idea to explore a character-based narrative, this screenplay would have been better suited as a short film. Alternatively, more writing support was needed to make it complex enough to justify the runtime. Taking all of this into account, it will be interesting see what this group comes up with next.