Heavens to Betsy 2 (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

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Clancy Once Again (Movie Review)

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An actual copyrighted screenshot

Plot Summary

If you thought that Clancy ended where the title character died, you thought wrong (unless this head-scratching sequel is actually a long dream). After they appeared to be on the right track with Reading Kate, husband-and-wife film-making duo Jefferson and Kelly Worthington Moore have create an unnecessary follow-up to a film no one really remembers about characters the audience can’t connect with. In this sequel, Nick Best and Clancy are back to…do things…like get involved in street fighting (see copyrighted photo above) and usurp the rule of law because they feel like it. Beyond that, it’s hard to pinpoint what this movie’s actually about.

Production Quality (1 point)

As a fairly recent production, we should be seeing Moore more from Kelly’s Filmworks than this. While they have a flair for some creative camera angles and establishing shots at times, there are too many dark scenes in this film as well as a lot of silent portions that lack adequate soundtrack support. While video quality is mostly fine, sets, locations, and props are somewhat limited in scope, which doesn’t really hold the attention well. The most glaring problems that negatively affect the entire viewing experience relate to the high amount of long, drawn-out sequences that reflect lazy editing and a desperation to squeeze runtime from the thin amount of movie content. As a whole, while this production isn’t glaringly bad, it’s just not enough coming from a film outfit that’s produced more than five movies, especially since the field has higher production standards these days.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The sole point given to this plot is only because of the hilarious exchange between the two main characters about Hallmark cards and Fakebook. Otherwise, there’s nothing to offer here. After the riveting opening sequence about the previous movie’s events, which appears to suggest Clancy Once Again is actually an alternate ending for the first one or some kind of dream sequence epilogue within the former film, this rendition of the uninteresting Clancy story is full of awkwardly useless conversations and complete with a cheesy villain return subplot. As it desperately grasps for content and purpose amidst a confused landscape and forced premise, unrealistic happenings move things along in order to create an unnecessary suspense feel. Full of coincidences and convenient turns, Clancy Once Again advocates for vigilante citizens taking matters into their own hands rather than trying to wait for the authorities. Obviously, there may be a time and place for this type of action, but the reasons behind it in this film are absurd. When all else fails to keep the runtime above ninety minutes, recycled footage from the first film everybody forgot about is right there to extend your viewing experience. In the end, there’s little else to be said except that this is the most unnecessary sequel in the history of unnecessary sequels (and there’s lots of those).

Acting Quality (1 point)

Jefferson Moore’s unusual preoccupation with Christina Fougnie continues in Clancy Once Again, and her acting skills have not improved with age. In this film, she comes off as even more full of herself as her line delivery is shrill and her emotional expressions are off-putting. Other cast members are bland and vanilla with Moore taking on his usual persona, which wouldn’t be all that bad if he actually had lines to work with. Most cast members seem to be phoning in their performances. One standout issue with this section is noticeably bad makeup throughout the whole cast (but most notably on Fougnie). In the end, this rounds out a subpar film lost in a growing sea of Christian movies that’s leaving the old guard behind.

Conclusion

Jefferson and Kelly were on the right track with Reading Kate, but they’ve lost their way again with a useless sequel to a boring film no one cared about in the first place. Where are they headed as movie creators? It’s hard to say, but they certainly won’t accept dissent or any constructive criticism. They do have experience and some production\writing skills to bring to the table, but they will only find true success in a collaborative environment. However, we somehow doubt this will ever happen since they’ve been content to operate on their own all these years. Thus, whatever talent they have will likely continue to go to waste.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

One Church (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

A High School Story (Movie Review)

 

Plot Summary

Faith High is a seemingly ordinary private Christian high school with all the typical high school issues, but one student is intent on forcing the daily events she sees unfold around her into some kind of Biblical parallel so that she can have an interesting end-of-the-semester school project to talk about.  A new kid comes to town as the backup quarterback and falls in love with a mostly silent ballet dancer, so this is naturally the stories of David and Esther mashed together.  The vain and self-impressed starting quarterback is obviously Saul, and you can see how this keeps going.  With this movie in the works for so long, you would think some better content was created.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Ever since 2nd Greatest, Kingdom Sight Studios has been committed to crafting more professional productions than A Perfect Chord.  Thus, A High School Story has a mostly average production that’s fueled mainly by good video quality, find audio quality, and professional sets, locations, and props.  However, the soundtrack is sometimes too loud, and there are some odd camera angles and wild camera work, especially in the poorly filmed sports action scenes that feel like nothing is really happening even though you’re supposed to think there’s an actual game going on.  Scenes like these show the true genius of Facing the Giants in the independent film world (A High School Story even has a discount version of Bobby Lee Duke).  Elsewhere in A High School Story, there are too many stupid slow-motion scenes, as well as self-serving product placements and unwarranted self-love for A Perfect Chord.  In the end, this is a mostly average production that could have done better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From start to finish, annoying narration decides to explain things to us that we should be about to figure out on our own if the dialogue was any good at all.  We apparently have to be told who the characters are instead of letting them develop on their own through actual conversations.  There are also plenty of weird attempts at cringe-worthy bad comedy as ‘bad’ characters are over the top bad while ‘good’ characters are too perfect.  As is commonplace in cheap sports films, training montages displace opportunities for plot and character growth, as do ridiculous high school nonsense and predictable love triangle stupidity.  There are too many cheesy attempts at ‘young people’ dialogue, and we mention the beyond-cheesy attempts to force Bible stories into this modern-day plot?  This seriously needs to stop.  In the end, this plot contributes nothing to the film’s score.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With mainstay Kingdom Sight cast members, this acting job is another average one as there are some fine moments that are cancelled out by other moments of awkward and forced acting.  When some cast members attempt their own brand of comedy, it’s quite bad.  It goes without saying that some cast members seem desperate to advertise their horrid local comedy act throughout the film.  Essentially, while these often-used Kingdom Sight cast members are definitely gaining experience with each film, there’s just not enough coaching present here to sustain a higher score.

Conclusion

There’s one thing Kingdom Sight is getting right: releasing films directly to PureFlix On Demand and Amazon Prime in order to get them out there rather than to waste time and money on limited screenings no one will go see and DVD’s that will end up in the $5 Walmart bin.  However, 3 points is basically the ‘best of the worst’ score according to our review scale.  After 2nd Greatest, Kingdom Sight likely hit their ceiling of potential with their current model, so it’s time for them to take the next step in movie making.  They seem committed to trying different things, and their production model is mostly fine.  Thus, with their next film, they need to take a bigger step towards greatness by employing a better screen writer and a better acting coach (plus maybe some new cast members).

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

One Stop Away (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Wraith [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Saving Faith [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Hope [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

3 Blind Saints (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sam, Jamal, and Frankie are usually up to no good as they wander around the country, hopping from one money-making scheme to another.  However, they end up stuck in a small town in the Midwest when they get on the wrong side of the local law enforcement.  When they are about to be sentenced by the local judge, the local powerful businessman steps in to save them—in exchange for their services as his puppet pastors of the local church.  All they have to do is please the congregation and collect enough money for a month, and then they can be on their way.  However, things never really work out that simply in forced comedy films.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Surprisingly, 3 Blind Saints has a considerably good production, especially for a film with a digit in the title.  It checks all the right boxes, including video quality, camera work, lighting, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is as goofy as can be expected, and sets, locations, and props are mostly standard.  The editing is minorly choppy, but on the whole, this is a high quality production on paper, which garners a substantial amount of points.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Talk abut checking all the boxes—3 Blind Saints fulfills basically every criterion of a cheesy and predictable comedy premise that involves a collection of troubled non-Christian characters who are forced to lead a church, even though they have no idea what they are doing.  There is nothing new or creative about this idea, and this story rushes by so quickly that it seems like the writers are trolling.  The comedy therein is very forced and zany, including off-the-wall jokes, dialogue, and displays of idiocy.  As previously mentioned, the plot progression is so steep that it sometimes makes fun of itself as it hits all of the typical plot points, including a cheesy romantic subplot, an inclusion of goofy locals, and a quick turnaround of the troubled protagonists.  This goes without mentioning the generally childish feel to the film, as well as the shallow Christianity and the bizarre portrayal of God.  Some sequences come off like Mel Gibson’s acid trips, thus warranting some negative points for this section.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast seems to be in on the trolling as they act over the top and try way too hard to be funny.  There is, however, untapped potential with some of the cast members, and there are also a handful of good moments that keep this section from being useless.  However, for the most part, emotions and behaviors are overplayed and mostly annoying.

Conclusion

3 Blind Saints feels like a cheap attempt to get some attention from the Christian audience.  It can almost be passed off as a big joke, but it bears too close of a resemblance to some Christian movies that are supposed to be serious.  Whatever the creators of this film were going for, they mostly failed—perhaps on purpose.  Either way, it’s really quite pointless.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Holy Roller (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Luke is a struggling pastor with no real congregation.  Thus, inspired by the rantings of a homeless man, he decides to take his ministry to the streets.  There, he crosses paths with a desperate bar owner, Simon, who’s in need of some quick cash to pay off his gambling debts.  Inspired by a prosperity-preaching televangelist, Simon convinces Luke to start a church in his bar to raise the funds he needs, using a message of prosperity.  However, things don’t go as planned, and Luke discovers what real ministry is about.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The Holy Roller has a surprisingly fine production, including good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also fine, although there are a lot of musical montages.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly realistic and appropriate.  The only other issue to point out here is the choppy editing that includes too much fluff content and too many odd cuts.  However, despite these issues, this is a pretty standard production that looks good on the surface.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This obviously quirky premise is meant to be a comedy, but it really just comes off as very forced and dry.  The humor is too off-the-wall and awkward to be funny.  It’s really trying too hard to be something it’s not, and it seems like satire is purposely eccentric, even though it falls flat.  Besides this, there is too much forced drama as the story rushes along at a breakneck pace that leaves no room for character development.  This leaves the characters very shallow and empty.  The fast pace of things also stunts any sense of reality and leaves the viewer disoriented and confused, without any ability to relate the struggles of the characters.  Basically, this is a dramedy that skates on top of everything so quickly that it’s over before you know it.  Actually, that might be a good thing.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This amateur cast seems like they are acting purposely awkward most of the time as they struggle to get their lines out.  Emotions are either too dorky or too forced.  However, there are some good moments here, and there would have been more if there had been better coaching.  Some things just weren’t meant to be, I guess.

Conclusion

Small church films like The Holy Roller struggles for identity and specialty in a sea of a myriad small church films vying for attention and views.  Unfortunately, not many of them actually make it to the next level, and most of them get stuck where The Holy Roller gets stuck: in shoulder-shrugging mediocrity.  The status of these sorts of movies can only be ‘better luck next time.’

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Footprints [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When David Hyler loses everything, he almost gives up on life—that is, until he meets Cadie the German Shepherd.  Cadie changes his outlook on life and shows him that God has a plan for all of His creatures.  Not only does Cadie protect David and his family, but she also heals the lives of others with her presence.  Even though Cadie was abused and left for dead, her second chance on life makes a difference everywhere she goes.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although this production had something going for it, it doesn’t go quite enough to be dynamic.  Errors like long black and white flashbacks and very poor and distant audio quality hold it back from being what it could have been.  There are also too many background noises, along with a cheesy soundtrack.  However, other elements are fine, including video quality and camera work, except for the odd use of zooms throughout.  Sets, locations, and props are appropriate and realistic.  Editing has some issues, however, including some odd cuts and transitions.  On the whole, this production ends up being average, but it really should have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though this is a nice, touching true story, this plot really doesn’t have the substance necessary to make us interested in its contents or sympathetic to the characters therein.  Character development is stunted by extended and heavy-handed narration.  Dialogue isn’t substantial enough, even though there are some interesting attempts to develop characters through flashbacks.  However, there isn’t really much conflict to contend with here, and the storyline is too focused on being all about the dog.  There is also a laughable and forced persecution subtext that can hardly be taken seriously.  In the end, this plot suffers for lack of meaningful content.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Much like the production, while this cast had a lot going for it, they can’t seem to close the deal.  They begin with forceful emotions and line delivery, as well as some unnatural acting and sequences of juvenile arguing.  Although there is some improvement throughout, it’s not enough to bring this section above average, which tends to be the story of this film.

Conclusion

True story films almost always mean well, but too much of the time, they get lost in translation.  It’s great to portray real life stories in movies, but this isn’t the way to make an impact.  In order for movies like this one to be dynamic, they need flawless production and acting, along with deep characters and a complex storyline.  Otherwise, like Footprints, they fall by the wayside and are easily forgotten.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Sunday School [2008] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rachel is a new girl in town, and she is challenged to attend Sunday school for the first time in a while.  She reluctantly goes, but she finds herself interested in the new young pastor, even though she wants to travel to Hollywood and leave the small town behind to find fame.  Rachel’s presence in church causes a stir, especially due to her interest in the pastor.  Torn between two worlds, what choice will Rachel ultimately choose?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

With a very small budget, Sunday School struggles to have a quality production.  This includes some randomly poor lighting and inconsistent audio quality that has a loud soundtrack at times and other times includes too many outside noises.  However, the camera work and video quality are fine; they are the best elements of this production.  Sets, locations, and props are fine but could use some improvement.  Finally, the editing leaves something to be desired, but when looking at this film’s budget, one can’t expect much more than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is a very limited story that doesn’t really contain anything truly creative, there is a small amount of potential here pertaining to the divide between church people and ‘worldly’ people who seek the truth.  However, the characters are too generic and not accessible enough, mostly because the dialogue is very stock.  A lot of the time, the characters talk without saying much substantial.  Also, the storyline tends to have typical prodigal character elements, and the ending is fairly rushed, even though it has some good points.  Essentially, this is a nice try, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a small church film with a limited cast, the performances therein are actually average rather than below average.  There are some forceful performances from some cast members, but some cast members are better than others.  Emotions are mostly fine, but line delivery is inconsistent.  Overall, this section is par for the course.

Conclusion

Small church films are hard to pull off.  Budgets are almost always limited, yet films like this can redeem themselves by having deep, dynamic characters and a complex, thought-provoking storyline.  Unfortunately, Sunday School does not do this.  While the acting is better than it could be, this movie struggles to be relevant and will likely unfortunately be forgotten as time goes on.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Love Letter [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Parker is an entertainment columnist and is best friends with Aaron.  However, Parker is perpetually single, and Aaron just got engaged to a girl he hasn’t know very long.  Parker has mixed feelings about her best friend’s relationship, but Parker’s mother is determined to matchmake her daughter to someone.  Parker isn’t interested in her mother’s attempts, but she finds herself falling love with Aaron, which poses a number of problems for them.  Will they be able to sort it all out before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although UP usually demonstrates high production standards, The Love Letter seems to slip to the sitcom level of productions.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are fine, even if the soundtrack is stock.  The main element that gives this production a sitcom feel is the use of limited sets, locations, and props, as well as the many references to offscreen locations that were much more complex than inside people’s houses.  Furthermore, the editing of this film is lacking as too many scenes lag on with no real purpose or connection.  In the end, while this production is average, it seems like the creators were just phoning it in.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This feel of being phoned in definitely carried over to the plot as well.  It seems like the writers were barely trying with this plot, as it is full of cheesy comedy sequences and empty characters.  The premise is very trumped up and juvenile.  A majority of the dialogue is trite and silly, and the Christian message is vague and seems like it was added in later.  There is barely enough content to sustain a full-length film here as the same things happen over and over again.  The characters just sit around and talk without ever accomplishing much, like a ninety-minute sitcom that’s not even funny.  As previously mentioned, there is a lot of offscreen content that is only talked about, and the story rushes towards a predictable and neat conclusion.  Basically, not much effort was put towards this film in general.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a small cast, every little thing shows.  Sometimes the cast members are too forceful and awkward in their delivery, and other times they are overly practiced and amateurish.  However, they are not all bad and have enough good moments to make this section average.  However, not much about this film impresses at all.

Conclusion

Channels like UP are definitely in the business of producing as much content as possible to fill the time slots, which is why we get stuff like this.  It’s quite disingenuous to call this film Christian, and it really contributes nothing to the field of Christian entertainment.  Unfortunately, films like this are easily forgotten and probably rightly so.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Debacle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Larry and Vaughn have been long time friends, but Vaughn has never felt like he was worth much of anything, especially after he gets laid off from his job.  Larry, on the other hand, is overconfident in himself and has many ideas of what he should be doing, such as rescuing damsels in distress.  However, neither of them could have expected to be transported back in time to a Western town in need of heroes.  If Larry and Vaughn can save the town, they will have completed their quest, but if they do not, they will be trapped in history forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, a lot of time and money was put into this production.  This is shown in the good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  Though the soundtrack is a bit silly and is sometimes too loud, the sets, locations, and props are excellently constructed and utilized for this genre.  However, there are some awkward cuts and transitions that are likely included to make the movie ‘goofy.’  However, on the whole, this is an above average production that does not fit with the rest of the film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From the beginning to the end, this appropriately-named film is trying way too hard to be funny with cringeworthy comedy moments and eye-rolling escapades.  Not only is the premise completely absurd, but it is full of cheesy Western elements and other asides that make no sense at all.  The Christian message is forced, cheesy, and empty.  This ridiculous story feels like it has been made for the sake of being made, since it has basically no purpose at all.  The characters are dumb due to the half-hearted dialogue, not to mention the fact that the villain concept is very stupid.  Essentially, there’s really nothing good to say about this plot except that it was good when it was over.

Acting Quality (1 points)

Besides the absurd self-casting and acting (Joshua Zirger from Fenced Off should have never been cast again), the cast members over-play and overdo everything.  Line delivery is drawn out, and emotions are laughable.  Though there are some okay moments, most sequences from this cast are annoying as they tend to make fools of themselves.  Unfortunately, there’s not much good to say about this film.

Conclusion

Basically, this movie is a debacle.  Whether or not they intended it to be so appropriately named is beside the point.  Making this sort of comedy that’s in your face and completely obvious is never a winning idea.  Also, the childish time travel notions and cliched Western tropes are very old and worn out.  The only advice that can be offered here is to try something totally different next time.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Note II: Taking a Chance on Love (Movie Review)

Love the smiling faces!

Plot Summary

David Danville, the son of popular columnist Kingston Danville, doesn’t want to go to college on a sports scholarship because he wants to be an artist, but he is afraid to tell his father.  Thus, he tells his father’s girlfriend, Peyton MacGruder, which causes a conflict between them that confuses Peyton’s thoughts of love for Kingston.  What’s more, her latest column mystery is making her wonder if true love even exists and if it’s even worth it or something.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Taking a Chance on Love is once again a typical Hallmark production, with a few more quirks than usual.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are fine as usual, but the soundtrack tends to be odd and annoying at times.  Sets, locations, and props are also mostly realistic with some minor issues.  The main problem is that editing tends to be confusing as this story is trying to be cut for a television length.  However, many of these small issues can be easily overlooked, which makes this yet another business as usual production for the Hallmark team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Although the first installment in this ‘series’ had some amount of substance, this highly unnecessary and forced sequel lacks it in every way.  The premise is very shallow and thin as it unsuccessfully tries to piggy-back on the success of the first film.  This story is full of silly conflicts and romantic subplot clichés that are inevitably and easily resolved within the allotted time frame.  Thus, the storyline overall is very empty, as are the characters.  Cheap dialogue is used to speed the plot along and build the cheesy romance.  The end result is a cringeworthy collection of plastic people.  The other big issue is that there is barely any potential in this dead-end plot idea, not to mention the fact that not much happens here.  Essentially, this film’s necessity is highly suspect.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Much like other casts that involve Ted McGinley, this one is very underwhelming.  Besides Ted’s usual annoying and plastic presence, most emotions from the cast are fake and manufactured.  Line delivery is extremely measured and robotic.  However, not all is bad here, and there are at least a few good moments from the supporting cast members that keep this section from being nothing.  Yet it doesn’t help the fact that this movie is basically pointless.

Conclusion

Sometimes movie companies will do anything to squeeze a sequel out of a slightly successful idea.  In this case, the Hallmark crew just transposed the cheesiest possible romance story idea onto a flimsy premise and injected familiar characters into it.  This is a very low-effort film with no risk-taking or creativity.  The plastic nature of the people involved is very off-putting and annoying, which rounds out another day in the Hallmark business.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

A Christmas Snow (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Kathleen hates Christmas and thus likes to make her restaurant staff work all the time on the holidays.  But she likes Andrew, so she decides to help watch his Christmas-loving (and slightly obnoxious) daughter, Lucy, while he completes a business trip before the holiday.  So when Kathleen and Lucy get snowed in with a random guy who saved Kathleen from some hoodlums in a parking lot, Kathleen thinks her life is over, especially when they are forced to play board games that remind her of her parents.  Will they ever be able to make it through the day?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The good thing about this film is that is has high production quality.  Tracy Trost and her team are usually committed to this, and it shows again in A Christmas Snow.  The positive elements include good video quality and camera work, as well as adequate audio quality and an okay soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are fine and are mostly utilized well.  There are really no glaring errors to note here.  There are just some small issues pertaining to some choppy cuts and transitions, but this is not enough to derail the production.  On the whole, this is an applaudable effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the plot of this film.  It is based on a stereotypical holiday-hating-character-is-forced-to-like-the-holidays-because-of-some-outside-event plot sequence.  It would be one thing if the characters were fine, since this is a character-based plot, but that is not the case here.  The main character in particular is quite obnoxious, as are some of the supporting characters.  This is mostly due to absurd dialogue and ridiculously forced comedy, such as statements like ‘chickatarian.’  There is really nothing creative about this story as it depicts a collection of random characters stuck in a house during the holidays again.  While there are some attempts to use flashbacks to build the characters, they fall flat.  The character arcs are far too steep, and the Christian message is too vague.  Unfortunately, this is a swing and a miss.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

For a majority of the film, the lead actress and the child actress of this film are quite annoying, in keeping with the characters they play.  This is demonstrated through forceful emotions and stiff line delivery.  They are clearly trying too hard, while other cast members just come off as off-beat.  Needless to say, this movie will be remembered for the wrong reasons.

Conclusion

There was a good idea behind this movie, this much must be noted.  Trying to develop a grumpy character through establishing flashbacks can be a great way to present a nice holiday story, but A Christmas Snow does it all wrong.  Unfortunately, although the production was good in this film, it was wasted on a poorly written story and off-putting acting.  Maybe next time, Tracy Trost and her team will improve upon their past films.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Fishes ‘n Loaves: Heaven Sent (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

A Strange Brand of Happy (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

David Weathersby has no clear direction in life, especially after being fired from his job by his hotshot boss, who is impressed with himself.  He feels like he doesn’t have any purpose and decides to languish away, so his roommate decides to introduce him to a random life coach he ran into so David can find a fresh purpose for himself.  But this introduction only creates a problematic love triable between David, his old boss, and the life coach.  Will this silliness ever be resolved?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In a change from previous Rebel Pilgrim productions, such as Hope Bridge and the awful Fenced Off, A Strange Brand of Happy at least has an above-average production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine.  The soundtrack is a bit silly, however, and there is some odd soft lighting throughout.  There are also a lot of cheesy animated interludes that give the movie a juvenile feel.  Also, a lot of the sets are relatively limited, as well as the props, and there are no real locations.  Finally, editing is just average and contributes to a slightly above-average, but not quite all-the-way-there production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Full of cheesy and quirky characters, this story is just a childish romantic ‘comedy’ based on a silly and manufactured love triangle.  Nearly all the humor is very forced and dry and is thus not funny.  There is too much pointless goofiness throughout, including silliness for the sake of being silly.  At times, this story feels like a joke, and it contains some very vague Christian themes.  With no real direction or purpose, this plot is just a bunch of random content assembled in a formulaic and predictable fashion, with a side of weird edgy elements and a very strange tone throughout.  Any meaning that is tried to be inserted at the end is too little too late, thus making for mostly a waste of time.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast is very stiff and wooden in their delivery, as well as awkward.  There is definitely not enough coaching here, although there are some good moments to note.  However, there is a lot of odd makeup work throughout, as well as some unnecessary yelling throughout.  In the end, this rounds out an overall low-average and basically low-effort film.

Conclusion

Rebel Pilgrim certainly knows how to make a strange brand of movies.  What exactly are they going for?  They’ve attempted the dramatic emotional exploration in Hope Bridge and the stupid comedies in Fenced Off and A Strange Brand of Happy, but what do they really have to show for it?  They also present a strange brand of Christianity in their films, so perhaps the title of this movie is not by accident.  Are they actually just trolling like The Asylum to see what some money they can make off of their efforts?  Your guess is as good as ours.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Bringing Up Bobby [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

James and Bobby have taken care of each other ever since their parents died, but Bobby is stuck in high school identity crisis while James tries to figure out what he going to do about his sister trying to take him to court over their parents’ will.  Meanwhile, their other brother Dennis shows back just in time for the court hearing—especially since he’s on the run from Russian anarchists.  But things begin to change when James and his sister’s lawyer begin to fall for each other and Bobby decides he is going to change himself to impress a girl at school.  Will any of them figure out who they really are?  Will we ever be able to understand what this movie is even about?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though the production quality of this film is mostly fine, the same cannot be said about the rest of the film.  Nonetheless, video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine and what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit dumb but not all bad.  Sets, locations, and props are fine, even if they are a bit juvenile at times.  There are some weird sound effects throughout, as well as some awkward transitions and ‘artistic’ asides that tend to hamper things.  But on the whole, this production is respectable enough.  However, this trend does not continue throughout the film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

There is literally no way to understand where this plot is coming from or where it’s even going.  Full of zany, eccentric characters that spout childishly comedic and stupid dialogue, this story overall lacks focus, direction, and purpose.  A majority of the scenes are lazily designed to elicit some sort of amused snicker or even eye-roll just because they’re so stupid.  The storyline is aimless and generally lacks arcs.  It most definitely lacks depth and meaning.  The Christian message is forced and awkward.  Any lesson that is trying to be conveyed here is totally lost in the wake of nonsense.  Basically, this ‘plot’ needed a lot of vetting before it was released to the public.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Much like the characters, the cast members are mostly off the wall and over the top in their performances.  Emotions are forced and so-called comedy is painful.  Though there are some good moments here that save this section from nothingness, it’s just not good enough.

Conclusion

One has to wonder why Provident decided to stamp their name on this madness.  What is the true faith-based on even inspirational value to this film?  It’s not even marketable or watchable.  Most audiences will turn this off after about ten minutes.  True comedy takes well-developed characters and witty, well-thought-out dialogue, not just throwing stuff against the wall to see what happens.  Another day, another failed Christian film.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Redemption: For Robbing the Dead (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jean Baptiste is a French immigrant who secretly robs dead bodies of their clothes.  Once he is finally caught, the judge sentences him to exile on a local salt island.  Sheriff Henry Heath is tasked with keeping up the with prisoners on the island and making sure they have what they need as they work.  However, he takes special interest in Jean Baptiste as he seems different from the others.  Together, this unlikely friendship teaches the two of them that God even offers redemption to those considered to be the worst of sinners.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Redemption begins with very odd lighting, which is the most noticeable production elements.  The presentation comes off as very dark, drab, and depressing, perhaps by design.  Though most production elements are fine, including video quality and audio quality, and though there are lighting improvements throughout, this beginning is significant and may deter people from going any further.  There are also a lot of boring, lagging scenes and sequences in the first half of the film that don’t hold the attention.  On the upside, sets, locations, and props are all very realistic and well-constructed.  There are also a lot of realistic gritty elements throughout.  Basically, this unique production is a mixed bag, thus warranting the average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though there is an interesting idea someone lost in this confusion, the plot lacks clear direction and purpose.  This is evidenced by the number of confusing and seemingly useless subplots and characters that are never fully explored.  At the same time, however, the story is also very limited in scope and based off of a very isolating concept.  Hardly anything happens as the same two or three characters just go back and forth doing the same things, combined with too many cheesy Western clichés.  Much like the production, there is a dark and brooding feel to this story, as well as some misguided artistry.  There is probably one interesting scene in this film that tries to explain some things, but it’s really too little too late.  This story needed a lot of vetting and consultation before it was released.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Besides some of the obviously fake accents of the cast members, there are a lot of bland and vanilla performances here to go along with the dark nature of the film.  However, this small cast has some good, honest moments as they tend to improve their performances throughout.  They become more human in the end and less of Western clichés, so that is enough to warrant an average score here as well.

Conclusion

This plot had the potential to be a different, interesting, and creative character-based epic showcasing second chances for flawed people, but this idea was unfortunately wasted.  Given Rance Howard’s presence in this film, it’s not very surprising that it is a dark one, yet even this element could have been interesting had it been used properly.  Alas, Redemption: For Robbing the Dead joins the growing list of Christian movies that desperately need a remake.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Open Door [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

https://vimeo.com/191292401

The Goal [2005] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After athletic enthusiast Steve George has a cycling accident that leaves him a quadriplegic, he feels like his life is over.  He doesn’t like the therapy he is forced to attend and he doesn’t like his family fussing over him.  He wants to be free, but is trapped in his wheelchair.  However, one day, his grandmother gives him new hope by introducing him to quad rugby, which he can play in his wheelchair.  This opens up a whole new world for him and allows him to touch the lives of others, as well as discover the faith his family always tried to share with him.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

This film has a relatively low budget, so it’s a fairly good production considering the circumstances.  Yet it seems like some of the issues could have been avoided, regardless of the funding amount.  The odd hazy video quality can be forgiven, as can some of the audio issues, which include some obvious overdubs.  However, the soundtrack is too generic and sometimes too loud.  There are also some odd camera angles throughout, but this area is mostly fine.  The best part of the production pertains to the high quality sets, sports and medical props, and outdoor locations, which are difficult to accomplish on this small budget.  Yet the editing is too choppy to be able to understand the story very well.  In the end, this is an average production, which is good considering what they had to work with.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, while this is obviously a good true story, it is presented in a very poor fashion.  Where the characters should be accessible, especially in their struggles, they are not.  This is likely due to the large amount of underdeveloped characters that exist in this plot.  Also, the dialogue is often too straightforward and unsubstantial.  There is also too much melodrama that makes the otherwise poor circumstances of the characters seem too out of reach.  Besides this, though there is an attempt to craft a predictable sports redemption plot, it doesn’t even accomplish this as the story falls flat and completely lacks any arcs or twists.  This is just face-value information presented in an unintentional documentary form without any real interest evoked.  It’s a shame, because this could be a good film.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With a relatively large cast, there is a lot going on here.  Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of them all.  Yet most of them are too matter-of-fact and emotionless in their delivery.  However, there are plenty of good moments here and there is some amount of coaching present here.  But overall, this caps off an underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

Low funding for production is one thing, but this crew handled this issue pretty well.  The issue comes in when you have a plot written for you and you are unable to present it in a way that makes sense.  It’s clear that this creative team meant well with this film, but some consulting was probably in order so that it could be as good as it could have been.  It’s frustrating to see films like this, but perhaps it will lead to further improvement in the future.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Saint John: The Apocalypse [2000] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a Roman soldier is exiled to the island of Patmos for insurrection, he does not expect to meet the infamous and fabled Theophilus, who happens to be the aging Apostle John.  A group of Christians whom the Roman solider knows also comes to the island in search of the mysterious Theophilus, all the while John is experiencing the visions from God that later became the Book of Revelation.  All of their lives intersect in a way they could not have previously believed.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

There is a lot going on this early 2000s production from Trinity Broadcasting Network and others.  Though there are plenty of attempts to create historically and culturally authentic sets, locations, and props, there are some other issues here that hamper the production.  These include some randomly poor lighting and wild zooms for dramatic effect, as well as some unnecessarily overdubbed audio.  The voice of God that echoes throughout the film is also a bit annoying.  A lot of the special effects used are very obvious and poorly done—if you are making a production about the Book of Revelation, you’d better have some well-funded special effects.  Yet on top of this, there are plenty of realistic gritty elements throughout, as well as good video quality and average editing.  Essentially, this is a very unique production and is a mixed bag at that, thus warranting the average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the plot writers decided to consult The Robe and the old Ben-Hur for how to make a first century Roman\Jewish story and cast of characters most like a soap opera.  This includes a cheesy romantic subplot and a lot of overly dramatic dialogue.  All of the characters are impossible to access due to their lofty and inhuman demeanors.  However, there is a very realistic historical context portrayed here, as well as a lot of good plot ideas that are basically wasted.  Yet these elements save the plot from being a total loss.  There is a lot of content here, and in the right hands it could have made a great two-part movie or miniseries.  They needed a better writer to be able to handle the complex content from the Book of Revelation properly.  But unfortunately, anything that involves TBN is guaranteed to be overly dramatic.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The same can be said for the casting and acting, as nearly every cast member uses a breathy line delivery reminiscent of Nicholas Cage and the actresses from the old Ben-Hur and The Robe.  Thus, line deliver is too measured and drawn out, like a Bible soap opera.  However, though the cast is not entirely culturally authentic, the costuming is at least historically accurate.  There are also some good acting moments that save this section from being a total loss.

Conclusion

One thing can be said for this film: it’s not your run-of-the-mill cute\boring Christian film.  It’s ambitious, but perhaps too ambitious for the resources the creators had at their disposal.  It’s very difficult to depict the visions of Revelation properly—this requires state-of-the-art special effects, which usually do not exist in Christian films, unfortunately.  Yet there is no excuse for having acting this bad, even though it’s not BRITISH.  This plot needed a total rewrite, but the idea definitely needs to be retained for future reworking and improvement.  Maybe one day it will be remade.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Wings of the Wind (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Youth of Christ (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Casey graduates from seminary, she is hired as the young adult ministry leader at a local church in order to ‘fix’ the ministry, since everyone else in the church looks down on them.  As a group, they continue coming because they are seeking community, but they lack direction.  At first, they do not respect Casey but she earns their respect through their teaching.  She sees potential in each of them to change the world, and she seeks to bring out that potential in God’s power.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a clearly low-budget production, Youth of Christ is somewhat cheap-looking.  While video quality is fine, there are too many close-up and stationary camera angles.  Audio quality is also strange as a lot of the lines are obviously overdubbed and the soundtrack is quite loud.  Sets, locations, and props are also unfortunately limited.  The editing is actually better than other production elements, as it is mostly average.  In the end, it seems like more could have been done with this production, even though the budget was limited.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there are attempts in this film to be different and edgy, a lot of the time, things get too edgy.  However, this plot is a good portrayal of real struggling and imperfect church characters.  Yet we don’t get to know the characters as well as we would like to due to flat and underwhelming dialogue.  There is also too much narration that serves as a crutch and a replacement for dialogue a lot of the time.  Though there are lot of interesting life issues and circumstances presented here, there are also too many quick fixes.  It’s hard to appreciate the ending because we couldn’t appreciate the struggle.  In the end, this is a nice try, but it needs to be revamped.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a mostly amateur cast, they are definitely trying in their performances.  They are sometimes awkward and definitely need further coaching, yet sometimes they don’t have good lines to work with.  In the end, they are at last average and show potential for the future.

Conclusion

Movies like Youth of Christ are well-meaning trying to do something different and interesting, but the delivery is not always there.  It’s very difficult to know when to go ahead and make a movie and when to wait for better funding.  Sometimes it’s better to go ahead and get some movie experience, but the film doesn’t necessarily have to be released.  What we really want to see is improvement from films like this, yet we often do not see a follow-up.  Perhaps future film makers can learn lessons, however.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Invisible Enemies [1997] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jackson decides it’s time to tell his son about a mysterious pair of glasses he came into possession of while in college.  Jackson tells his son of how this pair of glasses reveals the spiritual realm to whomever God has allowed to see it.  Jackson recounts how his discovery of the spiritual realm made his faith real to him and helped him to save his family and friends from certain destruction.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a 1997 production, this one is unfortunately not up to par.  It’s likely that funding was limited for this ‘educational’ drama, but it makes one wonder if it was justified.  Video quality is okay, as is audio quality, yet there are a lot of weird sound effects throughout, as well as strange lighting and wild special effects.  The soundtrack is also cheesy, yet sets, locations, and props are mostly fine.  Furthermore, this relatively short movie has choppy editing that stunts its development.  However, it may have never intended to be a real movie.  But if this was the case, why is it marketed like one?

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Despite its meager origins, Invisible Enemies is actually based on an interesting idea that has potential, yet this story is neither well-constructed nor well-presented.  The characters are too one-dimensional due to stiff information-dump dialogue.  There is not enough time in this plot to do any real story work; it needs a lot of complexity and development.  This film has an overly simplistic portrayal of spirituality and it all culminates in a very cheesy climax that is hard to reconcile.  In the end, this was almost like a test idea that really wasn’t ready to be released to the public, but it’s been twenty years now, so here we are.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting is the best part of this film, as the cast members post mostly average performances.  Some lines seem overly practiced and some emotions tend to be over the top, but on the whole, this is a fine effort.  The good thing is that at least this section demonstrates work towards the semblance of a film.

Conclusion

Films like Invisible Enemies are very hard to quantify.  They are put out there like a movie, so they are reviewed like a movie.  Yet there are many lingering elements that make it an overall odd experience to watch.  I feel like more could have been done with this concept beyond a simple ‘educational’ film.  But alas, budget constraints are always going to be an issue with independent Christian movies.  So once again we have another sub-par film that could have been better.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

A Heart That Forgives (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

My Son [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cadon and Jess have made bad choices in their lives, but they have each other and they have Jess’ son to keep them going.  However, in one fell swoop of mistakes a ‘friend’ convinced them into, they lose custody of their little boy to Jess’ parents, whom she is still not speaking to.  Thus, in a moment of desperation, they turn to the same ‘friend’ who got them in trouble for help getting out of it.  Together, they concoct a dangerous scheme to get their son back, but little do they know what God really has planned for them.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

As a severely underfunded production, My Son unfortunately has a lot of issues here.  Camera work is quite shaky, including a lot of odd camera angles, and lighting is strange throughout.  There are too many loud outside sounds that crowd out the audio, as well as a loud soundtrack.  Sets and locations are relatively limited, but the props are good and appropriate.  Some of these production elements improve slightly in the end as the final scenes appear to have more effort behind them.  Yet nonetheless, the editing throughout is an issue.  Basically, this was a very ambitious idea for such a limited budget, but the effort is commendable.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

My Son is a rare instance in which the plot is better than the production, as long as you can look past the production issues.  The writers mean well and are trying their best to portray realistic circumstances and accessible characters.  The suspense plot setup is very intriguing and well-constructed.  Dialogue sometimes isn’t as good as it should be, but for the most part, it is realistic and believable.  As the suspense progresses, the movie actually holds the attention if you are committed to it.  In the end, the ending is well written and realistic.  Since this is such an ambitious idea trapped in a bad production, it would be great to see a remake or at least another suspense plot from these writers.

Acting Quality (1 point)

At the beginning of this film, the acting is too forceful and overly practiced, as well as awkward.  However, it seems like this cast means well and is really trying.  The most interesting thing about the cast members is that they are actually better as suspenseful acting than at regular acting, and thus show improvement at the end, like other elements do.  There is tons of potential here that needs to be brought out in another film.

Conclusion

Despite its obvious flaws, My Son is a surprising and interesting burst onto the movie scene.  It likely will not get as much attention as other films, but it embodies a gold mine of potential this church has in making unique and ambitious Christian films in different genres.  Rarely do you see this much potential in a freshman film from a random church group.  It just goes to show you how trying a different genre and really working on your plot, even if you have poor funding, goes a long way.  They are already one step ahead of other film makers, so we can’t wait to see what they have next.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Turning Back [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Dave Patterson returns home after three years of drugs and rehab, his brother, an aspiring local politician and trusted church leader, is skeptical of his change and even envious of how his father accepts Dave with open arms.  Thus, Dave grows bitter towards his brother and seeks to share his side of the story in counseling.  Will they be able to reconcile their differences before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Probably due to a limited budget, this production is slightly cheap in its presentation.  The lighting quality for most the film is strange and camera work is very random.  Audio quality is also inconsistent and soundtrack is very standard.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly okay but still reflect the limited nature of this production.  Furthermore, editing is fairly choppy as it is hard to understand what this story is trying to convey sometimes.  In the end, considering the limited resources here, this is an okay production, but it begs the question of necessity.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is an interesting idea and is a more creative take on the typical prodigal son idea, it is still unfolds in a vague and confusing way.  Though this movie also actually portrays counseling in a realistic way for a chance, there are too many unnecessary plot tangents that waste too much time, even though there’s just barely an hour of runtime.  This causes the story to ump all around with no real focus, and there are too many random and unrelated characters.  The dialogue is too flat, thus causing the story to not hold the attention.  The ending is also slightly abrupt.  It seems like this film would have been better suited to be a short film.  Regardless, it needs a lot more development.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this cast is slightly amateurish, they appear to mean well.  They are sometimes unsure in their performances, but they put forth a decent enough effort.  There aren’t really any glaring errors, but they aren’t really dynamic enough.  Overall, it comes out as average.

Conclusion

Even though the creators of this film were likely honest in the creation of it, unfortunately, this movie is definitely going to slip through the cracks of the market and be easily forgotten.  This story is interesting and has potential, but it needs a lot more deepening and creativity to make it.  The production needs better funding and the acting needs to be more dynamic.  But perhaps this was just a test run and there are better things in store.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Sword [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Marcus Fidelius is converted to Christianity one night in a Roman jail due to an earthquake and the testimony of Paul and Silas, he and his entire family are transformed forever.  He passes down his newfound faith to his children and grandchild, and with it, an ancient sword that becomes a family heirloom.  As each generation faces their own challenges, the sword reminds them of the faith they have been given that will protect them in times of trouble.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

With a very low budget, The Sword has an understandably cheap-looking production.  In some ways, this is justified.  Lighting is quite poor at first, yet it does improve later.  Indoor sets are fairly limited, yet props and outside locations are pretty good.  Video quality is unfortunately blurry throughout, yet different parts of the film seem to have better quality than others, as if funding was better spent later in the production process.  Camera work and audio quality are okay throughout, although there are some odd camera angles at first.  Overall, this is a very good effort based on what was available to them and is very reminiscent of Pendragon.  It would be interesting to see what this group could do with better funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This plot is based on a very interesting Biblical-historical idea that needs more development.  The writers clearly mean well as they try to present realistic characters and interesting dialogue, although these things need more development as well.  This fairly complex plot is ambitious and shows a lot of initiative, but the expositional dialogue needs to be kept to a minimum.  The story tends to skip through time too rapidly, thus leaving a lot of loose ends.  However, this writing shows a lot of potential for the future and should be built upon for a future project.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast is made of amateurs and likely volunteers, so grace is extended here.  They mean well, but they tend to be robotic and overly practiced.  They should some good potential.  Though some of the makeup is odd, the costuming is fairly good considering the funding.  Overall, The Sword is a great effort that needs to be followed up.

Conclusion

It’s good to go ahead and try to make a movie to show off your skills, but sometimes waiting for more funding is prudent.  Nonetheless, The Sword demonstrates what this creative team can do and how much more they could do with better funding.  They likely did the best they could do with what they had.  We greatly encourage this collective to try their hand at another film that is better funded, if at all possible, because they definitely have something to offer.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Chasing the Star (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Out of the Darkness [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Eli is a troubled man with a strained relationship with his father.  The only person who shows him love, his ailing grandmother, is dying, thus leaving him seemingly alone in the world.  He continually has conflicts with his wife and threatens to leave her because of their financial struggles.  One night, he storms off into the woods and quickly finds himself lost—however, not all is at it seems.  He is about to undergo a psychological experience he will never forget as he will have to decide who he is and where he stands with God.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, as a rookie production, Out of the Darkness starts out very raw, with inconsistent audio quality that emphasizes background noises and odd lighting that gives the film an odd feel.  There are also some strange special effects that make the move seem cheap.  Camera work is random and inconsistent, although the video quality is okay.  Moreover, some production elements improve as the movie goes on, but the editing is always poor, as the strangest scenes are included in the final cut.  This is overall a disjointed effort that needs a lot of rework.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though Out of the Darkness portrays some unfortunately realistic circumstances and characters, it does in a very disorganized and confusing manner.  As previously mentioned, the oddest elements and sequences are included that have no bearing on the ultimate point and only serve to waste time.  Once the plot gets more interesting, it presents some creative psychological elements that need way more explanation and exploration.  It feels like as it is, this plot is a rough draft of an idea that needs more development, yet somehow this was approved as the final draft.  It needs more content, more coherency, and more complexity for it to be any better, because, though it’s a good idea, it’s still an unfinished idea.  To top things off, the ending suggests way too many quick fixes for problems.  In the end, there is potential here, but it needs to be skillfully mined.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this cast has experience behind it, they don’t always show it.  They need way more coaching, as their emotions are very forced and amateurish.  Line delivery is okay, and both line and emotional delivery have some slight improvement throughout, which prevent this section from being hopeless.  But the bottom line is that not enough effort was put into this film to make the most out of what was provided.

Conclusion

The Justice Pictures team appears to be making attempts to have creative and different plot structures, but they need better characters to pull them off.  They also need to maximize their resources better and employ coaching for their cast members.  If they made just slight changes to their approach, they would find themselves getting better, which would lead to more investment, etc.  A lot of times, it’s the little problems that hold film makers back from being truly great.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

More Than Chance (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Kelsey Mihalec was abused by her birth parents, so she is taken away from them and given to a Christian foster family.  However, the abuse has left her a paraplegic, yet she does not allow it to get her down.  Even though the odds are against her and she has been mistreated, she uses her problems to inspire others around her and to instill hope in those who believe they have none.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

More Than Chance is one those PureFlix-distributed films that means well but has funding issues.  Camera work is shaky at first and video quality is inconsistent.  Audio quality has the same problem and the soundtrack is generic.  Sets, locations, and props are somewhat limited, yet all of these issues improve as the film goes on.  It seems like more funding was injected in this production halfway through, which seems to be the case for a lot of films like this.  However, the editing is consistently choppy throughout the film, which, combined with the other issues, only allows this production to have one point.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously mentioned, the creative team behind this film likely meant well with this story, and it has some interesting ideas that unfortunately easily get lost in the shuffle.  This fact is only hurt by large and unnecessary time jumps and leaps in logic that lead to too much missing information and references to off-screen content.  With the head-scratching and useless sequences, it’s hard to follow where the story is going and where it has been.  There are too many unrelated characters and subplots that need more development and exploration; as they are, they’re just a bunch of random ideas thrown together.  Thus, this storyline is a typical disappointment.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this cast seems to have good intentions, they are mostly overly practiced in their line delivery, which makes them wooden in their emotional delivery.  However, this at least shows that they were trying to be coached, and even so, the cast overall improves as it goes.  Overall, the acting ends up better than the other two sections.

Conclusion

Films like this should probably be short films to condense and hone the limited funding better and to serve as a stepping stone to better ideas.  A shorter time frame would have hopefully caused the story to calm down and find itself better.  In the end, it’s a shame that movie companies like this make movies like this one and then are never heard from again.  It makes one wonder what might have happened if they had not gone through with this project and had instead saved their time and resources for a better one.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Full of Grace [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Life Fine Tuned (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Star is a spoiled music icon who wants everything to go her way, exactly the way she wants it.  When she has a disagreement with her manager and her creative team, she employs a typical and immature method of getting their attention: running away until they beg her to come back.  However, in an unfamiliar state, she gets more lost than she anticipated and finds herself stuck in small town America.  Forced to slow down, Star has to contemplate what her life is really like and what matters most.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

This production is certainly not as bad as it could have been, but it’s also not as good as it could have been.  Video quality and camera work are fine.  Audio quality is also fine, but the soundtrack is silly.  Sets, locations, and props are cheap, but this likely comes with the territory of this sort of production.  The editing is very odd, including abrupt cuts and transitions that make it seem like it was spliced together quickly.  Overall, though it is a bit amateurish, some of these elements are forgivable, considering this was mostly a freshman effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

There is nothing whatsoever creative about this cheesy fish-out-of-water plot.  It’s been used before and will be used again, probably on the Hallmark channel (see God’s Country and Finding Normal).  The story of Life Fine Tuned is very formulaic and predictable, yet it also seems to have a penchant for showcasing homeschool life of rural Virginia.  Don’t get us wrong—homeschooling is great (we were homeschooled), but why do homeschoolers have to isolate and label themselves so obviously?  Homeschooling isn’t about segregating yourself into a quirky subculture.  Besides this, the characters of this film are incredibly shallow and the story relies very heavily on childish coincidences.  Unfortunately, the uncreative nature of this plot renders it scoreless.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this cast is amateur and sometimes awkward, they are really trying.  They show potential, even Victoria Emmons.  Their performances definitely could have been worse.  Had they been a little bit more believable, especially with their emotions, this section would have been better.

Conclusion

We have to hand it to the creators—they tried, mostly.  This film could have been potentially saved with a more creative plot.  Use that advanced homeschool mind to craft a creative plot that silences the critics (like us).  Make a movie that’s better quality than the others.  Don’t just make another silly Christian movie that can be passed around certain circles and then forgotten about.  Take the Christian entertainment world to new heights.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

One Hit From Home (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Jimmy Easton gets injured and gets into trouble, he is under scrutiny from his team and from the law.  Though all he wants to do is sit at home and feel sorry for himself, this not an option as a friend of his pulls some strings with the judge to force Jimmy to coach a failing college baseball team as part of his penance.  Jimmy agrees only because he wants to give no effort to coaching, but a passionate player makes him change his mind.  Will Jimmy be able to rediscover the love and faith he once had?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

One Hit From Home is one of those stereotypical PureFlix-distributed productions that looks good on the surface.  Video quality is fine and camera work is professional.  However, the audio quality is inconsistent and the soundtrack is odd.  Yet sets, locations, and props are very realistic and professional.  Moreover, this production commits the common sin of choppy editing.  It feels like this film is just slapped together just to force it to happen—which probably isn’t that far off, knowing what PureFlix did in the 2007—2013 era of film making.  Essentially, One Hit From Home is a churned out, run-of-the-mill production that is made to be sold easily.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The production is not the only thrown-together aspect of this film.  The storyline borrows from every other troubled drunk sports character plot ever made (and return to hometown plot) and is easily confused with Home Run.  In One Hit From Home, things happened because they need to and the story is based entirely on coincidences and moments of necessity.  Each character fits a neat little yet one-dimensional mold and employs pedestrian dialogue.  The romantic subplot(s) boxes are checked.  Sports and training montages are present, which checks another box.  Furthermore, the Christian message is forced and time speeds by at a rapid progression as problems are fixed too easily and too quickly.  Essentially, this plot was bought from a stock plot supplier and repackaged for the Christian bookstores.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is not all bad, though they are sometimes unsure of themselves.  Most the time they are flat and seemingly uninterested, but some cast members post good performances.  Overall, the acting is not terrible, but it’s certainly not very memorable.

Conclusion

Do we need plots about troubled characters?  Absolutely.  Do we need sports plots?  Sure.  Do we always need the two of these ideas mashed together in films that do nothing whatsoever to make us interested in the characters and their struggles?  Most definitely not.  Films like this one reek of not even trying to be interesting in the pursuit of making a quick buck off of unsuspecting Christian\inspirational audiences who are desperate for any wholesome entertainment.  Give us something wholesome, creative, and dynamic—something that will actually make a difference, not just another carbon copy.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Prodigal [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Levi Layton has grown up under the shadow of his father, the pastor.  Levi feels suppressed and controlled by the church atmosphere and by all the nosy busybodies who want to control his father.  His best friend constantly tries to lead him astray and he eventually lures him away from the church altogether.  With the church under financial pressures and with other churches trying to compete for their members, will the Layton family be able to come back together and pick up the pieces of their faith?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though it has somewhat amateurish origins, Prodigal is at least an average production that demonstrates effort to be mostly professional.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be, even though the soundtrack is a bit goofy.  Sets and locations are somewhat limited to a few buildings around a neighborhood, but it seems like they are used to their fullest potential.  As is common with most amateur productions, the editing of this film is not very professional.  Though some attempts are made to make it work, it still comes off as too choppy and inconsistent.  Nonetheless, this is an average production that can be built off of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Many prodigal son stories have been brought to the big screen, probably too many at this point.  However, despite its packaging, Prodigal is not really a prodigal son story in the traditional sense, as most of the plot focuses on the story before the son leaves, and even when the son does leave, it’s very brief and constricted.  There is nothing inherently wrong with trying something a little bit different, but the way this story comes off is too quirky.  There are too many failed attempts at off-the-wall comedy and too many head-scratching conversations that include some suggestive innuendo.  It almost seems like the writers are making fun of church people (which sometimes isn’t that hard or unjustified), yet it is not done very tastefully.  Trying to develop backstory for the prodigal son is actually a good idea, but it never really leads to anything.  The plot follows a linear, predictable progression with no real twists or surprises.  The Christian message therein feels very plastic and slapped together.  In the end, this was a nice try, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This amateur cast is better than most—they definitely have their good moments.  But they also have their bad moments as some cast members seem to embrace their role too much and others appear to be making fun of the movie (again, not that hard to do).  Though there is good to find here, too much of the acting is disingenuous and somewhat lazy, thus making this an average performance.

Conclusion

We say this all the time, but too many films on the Christian market are just all the same.  Most are neither good enough nor bad enough to warrant much attention.  Films like Prodigal easily fall through the cracks and are never heard from again—our blog is full of films like this one.  Thus, we continue our rallying mantra: as a Christian film makers, use your God-given talents to do something different that truly makes a difference, not that just adds to the endless pile of mediocrity.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Maggie’s Passage (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Maggie hates the life she lives on the streets under the control of a pimp and other men who constantly use her for their own gain.  She wants to escape, but she sees no way out, until she discovers a Bible and learns what God really thinks about her.  As she flees her captors, she finds herself alone and on the streets again with no one to turn to.  Then she meets a woman who takes her under her wing and shows her the love of Christ.  Maggie must fully surrender to God and trust people again in order to find healing.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though it seems like the creative meant well in making this film, there are quite a few production errors.  Video quality and camera work are fine, but there are too many instances of poor lighting.  Outside sounds are sometimes too loud, as is the soundtrack, while other scenes are too dead and lack sound or expression.  Sets and locations are very cheap and limited.  There is not really any editing to speak of since there is really enough content to require editing.  While this is a commendable effort, the production of Maggie’s Passage is too underfunded.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This film depicts several unfortunately realistic circumstances and is thus thought-provoking.  However, it is sometimes hard to follow what is happening as there are a lot of empty sequences and vague narration that fill time.  It seems like this idea is not taken to its fullest potential as the backstory of the characters is started but not finished.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to connect with the characters because their development is unfinished.  Even though there is a lot of talking, there is not enough meaningful dialogue.  The plot relies on one too many coincidences and overall lacks focus and driving purpose.  There is hardly enough content to sustain this story into a feature length film.  Thus, more subplots, flashbacks, and complexities are needed.  In the end, it really does seem like the writers meant well—they just needed a little more direction to make this story all that it could be.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While there is some good in this cast and it seems like they mean well, they are sometimes too flat.  Emotions are sometimes too extreme and there is sometimes too much yelling.  But there are plenty of good moments, thus making their performances overall average.

Conclusion

Overall, it is clear that the creators of this film meant well and that it intends to share an important message.  The biggest problem is that Maggie’s Passage is it is mostly an unfinished idea, even though it has a lot of potential that is untapped.  The production is too underfunded to be effective and the acting is not coached enough.  It’s a shame that this film falls short of what it could have been.  It really deserves a remake because the ideas behind it are worth sharing.  Perhaps one day the ideas will be used again in a better way.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

1 Message (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Becca Norris had it all—money, success, and a boyfriend—until her doctor discovers that she has breast cancer and requires a major operation to save her life.  However, the operation leaves her changed forever, thus causing her boyfriend to become uninterested in her.  His departure sends Becca into a reclusive depression that no one, not even her family, can shake her out of.  Yet when her brother gets interested in internet research, Becca meets a man online who is interested in her as a person and who makes her think twice about shutting herself off from the world.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

1 Message falls into the typical mold of a Kelly’s Filmworks production.  With good video quality and overly artistic camera shots, this film is classic Jefferson Moore.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is a bit off.  There is basically only one set in this film, but the props are good.  Though this production tends to improve as it goes on, there is little to no justification for it being two and a half hours long.  There is a serious lack of editing in this movie that will cause many audiences to give up by the first hour.  In the end, this is an average production that needs some more fleshing out and cutting down in order to make it more professional.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously mentioned, it is mind-boggling that this film is two and a half hours long when there is certainly not enough interesting content to sustain this runtime.  The first hour or so of the film is incredibly boring and melodramatic as it confusingly conceals parts of the story for the second hour.  The first half includes a fixation on breast cancer and ‘genie-ologies’, as well as weird attempts at humor.  A majority of the ‘dialogue’ is people verbatim typing and reading stuff on the computer over and over again, which is incredibly boring and does nothing to build the characters, even though there are few of them.  Time is also wasted and filled with activities of daily living, including the characters lying around and sulking, which further stunts character development.  However, if you have the time and stamina, the story comes down to an interesting point if you can slog through two hours of useless content.  Basically, this film needs a serious redo, because as it is, nobody is going to give a care.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With such a small cast, most errors stand out, unfortunately.  Though there is some good to be found here, there is also a lot of bad, including some very boring and dry emotions, ridiculously over the top attempts to be dramatic, and very measure line delivery.  Unfortunately, Kelly’s Filmworks films seem to consistently struggle in this department.

Conclusion

With a movie this long, there should have been plenty of positive things to say.  However, rather than making this a deep character exploration plot, time is filled with fluff and fake drama that ruins the good idea that is behind this plot.  We can appreciate the work of Jefferson and Kelly Moore, but they often get too lost in the artistry of film making.  They would do well to collaborate with different story writers so they can more effectively create films.  We believe that they mean well—they just need to take that next step.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Alison’s Choice (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (0 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Standing Firm [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Dave Corwin’s wife died, he was confused and lost in life.  He did not know where to turn as he tried to hold his job together while not neglecting his son.  But his son’s newfound faith intrigues him, even though Dave does not understand why a loving God would take his wife away.  In the end, Dave’s journey to faith will be tested by life’s circumstances.  Which path will he ultimately choose?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a freshman production, Standing Firm is decent.  Most of its aspects are professional, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  Yet the soundtrack is a bit stock at times and sets and locations are somewhat limited.  Also, the editing is somewhat passive as it seems like a majority of the recorded content was included at face value.  Overall, on the whole, this is a very generic and base production, which is good for a new production company to start out with.  With a limited budget and resources, this is likely the best Praise Pictures could have done with what they had.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, the plot of Standing Firm is very underwhelming and low-key.  Its theme is slow and melancholy, thus causing the story to be slow to develop.  Dialogue is quite pedestrian as the same conversations tend to repeat and rehash over and over again.  Thus, the character development is null—this creates one-dimensional characters where this character-driven plot should have complex ones.  Unfortunately, this story is a fairly limited idea that needs more complexity than it has.  Though it is simple, it does have a meaningful message; however, it doesn’t hold the attention very well, so the message is not conveyed well.  But in the end, this is still a beginner’s plot, and the good thing is Praise Pictures improved later.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a slightly ‘rookie’ cast, they post at least average performances.  They are not terribly dynamic in what they do, but they are not highly negative either.  There is definitely some room for improvement, especially in emotional delivery, but this is a good start that is nothing to be ashamed of.

Conclusion

Overall, though this is a modest beginning for Praise Pictures, it is definitely something to build off of.  There is a lot of potential here, especially since production and casting are off on the right start early on.  The plot does suffer for creativity, but this is something that can be easily fixed down the road.  In the end, it seems like the Praise Pictures team really does mean well, which means they will be able to go far in the future.  It will be interesting to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The List [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

A Greater Yes: The Story of Amy Newhouse (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Amy Newhouse had it all—a great family, a boyfriend she loved, and a mission from God.  She knew what God wanted her to do and believed she had a future in the international mission field.  However, God had other plans for her as Amy was diagnosed with cancer.  Through these trials, she had to learn to trust in God’s sovereign plan and to discover the new ministry God was giving her, even when His plans didn’t make sense.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

A Greater Yes was made right as the new era of Christian productions was beginning, so it is still a bit raw in parts.  Camera work is okay, as are video and audio quality, although all of these could have used a little ‘sprucing’ up.  The soundtrack is fairly stock, which is disappointing because a story like this needs a meaningful soundtrack to drive the point home.  Sets and locations are fairly limited, thus making for a somewhat cheap feel to the film.  Editing is also poor and leaves a lot to be desired.  There are too many musical montages that take away from useful content.  In the end, while it’s clear that the team of Bradley Dorsey, Marshal Younger, and Clayton Miller meant well, this was just at the beginning of their careers.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

We love it when true stories are brought to life in film, but it seems like this plot did not really do the story of Amy Newhouse justice.  There is too much heavy-handed narration and off-screen content that takes the place of character-building and otherwise meaningful content.  The story also jumps all over the place, thus making it hard to follow.  While there are many realistic elements that can be connected back to real life, these characters need to be deeper so that we can connect with them better.  Their dialogue is too shallow as it is and needs fleshing out.  Overall, A Greater Yes has a powerful message that has great potential—it simply needs to be packaged differently.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast clearly meant well in their performances and were not putting anything on, as opposed to the practices of other PureFlix casts.  However, these cast members are sometimes too awkward and robotic in their emotions and line delivery.  They would have likely benefitted from improved coaching.

Conclusion

Every film maker has to start somewhere.  For Dorsey, Younger, and Miller, this was the start of a great career.  It’s better to try something rather than try nothing, especially if you are going to learn from your mistakes.  Though A Greater Yes was a meager beginning, it has a meaningful story that many will enjoy.  It is also clear that this trio did learn from their rookie mistakes (especially Younger) and have gone on to do great things.  It just goes to show that if you honestly want to make a difference in film, find the right people to work with, and are willing and ready to improve with each new film, the sky is the limit for you.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Accidental Activist [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ted Murphey never thought he’d see the day when his signing of a traditional marriage petition would push his important t-shirt business to the brink of destruction.  His gay friend gets angry at him when he reads about Ted’s evil deeds in the local ‘gay newspaper’ and doesn’t want to talk with him anymore.  The local gay activist leader raises a ruckus with protests and media attention around the t-shirt business.  The store is attacked and the Murpheys are ostracized by the evil gays and their media buddies.  With such persecution, how will anyone’s business ever survive?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though Accidental Activist has a fine production overall, including good video quality, camera work, and audio quality, it still leaves much to be desired.  The soundtrack needs a little more creativity.  The sets and locations that are used are fairly cheap and pedestrian.  There is also no editing as pretty much all of the content is used, and the film still barely cracks fifty minutes.  Overall, though the production looks good on the surface, it’s really hard to find a justification for this film’s creation.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Similar to Right to Believe, Accidental Activist is basically a collection of long conversations, complaints, and debates over the issue of traditional marriage.  However, this film uses borderline propaganda messaging to get its point across.  This is done by constructing a very unrealistic premise of persecution and by creating a strawman of the ‘opposition’.  Though one gay character is portrayed fairly well, other portrayals are downright embarrassing.  All of the dialogue is full of talking points from both sides and does nothing to build believable characters.  There is no real plot focus except for the agenda the American Family Association is pushing here.  Also, the ‘persecution’ these Christian characters endure is unfairly compared to the chattel slavery that led to the Civil War, and we find this to be a highly offensive suggestion.  In the end, Accidental Activist really accomplishes nothing except appealing to a group of Christians that wants to have their ears tickled with this sort of nonsense.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

To be fair, this cast is not horrible and is overall average.  Their performances are mostly fine, although they tend to be overdone in their emotions at times.  There are also a few too many stereotypes constructed therein.  Overall, it comes out as average.

Conclusion

Creating another movie that depicts an us-versus-them mentality in the traditional marriage debate is not the answer.  Whipping up support and anger among your base is merely political, not Christ-like.  The reality is that American Christians have no idea what persecution even means, even though they eagerly jump to such conclusions when things don’t go their way.  Of course the fact that traditional marriage has been altered is a major problem, but it’s a symptom of something deeper that the American church has been reluctant to deal with for decades: the broken Christian family.  Movies like Accidental Activist only further drive a wedge between Christians and ‘the world’.  We are supposed to be influencing the culture, not battling against it.  I think it’s time we take a good look at the state of the Christian family before we go pointing fingers.  Only then will things start to change.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Turn Around Jake (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jake has a dream job, a flashy fiancé, and everything he ever wanted, until one day when it all comes crashing down.  He is forced by his boss to take the fall for something illegal the company did and is left homeless and on the run from the law.  Jake has nowhere to turn, so he is forced to go back to the home he ran from—including the father and the girlfriend he left behind to pursue his dreams.  What he finds is that everything he was looking for was right in front of him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In the recent days of PureFlix, they have mastered the art of doing just enough to make a production look good on the surface.  Turn Around Jake is no exception to this rule.  Camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all on par.  The soundtrack is one of those childish attempts at comedy tunes, but is mostly typical.  Sets and locations are fairly limited but are passable.  There is really no editing present as the storyline just follows a stereotypical progression.  In short, there is really nothing out of the ordinary to say about this production—it’s standard and a little above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Turn Around Jake is really nothing but a typical city-character-returns-to-struggling-hometown-and-fixes-things plots.  This is also mixed with a dose of a prodigal character plot.  Everything is there: the old girlfriend, the parental character, the city characters who try to pull him back, and the other rural caricatures.  Besides this word-out premise, there are a lot of absurdly childish characters, dialogue, and asides that really make no sense except that the writers tried to force a lot of comedy but failed miserably at it.  As the story rushes through a predictable progression that hits all the expected points, it peddles a very cheap Christian message that cannot be respected and feels like it was shoved in so PureFlix would carry it.  Essentially, there is nothing original, creative, or worthwhile here, thus warranting no points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While there is some good here, for the most part, this cast is over the top and awkward.  They are painfully lacking coaching as their attempts at being funny and witty completely fall flat.  As a bright spot, Jen Lilley continues to outshine otherwise laughable PureFlix casts.  It would be interesting to see her in a more upstanding film.

Conclusion

In the end, Turn Around Jake is business as usual for the inspirational film business.  Somewhere they keep a database of the very small and limited scope of reusable inspirational plots (we think Hallmark is the gatekeeper of such secrets) and every time a new film makers needs a story they can easily peddle to the masses, they pick one for themselves.  Among these plots are the closely related prodigal character plot, the hometown return plot, and the fish-out-of-water plot.  Turn Around Jake borrows elements from each of these conventions and mixes them into its own awkward comedy style.  Anything that involves all of these elements is probably doomed from the start.  How about trying something original?

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Real [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When He was struggling in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus looked down through time and saw all of us and the struggles we would endure.  He saw the sins we would commit and still went to the Cross because He knew that we desperately needed Him.  Even with so many broken stories stretching out into the future, Jesus knew them all and gave Himself up for every one of us.  This is truly the best reason in the world to make a movie.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

It pains us to be so hard on this film because it carries such a powerful message.  However, even the most powerful message is covered up by poor packaging.  This is a very cheap production, including grainy video quality, poor lighting, and an overuse of soft lighting that rivals Jefferson Moore.  However, audio quality is acceptable, including a creative soundtrack.  Yet sets and locations are quite limited, as some are reused several times in different stories.  Finally, as multiple different unrelated storylines are employed, the editing is quite choppy and discontinuous.  This is truly a sad half point to award because we want it to be better and believe it can be—just not this time, unfortunately.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Real is based on a highly creative idea, perhaps one of the best in the loosely associated genre of ‘spiritual warfare’ plots on the market.  To depict Jesus and Satan in the Garden of Gethsemane looking forward to random stories in the future is an excellent idea, but attempting to connect a bunch of shallow subplots together in the span of ninety minutes is not a good idea.  This creates very shallow characters that spout dialogue that is designed to force the plot along.  As such, things happen far too fast as too many important issues are forced into one plot.  However, Real has one of the best portrayals of Jesus, Satan, and other spiritual elements to date.  The prologue and the epilogue, though they make the entire movie work, are worth watching and make this plot what it is.  In the end, we desperately wish this movie could have been better because it has such a great story and message that needs to be shown everywhere.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With a limited and amateurish cast, some cast members were reused in these subplots.  They could also use some better coaching, although they demonstrate great potential.  Sometimes they are a little too unsure of themselves, which shows that they would have benefitted from more coaching.  Though they are ahead of the game than some ‘big name’ cast members are, this section once again demonstrates what this group can do if they have the resources to do it.

Conclusion

Real receives half of an x-factor point for the creative idea behind this story.  As previously mentioned, with a better budget and more refining, Stephen Krist and his team can go great places and take Christian film to new frontiers.  We long to see a remake of Real that focuses more on the central concept without so many loosely connected stories.  We wish we could rate this film higher, but it is easily the best 3-point film out there.  In the end, we know the Krist team has good hearts and can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Another Perfect Stranger (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Nikki’s original encounter with Jesus Christ, her daughter Sarah grew to resent her mother’s new faith commitment.  Now, over ten years later, Sarah plans to rebel against the faith of her parents by going to make her own life at a far off art school.  As Sarah takes a trip to visit the school, she is ‘coincidentally’ sat beside a mysterious stranger on the plane (multiple times).  The more she talks to Him, the more she begins to feel her heart soften.  What will she learn before she reaches her destination?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though the production of Another Perfect Stranger has improved from The Perfect Stranger, that’s not really saying much.  Video quality and camera work are the most marked improvements; audio quality also shows steps in the right direction.  However, the soundtrack is quite stock.  Sets are still severely limited, but the most is made of them.  The Kelly’s Filmworks team still has a weird obsession with soft lighting that becomes annoying.  As for the editing, there are too many filler scenes and too much wasted time.  Essentially, while things are progressing in the right direction, it’s still difficult to see why productions this simplistic are so hard to nail.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

For starters, this title is stupid.  Naming a sequel movie ‘another something’ is so cheesy, but in this case, it’s not even true, because it depicts the same Stranger from the first installment, not a different one.  Anyways, Another Perfect Stranger begins with a useless recap of its predecessor, as if we missed something.  Once again, this second installment is full of uninspiring dialogue that speaks of lots of off-screen content and creates convenient plot turns.  Though this movie is again about two characters talking on a wide range of topics, we still don’t really get to know them very well.  With so few characters, these should be deep characters, but they only seem vague in the end.  However, their conversations do improve throughout the film and there are some good points raised, even though there are a number of odd comments and asides that seem out of place.  But what this plot really comes down to is the fact that there is simply not enough plot content to sustain it, as it is basically a stuck-on-a-plane plot that doesn’t involved the Rapture.  We want to like it, but just can’t find many reasons to.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Jefferson Moore, like Bruce Marchiano, has a Jesus complex; however, Moore might be a better actor than Marchiano when all is said and done.  Other cast members in Another Perfect Stranger are okay.  There is some over-acting, but emotions are overall believable.  Line delivery is mostly average.  Overall, this is an average effort with a small cast.

Conclusion

The Perfect Stranger saga is the definition of untapped potential.  The saga is based on a very simple idea that needs to be taken farther in order to have full effectiveness.  As they are, these films are just cute little Christian movies that people might smile about and then completely forget about.  Christian film makers need to strive to be dynamic and groundbreaking; we need to get out of our little bubble and go make a different with our movies.  An encounter with Jesus should be a difference maker, not another pedestrian effort.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Moment After 2: The Awakening (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After the Rapture, the inevitable one world government materialized and began rounding up the Christians when they wouldn’t take the mark of the beast.  Thus, Christians began to form groups in secret to protect each other from the new one world order.  Former FBI agent Adam Riley, now a resistor, escapes from captivity and sets out to find the truth about the Christians in hiding.  His former partner Charles Baker is also called back to serve the one world order and to search for the elusive Jacob Krause.  As their paths cross once again, choices will be made that will affect them forever.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Awakening is a slight improvement from the first Moment After installment.  Camera work is the most marked improvement, as action scenes are shot better.  Sets and locations are also improved to give the film a bit more of a realistic feel.  Audio quality is fine, but video quality is slightly inconsistent.  Some scenes are not lit as well as others.  The soundtrack is just average.  However, the editing has its positive elements as the story seems to unfold.  In the end, this is an average production, but something is still missing.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Awakening has strong comparisons to Revelation Road and could be considered its predecessor.  As such, there are some intriguing elements in The Awakening, but it’s still not a very dynamic story.  Slightly more effort was put into the complexity of this installment than in the first one, and there is an interesting twist near the end, but there isn’t really much else good to say here.  The characters are still empty and the plot is filled with too many boring and meandering conversations.  The villains are quite cheesy and the apocalyptic elements are, as usual, manufactured.  Also, this film is inevitably continued into nothing, like many apocalyptic efforts after it, thus making the overall story very empty and pointless.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This acting performance is much the same as the first installment, just with an extra dose of Andrea Logan White in all her usual stiffness.  David A. R. White and Kevin Downes are also their usual selves with random outbursts and fake action-guy demeanors.  Brad Heller surprisingly remains sane throughout the film.  Overall, this is just another below-average performance.

Conclusion

Why start a series you never intend to finish?  This incident was not isolated to The Moment After series; the Whites and company repeated this again with Jerusalem Countdown, In the Blink of an Eye, and possibly The Mark series as well.  The fate of Revelation Road is still unknown, but the bottom line is that if you keep starting and never finishing the same apocalyptic plots over and over again, there’s a problem.  Rather than constantly flooding the market with half-ideas, how about finishing what you start and actually delivering something original for a change?

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Forty Nights [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (.5 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

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

The Book of Genesis [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As Jochebed and her children hide from the Egyptian soldiers, she recounts the story of her people so far and the struggles they have gone through.  She remembers Adam, Eve, Abel, Cain, Noah, Abram, Sarai, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel and how they went wrong and how God took care of them.  Jochebed wrestles with the truth that God will take care of her and her family too, no matter what odds are facing her.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s obvious that a good amount of time and resources were spent on this production.  Cinematography is clearly professional and well-thought-out, including great camera work and crisp video quality.  Sets and locations are also highly professional and enhance the film.  Audio quality is good and the soundtrack is respectable and intriguing.  The only minor issue to raise here is some small editing issues, including random cuts and transitions that confuse the audience.  However, this is a very high quality production and we can’t wait to see what else Austin Ridge Bible Church produces in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, this is where the positivity ends.  As Jochebed constantly narrates through cryptic monologues, the plot skips all over Genesis without settling down on a coherent thought.  To be titled after to first book of the Bible, there is actually very little true Biblical content and easily a fourth of the film relates to the book of Exodus.  While the psychological elements are somewhat creative, there is no continuity and the overall feel of the storyline is overly artistic and embellished.  Taking on such a large amount of content is ambitious but misguided.  There is no way to understand the characters presented as they are largely silent; everything relies too much on Jochebed’s riddles and musings.  Overall, this is a disappointingly wasted idea can could have gone somewhere but never found the path home.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The casting job falls into the trap many Biblical films fall into.  Not only are there some issues with cultural authenticity (though not full British), but the cast members seem to be purposely acting mysterious.  Their emotions are ethereal and abstract and line delivery is sometimes off.  It’s difficult to put your finger on, but there are not many positive qualities to highlight here.  A stronger cast would have made a difference for this film.

Conclusion

When you’re first starting out with movies, it’s essential to have quality production, which is what The Book of Genesis has.  However, it’s not clear that Austin Ridge Bible Church knew what they were doing with this plot idea.  There is an element of creativity here that could be drawn out by the right team, but this movie just doesn’t make the mark.  When first writing a plot, it’s best to start out small and grow from there, not start out with a big idea that might not pan out.  Maybe next time Austin Ridge Bible Church will find their way to the promised land, because they certainly have the potential to do so.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points