House [2008] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

On a stormy night in rural Alabama, two couples find themselves stranded at a remote and strange bed and breakfast that is run by three eccentrically creepy people.  The longer they are in the large, ominous mansion, the stranger circumstances become for the four of them.  They find themselves in a fight for their lives as they are stalked by a serial killer known as the Tin Man, who is bent on reminding each of them of their darkest secrets from their pasts.  Will they be able survive this evil night?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though House is adequately funded—more so than other Christian horror films, except for The Remaining—the production begins a bit rough.  This includes weird camera angles and moving camera work, probably for dramatic effecting.  There are also some wild cuts, as well as some odd sound effects and lighting for sensational effect.  However, video quality is fine, even if there are some cheesy special effects and zooms throughout.  Moreover, the Anberlin soundtrack is great, and the sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized.  Also, the editing is slightly effective, and other production elements improve as the film goes on.  Thus, this production ends up average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 points)

Though House is full of unnecessary sensationalism and cheesy horror elements, these concepts reflect the flaws of the original novel by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker, which is actually not the best book that could have been chosen from them to turn into a movie.  In the beginning of this film, everything comes off as too dramatic and too pronounced.  However, it does get better as it goes as the film explores the intriguing psychological elements and concepts of this novel, including effective character backstories and a great use of flashbacks.  In some ways, the movie may be better than the book, even though there is still a need for more substantial dialogue.  Nonetheless, the climax still makes no sense and leaves too many unanswered questions.  However, some audiences will enjoy this movie, if the horror elements do not bother them.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though some cast members in this small cast are trying too hard to be dark and to have strange undertones, the acting of House is mostly fine.  There is also some weird makeup work, but for the most part, emotions are effective among this cast, even though there were a lot of difficult acting moments due to the use of special effects.  This rounds out a mostly average film.

Conclusion

While the premise of this plot is very creative, it still needs a better explanation with more clarity as to what is happening.  Sometimes, Christian horror films, like Scattered, are better at focusing on character backstories and effective flashbacks than other films, which is one thing that keeps the genre alive.  Nonetheless, there are better Ted Dekker books to use for movies, even if future Christian horror flicks will be hard pressed to get this type of funding again without proving itself as effective.  Unfortunately, this is something the Christian horror genre has yet to accomplish.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

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A Love That Hurts (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chris and Samantha are newlyweds who can’t wait to start a family.  However, their dream ends in heartbreak as their first child miscarries.  This tragedy pushes them apart as a couple and causes them each to seek fulfillment in all of the wrong places.  When another tragedy strikes their family, they will have to make a choice: will they grow apart or seek God to save their marriage?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

A Love That Hurts has a surprisingly above-average production for such a small budget.  Although there are some moments of echoed audio and some disorienting special effects, video quality and camera work are quite good.  Sets, locations, and props are slightly limited, but they are good considering what the creators had to work with.  Further, there are some abrupt cuts and transitions throughout, but as a whole, this is a very good production considering the tiny budget that was allotted for it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While there are some good attempts to portray accessible characters with realistic struggles, the characters of this story really need to be deepened, not only because this is a character-based plot, but also because it would make the story more meaningful.  As it is, a lot of the dialogue is too obvious and forces the plot along.  Some characters are too robotic as they appear to be pawns in the plot, only serving the purpose of spoon-feeding the audience an obvious message.  This message comes off as a somewhat plastic version of Christianity, including an odd portrayal of women.  Also, some characters are ‘overly Christian’ or become perfect through quick resolutions and easy fixes to problems.  However, not all is bad here as the writers at least demonstrate a care for realism, even if the plot is sometimes boring and slow.  The ending is a bit forced and rushed, as well as somewhat vague and abrupt.  In the end, it’s clear the writers meant well here, even if the delivery was misguided.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this is an ‘amateur’ church cast, the cast members show a lot of potential and desire to do well.  There are plenty of good acting moments as real effort is evident.  The main issue to point out here is that sometimes the cast members appear to be overly practiced in their lines and emotions.  Some cast members could use a little more natural emotion, but as a whole, this film is an applaudable effort.

Conclusion

It’s rare to find a movie this highly rated with such a small budget.  Further, it is clear that this creative team was putting their great effort into making this a good project.  However, it seems like more could have been done in the plot department.  Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see if they produce any more content in the future.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

The Visual Bible: The Gospel of John (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Apostle John wrote his Gospel to show that Jesus came to change the world, but He was also a man Who could relate to each person He came into contact with.  He performed miracles unlike the world has ever seen and changed many lives, all in route to laying down his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.  The religious leaders nearly always opposed Jesus’ work, but His work is still alive and well today.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The Gospel of John follows in the footsteps of the other Visual Bible films by having a high-quality production, but it’s possible that John is the best production of the group.  This is evident through great video quality, camera work, and audio quality, including a culturally authentic soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are excellent in demonstrating authenticity and realism.  The only minor issues therein pertain to some odd and sometimes cheap special effects, such black and white flashbacks and unnecessary ‘flashy’ elements.  However, this aside, this is a top-notch production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Where the production succeeded, unfortunately, the plot did not.  Where other portrayals of Jesus in The Visual Bible saga are fair and interesting, the portrayal of Jesus in this version of The Gospel of John is not very inviting.  Instead, the Jesus in this film is a throwback to the 70s and 80s ‘zen’ portrayals of Christ.  Sometimes, he comes off as lofty and even a bit crazy at times.  Other characters come off as too dramatic, and some sequences are too sensational.  Like the other Visual Bible films, John has narration by design, which does not give us many good opportunities to get to know the characters very well.  However, there are a handful of positive elements here that keep this section from being zero, such as the opportunity to see some less-focused on portions of the gospel.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While other Visual Bible casts tried to include more culturally authentic cast members and less British ones, John does not always succeed on this front.  There are too many obviously non-authentic cast members, besides the fact that there are a lot of dramatic and theatrical performances.  In situations like this, where narration is built-in, acting is very important since there are limited opportunities for lines.  However, though there are some moments of overplaying, there are plenty of good sequences throughout this film that are enough to make this section average.

Conclusion

While The Visual Bible projects are commendable and ambitious, John does not seem like as helpful of a resource as the others, especially since it tends to take a turn for the dramatic and sensational.  Portrayals of Jesus are hard to pull off, but there’s no need to make them more difficult with ethereal loftiness.  Still, there are plenty of good parts to The Gospel of John, and many audiences will enjoy it.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Joshua [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a mysterious young man named Joshua suddenly appears in the small town of Auburn, the entire town is astir, especially when he begins rebuilding the Baptist church.  The local Catholic priests are disturbed at his coming, however, especially after he spends time with the ‘sinners’ and even performs a few miracles.  However, those who are impacted by the work of Joshua are changed forever, even those who least expected it.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Although this production looks slightly old at times, it is still a good production.  It checks all the right boxes, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The original soundtrack is fine.  Sets, locations, and props are all what they should be.  However, this production is held back from perfection by some avoidable continuity errors, as well as some cheesy transitions and awkward cuts.  However, on the whole, this is a fine production with no obvious errors.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Based on a novel, the plot of Joshua has some obvious issues that come with the territory of stories that attempt to transpose Biblical events on top of modern day settings.  Using these conventions is almost always mind-bending and problematic for a number of reasons.  In Joshua, it is impossible to know whether or not this is supposed to be a retelling of the original historical account of Jesus, or if this is supposed to be some kind of modern day reappearance before the Second Coming.  The story tries to convince you it’s the latter, but why include all of the repeat miracles in this case?  Even so, there is very little conflict in this tale as useless narration tries to spoon feed the plot to you.  There are also too many characters that are under-developed and one-dimensional due to the narration and the shallow dialogue.  The story jumps from one thing after the next with no real continuity.  Unfortunately, this section is a disappointment.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

However, the acting is the best part of this film, as there are only minor errors to contend with.  For the most part, this cast is professional and on-point in their line delivery and emotional delivery.  Costuming and makeup are also appropriate.  Overall, this section punctuates a mostly average film.

Conclusion

We definitely need more Christian novels made in movie form, as we have said before.  However, this really isn’t the sort of thing we’re looking for.  There’s nothing truly dynamic about this movie.  While it is fine and pedestrian with no obvious goofs, is it really going to make a difference?  Making more cute little Christian films isn’t good enough anymore.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Heavenly Match (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Reverend Casey Hunt is promoted to senior minister of her church after the former one steps down, but she doesn’t like her job because she is perpetually single.  However, her plans change when she finds out that her replacement is going to be someone she met in seminary—a witty, handsome man who is still single.  Thus, they decide to hang around together and do comedic things until enough time goes by in the movie for it to come to a neat, inventible conclusion.  However, this plot isn’t complete without a typical up-and-down romance based on lack of communication.  Welcome to made-for-television films!

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Much like Hallmark, as we have stated before, UP has mastered the art of the quick made-for-TV production that looks good on the outside.  Heavenly Match is one of these such films.  It has good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  It has a predictably silly soundtrack to accompany this.  Though the sets and locations are slightly limited in this small-town universe, the props are fine.  The editing is also fine, considering the tight window this content has to fit into between commercial breaks.  However, it’s not like there was much content in the first place.  In the end, this film checked all the necessary production boxes.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From beginning to end, Heavenly Match is filled with a ridiculous amount of constant narration that destroys any hope this film had of having natural progression.  The comedy elements are painfully forced to the point of nausea, and the dialogue is very odd.  As a whole, this story demonstrates a lack of fundamental understanding of real church work, and it is a completely manufactured plot that is hopelessly pandering to Christian audiences every second it has.  The romantic comedy elements are cringeworthy and were mass-produced on an assembly line as every possible cliché and convention in this genre is used.  In short, this film is extremely empty and mostly pointless except to just fill air time and make some easy commercial money.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast has plenty of professional elements that help its score reach above-average quality, most of the time, the main cast members are trying too hard to be interesting and funny.  At times, they are also very plastic in their demeanors.  Makeup can also tend to be overdone.  However, this section is mostly fine and rounds out a pedestrian film.

Conclusion

Another day, another run-of-the-mill television film from an inspirational network with ad spots to sell.  What do we expect at this point?  Perhaps soon there will be so many dynamic, creative, and ground-breaking Christian films that movies like Heavenly Match will be totally irrelevant.  Maybe.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Unbridled [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

The Glass Window {The Troubadour} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Stuart Wright is a successful businessman in New York, but the untimely death of his father grinds his fast-paced life to a halt.  Confused about his direction in life, he decides to visit his father’s favorite place in the Bahamas to try to clear his head.  However, all he ends up doing is drinking himself to sleep.  One morning, he wakes up in another man’s makeshift house, and this man proceeds to change Stuart’s outlook on life by sharing with him the true love of Christ.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, The Glass Window begins as a fairly rough production.  This includes some shaky camera work and inconsistent lighting.  There are also some odd sound effects and cheap sets and locations at first.  The soundtrack is generic, and there are several disorienting flashbacks in the beginning.  However, this production makes a concerted effort to improve as it goes on, especially when it comes to the international locations and cinematography.  Camera work calms down, as do the sound effects.  Further, the editing is relatively fine throughout.  In the end, this is an average production due to the latter improvements.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Much like the production, this story begins very predictably with a city character who is forced to return to his backwoods small town that contains all of the cliched elements and dialogue imaginable from this concept.  It’s also basically another prodigal character plot, and it contains several Bible verse clichés.  However, this trend totally changes up in the middle as the story turns into something totally different.  There are many interesting ideas contained within the second half of this plot, even though are somewhat randomly presented.  The Christian message is very good, but it tends to be a bit spoon-fed.  There are very interesting parallels here, but they need deepening.  Also, there are some plot holes in the second half due to the wasted time in the early parts of the film.  Nevertheless, it is a very creative idea with a slightly unexpected end that is likely worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Once again, the acting begins fairly rough as the cast members tend to be stiff, overly practiced, and stoic at first.  However, they demonstrate good effort and definitely improve in all aspects in the second half of the movie.  Emotions are mostly realistic throughout, thus making for a good section.  In the end, it many ways, it seems like this film was made in two halves by totally different teams.

Conclusion

The Glass Window joins the ranks of Christian films that contain ideas that are worthy of a remake.  It’s obvious that this creative team has a lot of potential and just needed some further direction when starting this film.  They definitely knew where they wanted to go, but they had trouble starting the journey.  However, they showed that improvement in the middle was possible, which also shows potential for the future.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

God, Where Are You? (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Sony Boone, a famous professional boxer, inadvertently kills his opponent in a fight rage, he is immediately disgraced and barred from the world of professional sports.  Thus, he loses everything he holds dear: his career, his fiancé, and his worldy possessions.  Driven to the streets as beg a homeless person, Sonny is suddenly offered a free meal at a mysterious diner by a mysterious man named Malachi.  Malachi offers Sonny a second chance at life, but Sonny is extremely skeptical at first.  Will Sonny give God a chance to turn his life around before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

At the beginning, God, Where Are You? is just like the other cheap productions put out by Lazarus Filmworks, such as Daniel’s Lot and A Letter for Joe.  This include poor audio quality, a random use of black and white, and some dark scenes.  Also, the camera is sometimes focused on the wrong things while people talk off screen.  However, the other camera work is fine, and the video quality is stable throughout.  The sets, locations, and props are surprisingly good and appropriate, and the soundtrack has an interesting feel to it.  Though there are odd quick cuts throughout the film, as it goes on, there is concerted improvement in all areas.  Even though it started out rough, this film is a milestone for the Lazarus team in production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

At first, the story is hard to follow as it seems like everybody in this plot’s world is obsessed with a random disgraced boxer who’s now a homeless guy.  Things are rough at first through some obvious dialogue and forced situations, but this storyline is a definite improvement of their past failures, A Letter for Joe and Daniel’s Lot.  The middle of the film is very interesting as it contains a very good message and interesting psychological elements.  However, sometimes it is based too much on coincidences, and the premise is a bit vague at times.  There seems to be an odd underlying attitude that is difficult to quantify, and the big inevitable twist at the end is sort of predictable.  Though problems are seemingly easily fixed in the end, this story gets an E for Effort and shows that any creative team can improve despite previous failures.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For this cast, the Lazarus team looked outside of their circle of friends and found some professional cast members that make this one way better than previous casts.  However, there are some overly practiced and forced lines, as well as some overdone emotions.  Nevertheless, they are definitely trying to make this a well-acted movie, and there is concerted improvement throughout in this area as well.  In the end, this is at least a marginally enjoyable movie.

Conclusion

All we ask of Christian film makers is that they use the resources God has given them responsibly and efficiently and that they show improvement over their careers.  Surprisingly, the Lazarus Filmworks team has done this in God, Where Are You?  Though there was a time when it seemed like they would never break through, they flipped the script and tried something different.  Now they have a chance to use this film to become even better movie makers in the near future.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dax is a spoiled rock star who is in trouble with the law and his publicist, so he needs publicity stunt to make him look good so that his merchandise will begin selling again.  Thus, he flippantly agrees to grant the Christmas wish of a desperate fan by staying with them over Christmas holiday.  Little does he know that he has been chosen to stay with a conservative pastor’s family in a small rural town in order to fulfill the wish.  But love will probably find him there, so what’s he complaining about in the UP universe?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

UP has been able to successfully replicate the Hallmark production model by having respectable productions.  Once again, Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas checks all the needed production boxes, including fine video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is about what you can expect, and the sets and locations are slightly limited.  There are also plenty of Christmas props.  The editing is mostly fine except for the stupid title cards throughout.  Otherwise, this is a model production that comes with the territory of made-for-TV movies.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Yawn.  What else can we possibly say about this thoroughly worn out plot concept?  A troubled rich city character gets stuck in a small town (actually more like one house) with a conservative group of characters, and he reconnects with his childhood or something and finds ‘unexpected’ love.  In some ways, rendition seems like a satire or just pure click-bait.  Characters are too empty due to stock dialogue as the circumstances sweep them along in inevitability.  The Christian message is very vague and is designed to pander to Christian audiences.  As expected, the progression is extremely predictable as two people are thrown together, don’t like each other at first, like each other after small talk, have their relationship get complicated by a strawman alternate love interest, get ‘torn apart,’ and then get thrown back together again to patch things up in the last few minutes before the credits roll.  I think that about sums it all up.

Acting Quality (2 points)

UP has done a better job than Hallmark has at assembly mostly professional casts.  They appear to actually coach their cast members and attempt to make them seem realistic.  There are a handful of minor errors throughout this case that keep it from being perfect, but on the whole, it is a respectable effort.

Conclusion

Another day, another Christmas film from the movie factory.  What is left to be said about companies like UP and Hallmark?  They have to please the investors, so they roll out safe, predictable films that will be watched once during the holidays and then be forgotten.  The plots are mindless, and they look good on the outside, so the mission is accomplished, and it’s on to the next one.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Breaking the Press (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Conagheys could never have children, so they decided to adopt a pair of twin boys who was in need of a home.  As proud members of a small community in Texas that greatly valued high school basketball, the Conagheys encouraged their two boys, Josh and Matt, to get involved.  However, one became better than the other and became tired of being stuck in the small town team.  Instead, he wanted to play for the better team in the next town.  The Conagheys decide to let him live with his aunt so he can attend the other school, but at what cost will is come at?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, Breaking the Press has a fairly professional production with no glaring errors.  The sports filming is definitely great, include good action shots and camera work.  Video quality and audio quality are what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit generic, but it is adequate.  Sets, locations, and props are on par with what they should be.  The biggest issue to point out here is the poor editing, including abrupt cuts and transitions, as well as musical montages.  But this is not enough to derail this section, which is nearly perfect.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, the storyline of Breaking the Press is not very creative at all.  For starters, there is too much narration, which of course stunts natural character and story development.  The time jumps certainly don’t help this either.  The whole thing is just a typical and formulaic sports storyline mixed with a predictable prodigal son storyline.  There is really no creativity here, and the characters come off as plastic and manufactured.  Also, sports montages are commonplace, along with a random Christmas inclusion in the middle of the film.  Edgy content is not handled very well either.  On the whole, this just seems like someone trying to pander to Christian audiences.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Yet this cast is mostly professional and is definitely above average.  The only thing holding back this section are the overdone moments and overly practiced lines.  Yet for the most part, emotions are realistic.  This rounds out an overall average film effort.

Conclusion

It’s hard to get more formulaic than movies like Breaking the Press.  Throwing a prodigal son story into the inspirational sports genre does not exactly excite.  Creativity is very minimum here, and it seems like this is a low-effort attempt to grab some quick cash from a Christian audience.  If you are going to make a typical story, the least you can do is to craft realistic and accessible characters.  But once again, a film is left wanting.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Rogue Saints (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nick and Dylan have always been best friends, but they lost connection for several years.  Now they have restarted their friendship after years of traveling, and they have a plan to pull off the ultimate heist to get rich.  Rumor has it that a valuable diamond is hidden beneath a certain church, so Nick and Dylan decide they need to be the one to unearth it and collect the prize.  However, they will have to invent a clever cover story in order to gain access to what they need to find the diamond.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For a relatively small-time church film, Rogue Saints is a surprisingly efficient production.  This is most notable in the interesting and well-constructed sets, locations, and props.  Video quality, camera work, audio quality, and are also all what they should be.  The soundtrack is unique and creative.  The biggest issues to raise here pertain to some oddly unnecessary elements, such as an overuse of split screens and juvenile animation overlays throughout the production.  The editing is also quite wild and sometimes schizophrenic.  But on the whole, this is a one-of-a-kind production that is at least above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While this story is trying to be different in some ways, in others way, it is not so different.  There are slight attempts at creativity, even if the premise is somewhat flimsy.  The comedy is at least partially funny, even if it is somewhat formulaic and predictable.  The progression of the plot is also basically predictable and contains stereotypical characters that could use some upgrading through more developed and meaningful dialogue.  There aren’t really any twists as this storyline is basically linear.  However, there is definitely a lot of potential here, and Rogue Saints is certainly a good start in the comedy genre for future reference.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast mostly contains ‘amateurs,’ they are actually fairly professional.  They certainly have their quirky moments and can tend to overdo the comedy at times, but as a whole, this is a respectable performance.  Emotions and line delivery are each what they should be.  This completes an overall average effort by this freshman film effort.

Conclusion

There aren’t many films that are comparable to Rogue Saints, which is a fact that is both good and bad.  It is a unique film and shows a lot of potential for the future, if they choose to go further in film making.  This is where new film makers should begin rather than in the basement of Christian film.  Even so, this movie is a good blueprint for how to begin in Christian movie making, but hopefully it is not where creative teams will get stuck.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

The Christmas Card [2006] (Movie Review)

Love finds you in a Christmas card

Plot Summary

When Sergeant Cody Cullen receives a Christmas card from a church group, he is compelled to find the woman responsible for the project after he gets back to the States.  When he finds her, Faith Spelman, and her family, he never thought he would fall in love with her.  But little did he know that he is stuck in the Hallmark universe, where loves pops up in the most “unlikely” places and in the most unrealistic ways.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As usual for Hallmark, the production quality is high, which is the main thing that sustains their brand.  Actually, The Christmas Card has some of the most complex sets and locations for a Hallmark movie.  However, they are still filled with lots of Christmas decorations.  Otherwise, this production checks all of the other boxes, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  It also includes a silly holiday soundtrack, but what else is new?  Finally, the editing is mostly standard and uneventful.  Overall, this is business as usual for Hallmark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The Christmas Card is basically the textbook Christmas Hallmark love story in all the usual cheesy ways.  Let’s see how it goes: a couple is thrown together through some ‘funny’ or ‘cute circumstance (in this case, a literal Hallmark card), and they find that they have a lot in common with each other only to discover some earth-shattering news that ‘tears’ them apart for like one scene.  Then they come back together, and everything is fixed.  The characters stepped right out of the Hallmark plot factory, and the circumstances they go through are manufactured, along with their stock dialogue.  The premise is trumped up, as usual, and the Christian message is forced into it to expand the audience influence.  Things happen because they need to in route to an inventible conclusion.  Once again, this is business as usual for Hallmark.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast avoids the usual plastic look of most Hallmark casts, they tend to be too stoic and practiced in their emotions and their line deliveries.  However, there are plenty of good elements here as the cast is overall professional.  At least this is a palatable cast, compared to other efforts from this channel.

Conclusion

Another day, another Hallmark Christmas movie.  The plastic Christian message is optional depending on who it’s targeting.  Films like this are the embodiment of click-bait, or rather watch-bait.  But the one thing you can say for Hallmark is that they almost always nail their productions.  Some Christian film makers could take a cue from this.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Reggie’s Prayer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Reggie Knox is a successful professional football player, but he feels the call of God to leave the league and go to make a difference in the lives of struggling inner city teenagers.  He feels like he can make more difference in the world by coming down the world of real people rather than insulating himself in a professional sports bubble.  Thus, he and his wife move to Oregon to work at an inner city high school, where they find many opportunities to impact the lives of young people who desperately need the love of Christ.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a 1990s production, Reggie’s Prayer has a lot of raw moments.  This include some dizzying camera work and some inconsistent audio quality.  There are also some odd sound effects and weird special effects in certain parts.  However, video quality is fine throughout, and the aforementioned areas show good improvement as the film goes on.  The good thing is that sets, locations, and props are well-used and well-constructed throughout.  Yet there are some moments of disorienting editing, even though this area also shows some improvement throughout.  In the end, this production is a mixed bag, thus warranting an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

While this is a good story idea based on true events and realistic and believable circumstances, there are still some issues here that hold it back from being all that it could be.  One such area is the confusing and isolating psychological elements near the beginning of the film.  Also, while characters are somewhat accessible, they could still use some better development through deeper and more meaningful dialogue, even though the dialogue is fine as it is.  There is also a lot of content that needs to be further explored as there are plenty of under-developed subplots throughout this storyline.  Also, while there is a very good message in this plot that many audiences will enjoy, the villain that somewhat dominates the plot is cheesy.  In the end, this is an enjoyable plot, but it seems like it could have gone further.

Acting Quality (2 points)

It’s likely that the casting and acting of this film is its strongest point.  Though there are some moments of over-acting, there are also plenty of great moments that make this section above average.  With the exception of the villain character, emotions are believable and line delivery is on point.  Most cast members are cast appropriately.  In the end, this film has plenty of good in it.

Conclusion

If this film had been slightly modernized and refined in some of the rough areas, it could have been way better.  Even so, many audiences will still enjoy this film, and future film makers can learn from its desire to portray real people with real struggles.  The core concepts of this plot can be used in the future to ensure sports plots do not become so formulaic.  The important thing is to capture the accessible struggles of characters audiences can relate to.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Wesley [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In 1732, John Wesley had fully embraced the religious piety of English Christianity, but his life was changed forever when he was assigned to be a missionary to the American Natives in the colony of Georgia.  He always strived to be what he considered to be a perfect Christian, but his world was transformed when he encountered real people and was forced to come face to face with God’s grace and love for all humanity.  Only then did John Wesley become the spiritual giant he is known as today.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The production of Wesley is very rough at the beginning, including a lot of dark scenes and an obvious use of poorly disguised fake background, as well as some cheap special effects.  Also, there are some moments of odd video quality.  However, regardless of these struggles, there is a concerted effort in this film to demonstrate historical authenticity, especially through the use of realistic sets, locations, and props.  Also, audio quality is fine throughout the film.  Though there are some awkward cuts and transitions, this is at least an average production and is likely good for the limited funding.  With a little more honing, this creative team could be exemplary.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Since this is based on an engaging true story, this plot already has a lot going for it.  This historical account was definitely worth portraying in film, and there are many attempts even in the story to preserve authenticity.  The use of flashbacks is also effective.  While dialogue is good, it could be better and more meaningful.  As it is, it tends to make the characters too stuffy.  Yet the characters tend to improve as they go on, and the characters definitely experience realistic circumstances.  In the end, this plot is actually better than a lot of plots out there and is certainly worth your time.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The strongest point of this section is likely the historically realistic costuming.  At first, the cast members tend to be too theatrical in their performances, including some forced emotions and lines.  However, there is definite improvement throughout in the acting, which makes for an overall average performance.  In short, there are plenty of good points in the film, yet it tends to be tripped up by little things.

Conclusion

We definitely need more engaging historical Christian films, and this creative team is definitely on the right track with films like Wesley and Newton’s Grace.  With a little bit of tweaking in some parts, along with better funding and acting coaching, this team could soon be going places.  Even so, their movies are at least worth a watch and tend to bring a different perspective to Christian film.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Sins and Blessings (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

The Eastern Bride (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Pete de Jaeger is a successful South African businessman who never before considered the plight of the underground Christian church in the Middle East until he is forced to watch it play out before his eyes.  However, his girlfriend is skeptical of Asian persecution of Christians as she embarks to complete a news story on the modernization and Westernization of China.  Yet together, the two of them discover worlds they never thought existed as they try to help their fellow Christians around the world.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As an early 2000s, limited resources production, The Eastern Bride is fairly good.  Though it begins with some blurry video quality, this improves throughout.  Some camera work is also shaky at first and changes for the better.  Audio quality is fine throughout the soundtrack makes attempts to be culturally authentic.  The best portion of this production are the realistic and accurate sets, locations, and props, since this was likely difficult to pull off.  Yet editing is a concern as there is a lot of disjointed content here.  But in the end, this is at least an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though this story likely means well and has a lot of potential, it’s difficult to understand at times.  Is it about persecution in China or persecution in the Middle East?  It’s likely about both, but cramming them both into one film is ill-advised.  There is too much random, meandering content that makes the film take a while to get to the point.  As it is, there are too many ideas to fit into the short runtime.  While it seems like the characters begin to be developed and are mostly believable, we don’t get to see enough of them, mostly because there are too many to introduce into this short of a story.  This is a large-scale idea that needed at least two different movies to support it.  It could also be a series, especially since the ending comes off as very unfinished.  In summary, it’s clear that the writers meant well and knew what they were talking about; it’s possible that they didn’t know just how big of an idea they had here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As usual for the Open Doors International films, the cast of The Eastern Bride is culturally authentic and mostly well-coached.  At times, however, the cast members can be too practiced in their line delivery and emotional delivery.  Yet this is a very good, above-average effort all around.

Conclusion

Ideas like The Eastern Bride, Bamboo in Winter, and Behind the Sun are much bigger than their movies allow them to be.  What if each of these ideas took place in a mini-series format?  If the budget made it possible, the impact would be much larger.  But then again, the same could be said for many lost-in-the-shuffle Christian films.  Perhaps one day ideas like these will be brought back out and improved through better funding and plot writing.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Let There Be Light [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Steps of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Faith Houston believes God has called her to move to Texas on blind faith and try to get a job at a Christian horse ranch that ministers to troubled kids.  Though her family is against it, Faith plunges ahead into unknown territory to see what God has for her.  However, when she arrives in Texas, she soon discovers that not everything will be as easy as she thought it would.  Yet she perseveres and finds out what God really wants for her life.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Much like A Man Called Jon, Poorchild Films has discovered better production quality as of late.  Video quality is clear and camera work is great.  Audio quality is fine and the soundtrack is as good as can be expected.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and diverse.  Really the biggest issue to point out here, of course, is the editing.  Some scenes are too choppy while others lag too long.  But in the end, this is a nearly model production that they should be proud of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Yet also in a similar vein as A Man Called Jon, and especially Hiding in Plain Sight, Steps of Faith, though it is ninety minutes long, just doesn’t contain enough content to sustain a feature-length film.  Even if there was more content here, it is still a very basic and predictable storyline that contains very flat and boring characters.  Dialogue is very uninspiring and uncreative.  The least a writer can do with this type of formulaic story is make the characters accessible, but this does not happen.  Instead, time is wasted on pointless sequences and forced comedy that’s not funny.  In the end, Poorchild Films needs to seriously invest in some screenwriting.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Much like their other films, this movie recycles a lot of familiar cast members, yet some of them show improvement from other performances.  Emotions are mostly believable and line delivery is pretty good.  There are just some minor errors throughout that add up, as well as the dry comedy.  Overall, this film hovers right around the average range.

Conclusion

In the end, it still appears as though Poorchild is getting better at what they do—if they continue to improve in each area, they could be onto something great very soon.  If they seriously invest in some better screenwriting, then they are on their way to greatness for sure.  The day that plots of Christian films overall improve is the day that the entire industry is turned upside down.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

All Saints [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Reconciliation [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Grant Taylor (not the football coach) is a soon-to-be father who finds himself distracted and confused by wounds from his past.  Specifically, he feels scarred by the way his father treated him and is bitter at him for leaving his mother so he could become involved with another man.  Grant never forgave his father and allowed the unforgiveness to poison his marriage.  Thus, his wife encourages him to go see his dying father in the hospital when she receives a call about his condition.  Grant reluctantly goes and discovers that nothing is always as it seems.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Even though this is a somewhat underfunded amateur production, a lot of good effort was put into it to make it high quality.  Almost every production element in as professional as it should be—video quality, camera work, and audio quality included.  The soundtrack is also interesting and creative.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly good, with only some minute errors.  The same goes for the editing, as there are a few lagging parts.  However, overall, this is an excellent production, especially considering the limited resources.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

At least a part of this film really does mean well, but the good message is too easily derailed by the obvious and forceful way it’s presented.  Dialogue is too in-your-face, and there are too many character stereotypes and cringe-worthy caricatures, especially of the gay characters.  This seems to be a problem in Christian film.  Though there are plenty of good ideas and realistic circumstances here, it needs some major refining and toning down.  Subtly and ambivalence is the key here.  There are many interesting points raised here, especially through flashbacks, that are often packed incorrectly.  The characters definitely have potential, but they need more development.  In the end, this was a good idea that needed a lot longer look than it was given.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is semi-professional, and they are mostly fine in their performances, especially in their line delivery.  However, emotions tend to be all over the place—they are sometimes awkward and forced and other times too flat.  Yet overall, this is an average performance that makes this film basically average.

Conclusion

Many a film has started with a good idea and even good production like Reconciliation, yet it doesn’t have the necessary elements to close the deal.  This is fine as a first-time film, but it’s still frustrating to see movies like this rise up and fall back down, short of their potential.  Yet maybe this creative team will build off of this movie and make a better one in the future.  One never knows what is coming next in the Christian movie market.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

In God’s Time (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Persecuted [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

John Luther is a highly successful ministry leader sometime in the near future, and he is being pressured by politicians to support a bill that would allow the government to regulate religion to ‘keep it fair’.  However, John refuses to comply, and thus finds himself under intense attack from faceless enemies who seem bent on destroying him and his reputation.  Injured and on the run, John will have to decide what he really believes and how he is going to defend himself.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The main redeeming elements of this film pertain to the professional production job.  It’s difficult to successfully execute a suspense production, but this team does very well.  Camera work is great, especially in the action scenes, and video quality is what it should be.  Audio quality is also good and the suspense soundtrack is a nice touch.  Sets, locations, and props are appropriate and adequate.  The only nitpick to raise here is some editing issues pertaining to the choppy presentation of this story.  But in the end, this is a respectable production that should be the norm.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this suspense story has a lot of interesting ideas in it, it is too all over the place to make any sense.  It’s great to have a different genre for once, but this isn’t really the way.  Though the persecution premise is somewhat well-explained, it needs to be explained better so it comes off as more realistic.  The protagonist is seemingly too perfect and one-dimensional, although other characters are interesting.  However, several of the villains are fairly cheesy.  We would have like to get to know some of these characters better; as it is, the dialogue is all over the place and does not help develop the protagonist.  There are also a lot of convenient suspense turns as things happens because they need to.  Too much is fixed at the end, even as the ending will leave you scratching your head.  In the end, this plot needs a serious rework.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this cast is at least somewhat professional, a lot of the performances are overly dramatic.  The lead actor does not do a very good job carrying his role, and a lot of the villain cast members are over the top.  Emotions are slightly believable, but line delivery is sometimes unsure.  In short, this is an average performance.

Conclusion

Persecuted fills a genre gap in Christian film, but that’s about the only reason why it stands out, besides professional production.  Persecution premises set in modern America are always going to need a lot of explanation and justification, and this film does not necessarily succeed on that front.  No matter the suspense film, this genre tends to suffer from lack of character development, which Persecuted also demonstrates.  In the end, while there is potential here, it needed a lot more development in order to be better.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

The Beautiful Beast [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Isabelle Elliot is a spoiled heiress to a fortune that she has no idea how to manage properly.  She does whatever she wants with the money she has at her fingertips but always makes sure to keep her only normal friend close to her.  She convinces this friend to go with her on a spontaneous ski trip to Switzerland, but a disagreement leaves Isabelle stranded in the cold.  She wanders around until she finds a mysterious cabin and takes shelter inside.  There she meets a reclusive man who confuses her but also intrigues her.  Will he be able to teach Isabelle what really matters in life?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For a SunWorld production, this one isn’t half bad.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are find, even if there isn’t enough of a soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are actually pretty good considering the source.  The biggest issue here is that the editing is choppy, as usual for this sort of film.  There isn’t much content to begin with, but to present it like this is unprofessional.  But in the end, we’ve come to expect these sorts of things from these types of films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Beautiful Beast is based on a very stereotypical and predictable idea that utilizes a thin, forced, and even juvenile thrown-together romance premise.  Though there are several somewhat interesting conversations, the characters still need deepening beyond their cheesy romantic story stereotypes.  We need to be able to feel like this is a real story and not some silly knock-off fairy tale that it’s lamely named after.  As it is, the character arcs and the predictable progression are too steep to be believable.  On top of all this, the Christian message is cheap and forced, like it was added in later to make this a “Christian film.”  In the end, the only way to fix this sort of plot is to build deep and realistic characters, but this did not happen in this film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is small, they are mostly professional in their performances.  Line delivery is on point, but emotions are sometimes over the top in attempts to be comedic.  But in the end, this is a decent casting and acting job.

Conclusion

Regardless, it’s really hard to see the justification for this sort of film.  The idea has been done before—too many times—so unless you’re going to improve an old idea, don’t use it.  This film is really just a representation of the need for an inspirational\quasi-Christian film, so somebody manufactured an overused plot and found some cast members to be in.  There’s nothing creative or innovative here—just pure business.  This is definitely not the way to make a movie that will actually make a difference.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Find a Way [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a locally popular high school football player and role model is taken to the hospital with sudden medical complications, the entire small town finds themselves lost and confused.  The head coach’s family is having hidden problems and other families are suffering from hidden secrets and sins.  The school counselor tries to help wherever anyone will let him, but most people will not let him into their world.  However, slowly but surely, walls begin to come down so that healing can start.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, Find a Way is a professional production.  Camera work is mostly good, even though there are some random moments of shakiness.  Audio quality is in the same boat, with some inconsistency and a stock soundtrack.  Yet sets, locations, and props are highly professional and well-constructed.  Editing is also fairly good, which is a change from the norm in independent inspirational films like this one.  Overall, this is a respectable effort that could be a stepping stone to greater things.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, Find a Way does fall into the typical pitfalls of independent film making when it comes to its plot.  This story is somewhat limited from the start, but it contains interesting ideas and realistic circumstances that need further development.  It sometimes has a one-track mind and wastes a lot of time on trite asides, which stunts character development and makes them one-dimensional.  Sometimes it is difficult to discern what this story is supposed to be about due to the multiple under-developed subplots presented here.  There are important issues explored here pertaining to broken families, but they are not handled very well due to lack of real focus.  Also, all the problems are basically solved in unrealistic fashions, which teaches the audience nothing.  It’s sad to see reality cheapened because this story could have been really interesting.  But once again, we are left wondering what could have been.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though sometimes lines are mumbled and some actors and actresses are awkward, this cast posts mostly professional performances.  Emotions are believable and each cast member seems to fit their character well.  This is another respectable effort that could be a sign of greater things to come.

Conclusion

Find a Way is one of those frustrating movies that contain s creative and realistic ideas that will likely never really be seen by a wide audience because it will be lost in the endless swirl of independent Christian films that are constantly being produced.  It is not bad enough to be remembered for its badness and it’s not good enough to truly make a difference.  But perhaps this is only the beginning of good things still to come from this creative team.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Eternal Salvation [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Slamma Jamma (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Paper Dream [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Christy has always had a dream, since she was a little girl, of growing up, getting married, and having beautiful children.  But her dream is shattered time and again when she cannot get pregnant and she is told that she will never have children.  Thus, her and her husband look into adoption, even though they want to have a child of their own.  But as they journey together on the path God is taking them on, they find out that God has something in store for them that they could have never anticipated.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

American Family Studios has always demonstrated a commitment to high quality productions.  In Paper Dream, nearly every production element is great, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack could be a little more creative, but it’s fine as it is.  Sets, locations, and props are also professional.  The only negative factor to bring up is the editing and the runtime of this film, as it is far too short while at the same time includes too much wasted content.  But overall, this is an example of what Christian productions should look like.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As usual, Jeremy and Kendra White present a realistic story that is accessible and heartwarming.  However, they don’t go near as far as they could with the story and leave a lot of subplots underdeveloped.  With only 45 minutes of time, as previously mentioned, there is still time wasted on pointless montages and dead-end conversations.  Due to time constraints and these conversations, the characters are quite shallow.  There is too much reliance on narration, yet this film makes an interesting point that really hits home.  The ending is unexpected and refreshing, but there is little to no build up.  Basically, we need more from this film—more character development, more realistic dialogue, more explored subplots.  We can see the merit in making a short film to begin a career, but they were so close to something great.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For a mostly amateur cast, their performances are good, but they are still average due to some errors that hold them back.  For example, some cast members are overly practiced in their acting and awkward in their delivery.  However, they are sometimes fine and demonstrate great potential.  With better coaching, they could be dynamic.

Conclusion

The good thing about Paper Dream is that it is a freshman effort and we can see that Jeremy and Kendra White went on to do greater things with Summer Snow.  Still, it’s frustrating to see so much potential left lying on the proverbial playing field.  But nonetheless, we know that Jeremy and Kendra know how to make a good film and will likely make another memorable project like Summer Snow in the future.  Hopefully they have been able to build off of Paper Dream to make a greater difference in the Christian entertainment world.  We anticipate what they have to offer next.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Ace Wonder: Message from a Dead Man (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ace Wonder, aka Gator Moore, always loves a good mystery and seeks to solve whichever ones come in front of him so that justice may be served.  While traveling with his family on vacation, when their camper breaks down in a small Tennessee town, Gator accidentally stumbles upon a family with a mystery that needs solving.  Derek Morton’s grandfather died unexpectedly and left behind a cryptic message that cause many to suspect he was crazy.  However, Gator believes there is something bigger afoot and enlists his siblings to assist him in solving the case.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

After The Widow’s Might, it was difficult to see what the future of HeuMoore Productions was.  However, with Ace Wonder: Message from a Dead Man, the HeuMoore team has demonstrated adequate improvement.  Video quality is professional, and camera work is fine except for some weird camera angles that attempt to be suspenseful.  Audio quality is great and the original soundtrack is creative without SINGING.  Sets, locations, and props are good but somewhat limited.  There are some cheesy special effects utilized, but animation is actually used effectively and enhances the film.  Finally, editing is quite good, thus rounding out an overall average production.  This is definitely a great effort for an underfunded project, and it is great to see this team continually improving.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there is some potential to this Ace Wonder plot, it is still a mostly formulaic suspense\mystery storyline.  The story is based on too many coincidences, mystery clichés, and clues being found at opportune times.  Though there is way too much narration, the dialogue and characters are actually good, which shows that this team is trying to make a good film.  This story would be way better with a little more creativity and real plot twists, as well as a less fundamentalist portrayal of women.  Mysteries are certainly a hard genre to write, since it’s easy to fall into cheesy coincidences, so they might consider trying a different genre next time.  Overall, it is great to have a different genre in Christian film for once, and this team certainly has the potential and wherewithal to go further in their careers to do something great.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Though Ace Wonder uses a lot of the same cast members from The Widow’s Might, there are others that make for a greatly improved acting experience.  It seems like all of the cast members from the previous film have honed their skills better.  This category is actually the most improved as there are really no glaring errors except for a few minor missteps.  Once again, this gives great hope for the future.

Conclusion

Coming back from the horrific Widow’s Might couldn’t have been easy for HeuMoore Productions, but on the whole, despite their unusual worldview that needs broadening, the Moore team really seems like they are trying this time.  They definitely put forth more effort in the production and acting departments and it is encouraging that they are showing improvements, especially since they are committed to breaching different genres in Christian film.  The biggest blessing of Ace Wonder was the lack of cast members singing.  Now if they can continue to hone their plot creativity and shed some of the odd components of their worldview, they will really be on the track to greatness.  After The Widow’s Might, I never thought I would be saying this, but the HeuMoore team has great potential for the future.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

The Perfect Summer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jake and his mom move from Chicago to Hawaii to start a new life with her father, Jake is less than thrilled about the change of pace.  He has to adjust to new surroundings and new people who do not always accept him.  He also has to endure his eccentric grandfather, who tries to rebuild their relationship.  Jake is ready to give up when he discovers that he has a thing for surfing and that his grandfather can teach him.  Perhaps the worst summer ever for Jake will turn into the perfect summer.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Perfect Summer is such a clean, stock made-for-television film.  From the opening sequence to the loudest soundtrack ever to lots of nature footage, this movie checks all the boxes of mediocre production quality.  While the video quality and camera work are fine, the poor audio quality is very distracting as it picks up all kinds of unwanted sounds.  However, the sets and locations are fairly professional and interesting.  Finally, the editing is standard and moves the plot along at a predictable pace.  In short, this production is average, but we’ve come to expect more from professional television channels.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The Perfect Summer is a predictable inspirational cookie-cutter plot depicting a city character moving to a remote location and having to adjust to a different culture with limited internet access.  The constant jokes about the internet and other forced comedy gets really old.  The local characters are stereotypical; none of the characters are developed enough for there being so few of them.  This film’s premise is a fairly thin sports\training story complete with lots of music videos, empty conflicts, and a typical romantic subplot.  Unfortunately, the Christian message seems manufactured and plastic.  However, this story has a slightly realistic ending and sort of redeems it to a point.  But otherwise, if you’ve seen this kind of movie before, you’re probably not missing anything.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This cast is actually the best part of the film, even though Eric Roberts is involved.  He is strange and overdone as usual and singlehandedly holds this section back.  His presence poisons the entire film.  But the rest of the small cast is okay, though there are some slightly over emotions and cultural stereotypes.  In the end, this is a good effort, but we would have liked to see a little more from this professional team.

Conclusion

This plot has really been done before, may too often.  Channels like UP and the like need to be brave enough to take a risk with a different plot.  What’s it going to hurt?  They have the resources to make pretty much any kind of inspirational plot they want, so why not go for broke?  The Perfect Summer is one of those forgettable movies that you might watch while flicking the TV channels and then forget about in a few days.  With the money and abilities companies like this have, they need to set the bar higher for themselves and do something original and memorable.  It’s fine to make clean entertainment, but why get stuck in mediocrity?

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Not Today [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Caden is a spoiled teenager who thinks he owns the world and can do whatever he wants.  So he decides to try to convince his mother and stepfather that he and his friends need to go to India to “experience the world.”  Surprisingly, they agree, so Caden sets out to discover what he is looking for to satisfy his empty soul.  All the while, his mother prays tirelessly for him in the hope that he will come to his senses.  Little does she know God’s plan for him as Caden stumbles upon the dark world of child trafficking and slavery and determines that he must do something about it.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Not Today is a highly unique production, to say the least.  At the beginning of the film, there are tons of odd special effects and captioning drawn on top of the screen to try to enhance the story, but this thankfully subsides as the movie goes on.  There is a professional use of international on-set locations, but some of the camera work is shaky, seemingly on purpose to try to create some kind of documentary effect, even though this isn’t a docu-drama.  Video and audio quality are both clear, however, and the original soundtrack is effective.  Yet there are issues with editing, including choppiness and abrupt scene transitions.  But the production improves in the middle as a whole and some of the minor issues fade away.  However, it’s not enough to make this production above average.  It’s a good effort, but it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Though this premise is slightly forced, it is no less important to discuss in film.  Unfortunately, too much of the film relies on the issue the writer is trying to present, namely human trafficking, and leaves other things undone at first.  For example, the characters start out as very empty and stereotypical, but improve through the film through intriguing character arcs.  Though things are rocky at first, the story improves in the middle and carries a powerful message.  Similarly, the dialogue begins amateurish but becomes deeper and more meaningful as the plot goes on.  There is a lot of content here, along with some interesting psychological elements, but we would have still liked to see more development from some of the characters and less wasted time at the beginning.  Also, the ending is quite rushed and patched up, so we can’t really appreciate what’s happening.  In the end, this is an average plot that we feel could have been better, but it ends up meaningful.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like other elements, the acting starts off juvenile and forceful, but improves as the movie goes on.  The character arcs seemingly cause the line delivery and emotional delivery to become more realistic.  Nonetheless, international casting is realistic and effective.  The frustrating thing is that this was a professional cast, so they certainly could have been better.  But like the rest of the film, this portion just comes out as average.

Conclusion

Though Not Today is a slight advertisement for the human trafficking non-profit behind it, it is still an effective messaging tool and drives its point home in the end.  No doubt a lot of effort was put into the international casting and filming, so this could have detracted from other parts of the movie.  For the most part, many audiences will find this film enjoyable, and it may be worth your time.  It’s not one of the horrible films out there—we just feel like it could have been better.  Nevertheless, you should still probably give it a chance.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

The River Within (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jason comes back to his hometown to try to study for the bar exam, he soon discovers that God has other plans for him.  He finds old friends have changed more than he thought and ponders what could have been if he had not gone to law school.  When his former pastor insists he lead the youth group, Jason is hesitant at first but soon realizes that he likes to help the youth.  As Jason slowly finds out more and more about the people around him, he begins to grasp what God really wants for his life.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For starters, The River Within is basically an average production.  Video quality is okay, as is the camera work, though there are some weird angles.  Unfortunately, audio quality is quite cheap, with loud outside sounds and too much dead air.  The soundtrack leaves much to be desired.  Editing is also an issue, as the beginning of the film has tons of useless footage, abrupt scene transitions, and awkward cutoffs.  However, despite the issues at the beginning, all production aspects of this film do improve as it goes on.  By the end, one has to wonder why it was not better at the beginning, but it does get better if you stick with it, thus making this an overall average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Needless to say, the beginning of The River Within is incredibly boring, depicting flat characters doing stuff that doesn’t really hold the attention.  As nothing of note happens for half an hour or so, there are too many parts that have no real purpose or focus.  Good issues in the church are highlighted, but sometimes quick fixes are suggested for the problems.  By the middle of the plot, there are some strange, out-of-place attempts at comedy that make the viewer want to just end their experience.  However, if you make it to the last thirty minutes of the movie, things finally start to make sense.  Characters become deeper than they were with believable back stories and thought-provoking dialogue.  Things do not turn out the way you might think in the end.  Basically, if you can last through the first hour, the message is very good and the ending effective, though it takes forever to get to it.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the rest of the film, the acting starts out rough, with vanilla delivery and mumbled lines, but gets better as it goes on.  Emotions are wooden at first but become more believable as it goes on.  This was actually a decent cast, but they didn’t receive the support they needed at first.  Once again, this portion comes out as average.

Conclusion

The River Within feels like it was made for the last thirty minutes of runtime.  It’s likely that this portion was written first and then the remainder was tacked on the beginning to make it long enough.  However, this is not a winning model as most viewers aren’t going to make it to the point at the end.  Character-based plots need to be developed throughout so that the audience can get to know them better over a roughly ninety-minute time period.  Nonetheless, we feel that this film was sincere and that the creators really care about their message.  Thus, The River Within desperately needs a remake since the ideas therein need to portrayed in film.  Perhaps one day its ideas will be repackaged to have wider appeal.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

The Pledge {Doughboy} [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Tory’s parents decide that they are going to move from bustling New York City to podunk West Virginia, he is angry that they are taking him away from all he knows.  Once in West Virginia, he can’t find anything to do, so he accidentally gets into trouble by vandalizing a war memorial.  As punishment, the judge sentences him to community service at a veteran’s home, even though his parents are anti-war.  Tory hates the work at first but soon finds that he can find meaning and make a different no matter what.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Much like A Christmas Tree Miracle, The Pledge has a random commitment to quality production—sometimes it has it while other times it does not.  For example, the audio quality is sometimes good but sometimes quite poor.  The soundtrack is average but camera work and video quality are fine.  Sets and locations are also on par.  However, there is too much reused footage and the editing is generally all over the place.  In the end, it all comes out as average, but we have to wonder what this team is trying for.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Also like its Christmas counterpart, The Pledge wavers between being very meaningful and being very satirical.  One moment the dialogue is dripping with obvious tongue-in-cheek sarcasm while another moment we are being shown the realities of post-combat trauma.  We have no idea what the writers were going for here, but they had a lot of good ideas that were unfavorably mixed with unusual comedy.  There is plenty of plot content to work with here, as well as a lot of interesting characters, but we don’t get to know them very well as too much dialogue is pedestrian.  There are tons of opportunities for deeper development here that are not tapped into.  In the end, we feel that this film could have been far better than this and are disappointed that it didn’t go all the way.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While too many cast members are quite dry and boring and others outright smart alec or borderline crazy, they do tend to get better throughout the film.  Emotions range from being flat to believable.  Line delivery is also inconsistent.  When all is said and done, the acting comes out as average.

Conclusion

The Route 40\Flyover Films team is extremely hard to figure.  In their two films, they demonstrated great plot potential but also showed a lot of disingenuous sarcasm.  What exactly are they going for?  We may never truly know.  All we know is that The Pledge had potential, but it was never brought out.  While there is some meaning to be gleaned here and some parts are enjoyable, we just don’t know what to make of it all.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Wish for Christmas (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Anna MacLaren hates it when her Christian parents force her to go to church and obey all kinds of silly rules.  So when they insist that she goes to church on the same day as her all-important Winter Ball, it’s just the last straw for Anna.  She wishes with all of her heart that her parents were not Christians, and next day, her wish comes true!  She is excited at first but soon discovers that she needs to be careful what she wishes for because her wish has far-reaching effects that she does not even like.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In an improvement from their freshman effort Catching Faith, Mustard Seed Entertainment benefits from PureFlix with improved production quality.  Camera work is exquisite, as is video quality.  Audio quality is great, but the soundtrack needs improvement.  Sets and locations are fairly realistic.  However, the editing is not very good as it is very choppy and amateurish.  The storyline is hard to follow as the editing makes it jump around.  Basically, this is an improvement with more room to grow.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though this is a stereotypical Christmas wish psychological plot, it does not follow the same patterns as usual.  For example, the wish does not create an alternate It’s a Wonderful Life universe, but actually changes real life.  This in turn causes all kinds of confusion and continuity problems.  While the Mustard Seed crew had some good intentions in writing this script, there are just all kinds of problems here.  Changing the parent characters from legalistic Christians to obnoxious atheists is just too much and screams of PureFlix influence.  Any meaning that is conveyed in this plot is hamstrung by the lack of character development and substantive dialogue.  As the plot jumps all around, we never get a chance to understand these characters or why they do the things they do as they are swept along in an inevitable storyline and flat ending.  There was definitely potential here, similar to that of Catching Faith, but it just fell short.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This casting job was poor, even if they are mostly experienced actors and actresses.  Many of them seem far too plastic as costuming and makeup are overdone.  Line delivery is fine, but emotions are not very believable.  Overall, while the cast is generally professional, they just seem like they stepped out of a Hallmark movie.

Conclusion

Mustard Seed Entertainment certainly has potential and it’s great to see that they have a better platform now with PureFlix.  We sincerely hope that they have not been ruined by PureFlix demands and that they can combine their newfound production success with the creative and meaningful plot ideas of Catching Faith.  Mustard Seed has plenty of hope for the future—next time they just don’t need to rush a Christmas movie for the sake of having one.  It’s better to take time on movies and produce a true work of art rather than a half-measure.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Christmas Angel {Angel at Christmas} [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Olivia and Lucas have always heard rumors about a mysterious old house in their New Orleans neighborhood.  Legends say that if you throw a rock through one of the windows and make a Christmas wish, it will come true.  After witnessing several wishes come true when they ask them for other people, Olivia and Lucas decide to investigate the matter further.  They find a collection of offbeat characters hanging around the house who are not what they seem at first.  Little do they know that Christmas angels come in many forms…

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As we’ve mentioned before, PureFlix can usually put together a respectable production.  Video quality is clear as usual and camera work is professional.  The sets and locations are realistic and down to earth.  Unfortunately, the audio quality drags down this production, including a silly Christmas soundtrack and too many scenes in which lines cannot be heard due to background noise.  The editing is mostly okay and does a good job concealing the obligatory Dorsey twist until near the end.  Basically, this is an average production effort but we strongly believe it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

In keeping with their usual practices, Bradley Dorsey and Andrea Gyertson Nasfell craft a creative and thought-provoking plot that makes you think it’s going to be one thing, only to change it to something different in the end.  However, it goes without saying that Dorsey also commits his original sin of not going all the way with his creativity.  There are times when Christmas Angel is innovative and interesting, while some moments are cringe-worthy and totally off the wall.  This inconsistency makes the audience vacillate between cheering and scratching their heads.  The schizophrenia is also demonstrated in the characters—while the character arcs are great in the end, it’s a rocky road to get there.  As usual, the storyline is based off a creative concept that sports a key plot twist and demonstrates the creative genius of the team.  Elsewhere, there are just too many childish Christmas elements that hold this plot back from being as good as it could have been.  Sometimes we wonder why a creator can come so close so many times but always miss the mark by an inch.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the rest of the film, the cast of Christmas Angel is very inconsistent.  Sometimes they have awkward scenes while other times they act very professionally.  Emotions are good at times and not good at other times.  Some of the makeup work is below par.  In short, in comes to another average score.

Conclusion

Basically all of the films Bradley Dorsey is involved in need to be remade.  As we’ve said before, he has tons of potential that is untapped, probably because he throws in his lot with the PureFlix crew.  For that matter, Andrea Gyertson Nasfell has lot of untapped potential herself.  Both Dorsey and Nasfell have much to offer to Christian film and if they ever reach their full potential, then the field will be a different place.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Gallows Road (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When his wife and kids are tragically murdered by local racists, Bob Collins decides that God doesn’t care about him anymore and gives up on his faith.  His brother and family continue to try to get through to him, but all to no avail.  Jake Knight was there the night of the murders and feels guilty about the part he played, even though the corrupt sheriff has pardoned them all.  All of their lives must intersect as they come to grips with the harsh realities of life—and the power of forgiveness and redemption.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

With a modest budget behind it, Gallows Road definitely demonstrated effort in production.  The video quality is good throughout and the camera work is above average.  Audio quality is fairly good and the soundtrack is interesting enough.  Sets and locations are slightly limited and there are some inconsistencies throughout.  As with most independent productions, the biggest problem relates to the lack of editing.  The plot meanders too much with no direction.  Scenes are disjointed and appear to be unrelated to each other.  This will be discussed in depth next.  Basically, the tools are here to make this a great production, but they are not used, thus causing it to be stuck at average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

In an endeavor to be too big of a plot, Gallows Road falls flat.  As previously mentioned, there are too many subplots that have very loose connections to each other.  There’s actually nothing inherently wrong with the subplots themselves, but they need to be synthesized and fleshed out better than they are.  There are actually quite a few profound ideas hidden among this frustrating plotline, but they easily get lost.  The characters of these subplots are intriguing, but we hardly have a chance to get to know any of them as the story skips around so much.  The premise seems a little bit thin at times and needs to be bigger and bolder.  The message of Gallows Road is actually quite powerful, presenting important issues such as broken families, bitterness, racism, and addiction.  Yet these themes needed better packaging in order to drive their point home.  The ending is slightly interesting, but again, it needed more thought put into it.  To sum things up, Gallows Road is sitting on a gold mine of content that failed to be mined.  Some parts are enjoyable, while the rest of them are extremely frustrating.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Despite having the creepiest cast member of all Christian film, the acting of Gallows Road is the strongest part of the film.  A few other cast members definitely need to be replaced, but otherwise, there is a lot of positive here.  Emotions are mostly believable and line delivery is effective.  Costuming is culturally appropriate.  In short, this is a great acting performance that should be common place in Christian film.

Conclusion

The trailer for Gallows Road is ten times better than the film.  It also paints a deceiving picture of what the plot is actually about.  Nonetheless, it had the potential to become a major small town epic by tackling local racism, prejudice, and addiction at the gritty level.  But alas, it became another film that fell short of its full potential.  It seems like this idea should have been put on hold if the resources were not available to make it as big as it should have been.  The subplots need expanding and synthesizing and the overall feel of the movie needs to be more epic.  If there’s such a thing as Christian movie remakes, please remake this one.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Hometown Legend [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In a struggling small town in rural Alabama, a high school is struggling in many ways, not only financially, but also emotionally.  But now that a famous football coach is back in town to revive the team, locals have a new reason to hope.  A teenager running from home finds sanctuary in this town as he uses his work ethic to get onto the football team in route to turning his life around via a university football scholarship.  But when trouble strikes again, the townspeople will have to decide whether or not they will give up or rise up.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

With a modest budget behind it, Hometown Legend certainly spent the money pretty well.  Sports movies have to be able to nail the action shots and the outside scenes, and this film does that, including respectable camera work.  As usual, the video quality and audio quality both pass the test.  The soundtrack is a bit too pedestrian and borderline Hallmark; this is something that needed a change.  Another common theme in these types of films is weak editing, and Hometown Legend also has this attribute.  A movie like this one needs a strong edit, and this simply does not happen, as some scenes carry on longer than they should while others are underdeveloped.  In short, Hometown Legend is a very average film in pretty much every way.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

While Jerry B. Jenkins’ original novel is memorable, the film adaptation does not capture its authenticity.  Where the characters are down to earth in the book, they fail to be in the movie.  The underdevelopment of these characters is likely due to the number of flat scenes throughout the film.  The storyline of Hometown Legend is neither cheesy nor dynamic—it’s very static and safe.  A plot like this one needed to have an abstract yet down-to-earth feel to it, but it does not.  It’s too generic and does not stand out in a crowded genre.  There aren’t enough plot twists and the ending is anti-climactic.  In short, where this plot could have been great, it falls short.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This movie is cast fairly well; people are placed in appropriate positions.  Emotions are fairly believable and line delivery is pretty good.  However, in keeping with the other aspects of this film, there is really nothing dynamic here, even though there could have been.  This is really the theme of the movie.

Conclusion

Hometown Legend portrays the simplicity of small town life in Alabama—with a stereotypical diner and a high school football team to cheer for.  It lives up to its simple message in every way, with a simple production, a simple storyline, and simple acting.  There’s nothing wrong with simple.  In fact, simple can be groundbreaking and profound.  However, this movie is a little too simple and does not touch the authentic thread that it needed to.  Many will find it enjoyable and it’s not half bad, but we would love to see a remake, because it can definitely be greater than this.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Touched by Grace {The Senior Prank} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a high school class is given the decision to vote for a ‘popular’ girl for homecoming queen or a Grace, a girl with Down’s syndrome, the latter wins in a shocking upset.  One of the ‘popular’ girl’s friends, Cara, accidentally befriends Grace and her friend Brandon as they try to find Grace a partner for the homecoming dance.  Cara finds herself torn as her ‘popular’ friends try to ostracize Grace and as she begins developing feelings for Brandon.  In the end, the entire school will be faced with the reality that special need people are just like everyone else and they should be treated thus.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

With an obviously limited budget, Touched by Grace sometimes does the best it can with what it has, but other times it does not.  The sets are quite limited, but this is not entirely a negative issue due to the small scale plot.  They are realistic, which is important.  The camera work and video quality are quite good for a production this small.  The soundtrack is average; we would have liked to see more here.  There is much positive to say about this small time production, but the biggest issue is the editing.  There is virtually no editing present in Touched by Grace.  Too many scenes are long and drawn out, making for a disappointing experience.  All in all, there are both positive and negative aspects to this film, which is very frustrating.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

There was so much potential in this movie.  It’s based on a great idea and has believable elements.  It could have been very touching had more time been spent on character development.  Sometimes the dialogue is meaningful, and other times it’s not.  There is far too much understatement in this film; sometimes things happen for no reason.  A common mistake in Christian film is overstating the obvious, but Touched by Grace has the opposite problem.  More needed to be emphasized regarding the important issue of treating special needs people as equals.  Where this movie could have been heartfelt, it just came off as somber.  The main redeeming quality is the effective end that the movie was obviously written for.  The end was powerful enough to make this movie something great had the remainder of the plot been adequate.  In short, it’s a disappointing plot and one that desperately needs a remake.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With a largely amateur cast, the actors and actresses sometimes come off as awkward, but other times they shine.  Ben Davies as a high school student doesn’t really work and he definitely needed more coaching.  On the flipside, the casting of special needs people was a score as they were some of the best cast members.  Overall, this cast wasn’t bad, but it could have been a winning cast with better coaching.

Conclusion

Touched by Grace receives half of an x-factor point for presenting an important issue in a semi-meaningful way.  Overall, while this movie was sometimes heartwarming, it was also frustrating to watch, knowing just how much potential it could have achieved.  This is not one of those Christian productions that has no heart or care behind it.  We truly believe that the creators sincerely cared about this issue and wanted to make a movie about it.  Their heart was in the right place, but their film inexperience derailed it.  Inexperience is probably not their fault either—it’s a tough world out there for independent Christian filmmakers.  This is why it’s all the more important for Christians to come together and pool their resources to produce quality over quantity.  Just think of what would have happened if two stupid Christian movies were defunded and the money was given to this one.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Catching Faith {The Elijah Project} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

On the surface, the Taylors are the perfect white suburban family.  The twins Beau and Ravyn are getting ready to go to college.  John is a successful businessman.  Alexa is popular with the women of the town.  Beau is a high school football star and Ravyn is one of the smartest students.  But all is not right.  After one evening of tragedy and bad choices, Alexa is forced to look at who she has become and who her family has become.  She decides to attend a women’s group in the hopes of discovering some meaning, but she finds herself faced with her own issues.  Only when she is ready to be honest with herself and her family will she start to see real change.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Catching Faith is clearly an underfunded production, which is not entirely the creators’ fault.  The production quality is inconsistent on all fronts, with sometimes good video quality, and other times not good.  The camera work is okay throughout, though action scenes not as professional as they could be.  Audio quality is also inconsistent—some lines require captioning to be heard.  Props are used fairly well throughout and sets and locations are at least average.  Unfortunately, the editing is all over the field, sometimes conveying a thought-provoking film and other times leaving the audience confused as to what is happening.  In short, this is a good effort as the producers appeared to do the best they could with what they had.  With a little more funding, this could have been great.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

This film is built on very good ideas; it’s not your typical sports film, although it has some predictable sports elements.  The writers were not afraid to take on unpopular issues as they portray the hidden struggles of an average white yuppie family in a smallish town.  The characters are developed fairly well, although sometimes there is too much overstatement regarding their tendencies and interests.  Yet at other times, plot elements are far too understated.  The dialogue is also inconsistent as it is sometimes well-thought-out and other times too obvious or even too vague.  Catching Faith provides a surprisingly correct portrayal of counseling, probably because a mental health professional was actually involved in the making.  However, this poses a unique problem in that the professional’s curriculum is very prominent throughout the film, pretty much giving it awkward product placements.  It would have been better if the counseling concepts were naturally woven into the plot structure rather than inserted from a textbook.  Another drawback to the plot is that the end is too neat and tidy—some characters avoid consequences for their actions entirely.  But all in all, Catching Faith is a great effort, one that we would expect would be the norm in underfunded independent Christian film.  Yet unfortunately, it’s an outlier.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the other elements of the film, the acting of Catching Faith is very inconsistent.  Sometimes cast members are right on point while other times their efforts trail off in the distance.  As a small amateur cast, they would have benefitted greatly from more professional coaching.  This is not to say that there was no coaching—there just needs to be more.  There was real potential here that could have been emphasized.

Conclusion

We would love to see this film remade with more funding, more thoughtful writing, and better acting coaching.  There was a real heart behind this film, which is really what makes it so different from your typical fly-by-night independent Christian movie.  We understand the struggles of independent filmmakers in getting the funding they need; we just ask that creators do the best they can with what God has given them.  The creators of Catching Faith mostly did this, and with continued effort in the future, they will make their mark.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Where Hope Grows (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Calvin is a down on his luck ex-pro baseball player who has been struggling to get his career back on track ever since he blew it in a big game.  He’s addicted to alcohol and has a strained relationship with his daughter.  He’s aimless in life until he randomly meets a young man with Downs syndrome working at a local grocery store.  Named Produce, he immediately forms an unlikely bond with Calvin and begins to unknowingly challenge him to live better.  In talking with Produce, Calvin begins to have a whole new outlook on life—one that doesn’t revolve around himself.  But as the challenges and struggles facing them get tougher, they will each have to choose how they are going to respond in order to determine where they will end up in life.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Where Hope Grows is severely under-funded.  It’s painfully obvious that one main camera is used and that it is not stationary or mechanically movable, as the shots frequently shake around.  The video quality is also B-grade, but not as bad as it could be.  The sound is inconsistent, but mostly stays good.  Perhaps one of the biggest production issues is the painful absence of a soundtrack.  If this film had a musical score, it would be greatly improved.  On the upside, the sets and locations are good; the crew demonstrates a commitment to making everything look realistic rather than getting stuck in a few cheesy sets.  However, the editing is unfortunately very confusing, making the storyline hard to follow.  Overall, the production shows that this film was not a throw together and it feels like the crew did the best they could with what they had.  We only wish they had more funds to work with.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

There is a lot of great content in this plot that doesn’t seem to live up to its full potential.  The concept of this film is very ingenious in an inspirational market that is flooded with pedestrian movies.  It accurately and realistically (sometimes too realistically) portrays real issues facing ordinary people, whether special needs people or ex-professional athletes and their families.  However, it is sometimes too hard to connect with the characters because the plot is too choppy to create an environment conducive to character development.  Dialogue is too inconsistent—sometimes profound and other times understated and isolating.  There are too many portions of the plot that are either too short or not explained well enough.  There are also too many points where the audience is tempted to turn off the movie because it’s too confusing or too raw.  But if you do make it to the end, there is actually a very creative intersection of the characters that partially makes it all worth it.  This portion of the film is the best because it is well thought out but it is also frustrating to watch, knowing how much better it could be.  Elsewhere, as previously mentioned, there is too much raw and sometimes crude content in this film—even though this definitely realistic, it should be presented in a more palatable way.  In summary, there are many ways in which Where Hope Grows could have been a better film and we really wish a remake would be made.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, the acting is the strongest point of this movie.  It is so rare to cast a special needs person in a film, so the casting of David DeSanctis is both groundbreaking and highly appropriate.  The remainder of the cast sometimes lives up the acting genius of DeSanctis and sometimes they do not.  Emotional delivery is pretty good throughout, but sometimes it is over the top.  Therefore, the acting quality is overall above average.

Conclusion

In Christian and inspirational film, there is a list of movies that are frustrating to watch because they exhibit far more potential than they produce.  These films should all be up for remakes, and Where Hope Grows is one of those.  Special needs people need to be portrayed properly in movies; this is one way that this film breaks barriers.  If it had more money behind it and less crude content, we can’t help but think that it would have been Hall of Fame worthy and extremely successful in inspirational circles.  But alas, we are left with another film that could have been.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Love’s Enduring Promise (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Years after Clark and Marty Davis settled into their new life together, their family is prosperous and successful.  Missy Davis is a young woman now with a job and a mind of her own.  All seems well until tragedy strikes—Clark receives a serious injury in a wood-cutting accident, which sends the entire family into a search for answers and hope.  While taking care of Clark and praying for healing, Marty and Missy must work the fields in order to have the crops done in time for harvest.  At the end of their rope, they suddenly receive help from an unexpected source.  Little do they know that God has been watching over them all along and will allow them to be a part of His special plan.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Michael Landon Jr. and Hallmark, in this installment, continued to showcase production superiority over other Christian films of the era.  Love’s Enduring Promise has realistic sets and locations and great camera work.  The video and sound quality are solid, including well-filmed outside scenes.  The costuming is pretty good, with some minor issues regarding period authenticity.  The only other caveats to raise are some poorly created special effects and inconsistent editing.  At the beginning, the movie makes sense, but it becomes very rushed and choppy at the end, as will be explained next.  Nonetheless, the Love Comes Softly series, at this point, was still produced well.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

As previously mentioned, the first half of the movie is interesting and it feels like the audience will really be able to get to know Janette Oke’s characters.  However, once the major conflict is easily resolved, the plot meanders from there and comes to a predictable and forced conclusion.  Besides this, this film is an inaccurate adaptation of original novel that does not improve upon the original plot.  There are too many plot holes and unnecessary characters that only provide filler time.  The inevitable romance seems forced; it’s hard to really appreciate what’s going on because the characters are too shallow. While the dialogue is okay, the characters need to be deeper.  There is some real humor, but the Christian message is forced and not meaningful.  In short, this plot had a lot of potential to be different and interesting and to package a profound Christian message into a movie with authentic, accessible characters, but it only comes off as half-measures.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The cast size increased for the second installment, but the quality decreased.  There are only a handful of good actors and actresses; the child actors are not coached well.  Line delivery is overly dramatic, like every line is supposed to be a deep spiritual truth.  But at the same time, emotions seem shallow.  Unfortunately, low quality acting derails an otherwise above average film.

Conclusion

Janette Oke’s beloved series has a mountain of good content where deep characters and realistic frontier struggles are concerned.  However, Michael Landon Jr. and team did not capture what they needed to capture.  Love Comes Softy could have been an epic saga, but we are only left to wonder what could have been.  Most audiences will be fine with Love’s Enduring Promise, mostly because of the era it was released in, but it needed something more.  In the future, we hope that this movie genre is redeemed from ‘just okay’ status.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Pendragon: The Sword of His Father (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Artos Pendragon, captured by the barbaric Saxons as a young man, only has one goal in mind: to save his home, the Isle of Britannia, from the invading Saxon forces as the Dark Ages fall upon ancient Europe.  Afforded the opportunity to escape his captors, he is helped by a mysterious seer who reminds him of his family’s Christian heritage and gives him a new hope by telling him to go to a fortress city on the island where King Ambrosia is building a new army to beat back the Saxons from their nation.  Artos begins a new life there are refocuses on the vision God has laid upon his heart: free the people of Britannia from the Saxon oppression.  Little does he know the intrigue, conspiracy, and battles that await him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For a very low budget production, Pendragon does the best it can with what it has.  The Burns production crew was quite inexperienced at this point, so they must be given a chance.  The production quality improves as the movie progresses, including the video quality and the camera work.  Some of the battles scenes are well done, but some are not.  The costuming and the sets are very complex and should be applauded when the small budget is considered.  The overarching issue with Pendragon’s production is the large amount of poorly overdubbed lines that are inserted into many outdoor scenes.  Overall, in their debut film, the Burns crew has shown that they have a lot of potential and can do even better with more funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The plot of Pendragon is extremely complex.  In a noble effort to avoid narration, there are a lot of understated elements that need to be explored more.  Though the film is over two hours, it could have been longer due to the sheer amount of content that is portrayed.  Multiple characters have interesting arcs that need to be further developed.  This is not a simple action plot, as it is filled with twists and turns.  The ending is justified due to its historical genre.  Overall, the driving point of the film needs to be better highlighted and the plot needs to be expanded, if at all possible.  Once again, this is difficult to do without proper funding, and Box Office Revolution feels that Burns did the best they could with what they had.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This is the most detracting element of the movie.  If the acting was improved, this movie would greatly improve.  It is evident that many of the main actors are members of the production crew and that this is their first major acting venture.  While there is little to no acting coaching and the best actor has a very small role in the film, they must once again be given clemency, given that they had little money to work with.

Conclusion

Pendragon has a mammoth potential, enough to be a two-part epic movie or multi-part miniseries, due to its highly complex plot and untapped character arcs.  But alas, poor funding often derails great intentions in the world of independent Christian film-making.  However, the good news is that Burns did not settle for less in their sophomore film, Beyond the Mask, which indicates that we can expect even greater things from them in the near future.  The Christian movie scene desperately needs studios like the Burns, who will flip the script and bring new genres of Christian films to the table.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

When the Game Stands Tall (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The De La Salle High School Spartans football team accomplished the seemingly impossible when they won a record 151 games in a row and won multiple championships during that timespan.  However, everything came crashing down the day they finally lost a game.  The team began to splinter and tragedies hit close to home.  Due to health concerns, Coach Bob Ladouceur takes a leave of absence only to discover how disconnected he has become from his family.  When the dust settles, a second chance emerges for Coach Ladouceur, his family, and his team to redeem themselves and begin a new legacy.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The production quality is not as bad as some movies this caliber, but it is not the best that it could be.  The camera work is the strongest element, as the scenes are filmed well, especially the football action scenes.  However, the editing is very choppy, probably due to the fact that there is a large amount of content.  Time marches quickly without much warning and important scenes seem to be missing from the final cut.  Finally, the movie is replete with product placements that were evidently needed to fund this movie.  Box Office Revolution realizes that independent Christian films are difficult to fund, but overt product placements give the movie a cheesy feel.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Tracking back to the large amount of content in the movie, it seems like the creators bit off more than they could chew, so to speak.  This is a large scale story that spans multiple football seasons, and in the wake of covering a lot of time, character development is sacrificed.  In an epic, the dialogue is precious and must be used to its full potential.  When the Game Stands Tall does not do this and instead wastes dialogue by making it shallow and\or forced, thus affecting the characters.  A lot of people were affected in this true story, but there are too many characters in the movie, some of which only have a handful of scenes.  It is noble to attempt to make an epic that spans multiple years, and it is possible to be done, but this movie doesn’t stand up to the challenge.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While there is not much meaningful dialogue for the actors to work with, the delivery is vanilla.  Believable emotion seems absent from many of the actors.  Jim Caviezel is pretty good in his role, but that is the extent of the dynamic acting.  Again, the acting is not terrible, but it is just not compelling.

Conclusion

Many poignant issues are dealt with in When the Game Stands Tall, but they are not packaged well.  The audience is alienated and lost in a sea of movie content, which unfortunately could have made for a good movie.  Since a real life story is followed, there was a lot of opportunity for a realistic and believable movie, but this movie was not successful in capturing this.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Faith of Our Fathers [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

John Paul George always wanted to know about his father and his experiences in Vietnam, but he could never learn any detailed information about him.  Now, on the verge of getting married, he stumbles upon a misplaced box of his father’s things and discovers a lone letter that could clue John Paul in on some more information.  He begins to search for the sender of the letter, but is unsuccessful until he accidentally reaches a cryptic character that interests John Paul just enough to make him go and see him in person.  Once he finally meets his new acquaintance, the two decide to embark on a redemptive journey to reconcile both their pasts and their fathers’ memories.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

PureFlix has improved over the years on production quality.  The camera work is decent and the sets seem pretty good.  The war scenes are the strongest parts of the movie, as they are actually not done in a cheesy manner.  The soundtrack is just average. However, the editing tends to be confusing.  Some scenes are wasted and drag on too long.  This is an improvement, but not quite there yet.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

This plot would have been improved with more inclusion of Vietnam War scenes.  The historical characters needed to be better developed and the present-day characters needed to be less-emphasized.  The present day plot is erratic and random; one subplot is introduced and then discarded with no real explanation to its purpose.  Some dialogue and subplots seem to just fill time.  None of the characters are believable, especially Wayne.  Perhaps the worst of all is that one character uses the same actor over a nearly forty year timespan, without aging appropriately.  In short, as far as PureFlix movies go, the plot is business as usual.

Acting Quality (1 point)

PureFlix needs acting coaching, plain and simple.  David A. R. White’s attempt at comedy falls flat.  Kevin Downes is not cast into the appropriate character.  Candace Cameron Bure and Rebecca St. James seem like Christian celebrity tack-ons, with neither one serving any real purpose.  Stephen Baldwin is passable, as are the historical characters, making them the only possible elements here.

Conclusion

In summary, PureFlix has improved a hair from the usual ways.  The production quality has improved, but that’s about it.  A potentially meaningful plot was once again wasted and the acting was once again sub-par.  Fatherhood is an important topic, as is the Vietnam War, but both seem like extra additions rather than the main points.  Maybe next time things will improve.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points