Found. (Movie Review)

Found | Christian Movies On Demand

Plot Summary

When several police officers find a teenage boy who was raised by elderly people in the Appalachian Mountains, hard decisions must be made, especially since the boy has no living guardians. One of the police officers decides that she needs to take the boy into her home, which changes the family’s life forever.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In some respects, this production is professional, such as the good video quality and acceptable sets, locations, and props. However, camera work is slightly inconsistent, and the audio quality is uneven, including background sounds, echoes, and loud portions of the soundtrack. Further, there is not much editing present, but there is some slight improvement throughout the production elements that is enough to warrant an average rating.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

At times, this narrative seems interesting due to its believable and authentic characters that are developed with realistic dialogue. Additionally, the Christian message is not too obvious while it’s still present. Nonetheless, there are plenty of concerns to note, such as time-wasting montages that make the central focus of the plot hard to grasp. The storyline feels like a collection of random scenes, and it seems like that the writers naively believe that being raised in remote areas away from civilization is whimsical, causing those in this lifestyle to become more spiritual than people in civilization. As a result, some key subplots are too muted and only referenced by characters rather than being shown to the audience. Several elements are too vague and never full explored although the creators expect one to care about these factors. Also, the narrative seems to sometimes make convenient decisions for the characters even if these actions are contrary to the characters’ motivations. These missteps lead to a rushed and forced conclusion that means nothing to the viewer due to lack of proper build-up. In the end, slight potential that’s drowned out by quite a few pitfalls leads to a meager score for this section.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The acting is actually the strongest aspect of this film as there are few errors in this section. The adult cast members demonstrate authentic emotions and line delivery. However, some of the younger actors and actresses post performances that leave something to be desire, thus bringing down this section’s overall rating.

Conclusion

It would have been better for this screenplay to focus on the pros and cons of civilized vs uncivilized living rather than glorifying one lifestyle over the other. There could have been timely lessons learned from this type of philosophical exploring. However, perhaps in their future projects, this creative team will build upon what they have begun here.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Blessed & Cursed (Movie Review)

Watch Blessed and Cursed | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Deitrick Haddon dreamed of becoming a gospel singer, but family duties complicated his desire to do so. Some people in his home church didn’t trust Deitrick because of his checkered past. However, Deitrick insists that he has changed and is on a mission to prove what God has done in his life.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, this production is mostly good, including fine camera work and acceptable sets, locations, and props. However, there are some slight audio concerns, such as background sounds, obvious overdubs, and general inconsistency. In some situations, there are wild action shots and shaky camera work. There are also a few noticeable continuity errors. Further, editing is quite terrible as some scenes cut off prematurely while other scenes are pasted together without effective transitions. In the end, due to the mixed-bag nature of this production, an average score is warranted.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Blessed & Cursed offers a realistic look at internal church problems and long-term ministry corruption. Nonetheless, the narrative presentation is a disaster, including dizzying montages that waste time and various disconnected scenes. Although good points are raised about people being in church leadership for too long, characters are generally one-dimensional. Despite somewhat interesting dialogue, the writers push legalistic worldviews that emphasize odd views of women, music, and relationships. In general, the plot doesn’t have any substantial focus or flow, thus preventing it from living up to its fullest potential. Hence, only a small rating is awarded to this section.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the acting of Blessed & Cursed is average or better. Despite some moments of drama and sensationalism, certain cast members are better than others. At times, line delivery is a bit forced. Nonetheless, there is enough positive in this section to justify an above-average score.

Conclusion

It’s evident that the writers of this film had good intentions, but the presentation is poor. Additionally, the prevailing worldview in the story is not much different than that of the characters who are portrayed as antagonistic. Thus, though there are standout portions of this screenplay, it’s overall underwhelming and forgetful.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

It’s a Life Worth Living (Movie Review)

It's A Life Worth Living (2020) | Full Movie | Daniel Jeffries | Angela  Roberts Johnson - YouTube

Plot Summary

John is running from his dark past, trying to conceal his demons of substance abuse while living a seemingly normal life. However, when everything falls apart, he has nowhere to turn. Thus, he is forced to look to God for strength to continue on and rebuild.

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the production of It’s a Life Worth Living is acceptable. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are fine. Sets, locations, and props are average or better. The main concerns with this section are the wild editing and disorienting special effects in certain sequences. Sometimes, there are very abrupt transitions that cut things off mid-scene. Thus, a slightly above-par score is warranted here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This narrative is certainly interesting and contains flawed characters. However, the radio-style storytelling is a crutch for actual character development, and this method of plot development encourages large time jumps that are bridged with exposition. The writers tried to cover too much ground in the narrative, and the storyline meanders without much purpose. Despite slight potential, the plot needs lots of reorganization and shoring up. The characters therein are okay but are slightly one-dimensional due to unsubstantial dialogue. Redemption moments are interesting but are unearned due to the weak characters and unclear motivations. The writers’ understanding of substance abuse is okay but incomplete as it makes it seem like that Christian rehab is a magic fix as the protagonist is quickly healed after just a few short steps. Mental health therapy is also viewed in an unrealistic way, and recovery is portrayed as too fast and easy. These shortcomings overshadow the otherwise interesting concepts that are explored in this narrative as well as the non-linear method of storytelling. Unfortunately, as the film progresses, things only get worse with a stupid climax sequence that’s based on childish coincidences, leading to a very ridiculous conclusion. In the end, slight potential is present in this section, but it’s mostly a disappointment.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite a few errors among the lead cast members, the main actors and actresses of this screenplay post pretty good performances. However, the supporting cast is quite week in their performances. Some emotions and lines are too over-the-top in certain moments. Although there is a strong beginning in the acting, this aspect of the movie unfortunately worsens with time. Therefore, an average score is warranted here.

Conclusion

It’s evident that the creators of It’s a Life Worth Living wanted to make an authentic film about substance abuse struggles. However, more research was needed in this area, and story consultation was needed to present the narrative in a more audience-friendly manner. Further, the acting needed shoring up. Nonetheless, with more refinement, this creative team could move on to better things in the future.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Power of the Air (Movie Review)

Power of the Air (2018) | Full Movie | Nicholas X. Parsons | Patty Duke | A  Dave Christiano Film - YouTube

Plot Summary

David Williams just wants to live a regular life, but one day, after being convicted by the message of an African missionary, David and his wife decide to stop watching secular movies due to their objectionable content. David is ostracized at work for this decision, but he feels strongly that he needs to do more to reach others for the Gospel. He wants to air a radio ad, but the city’s largest radio station is standing in his way. Will they be able to air the ad on every radio station???

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The Christiano team has come a long way since the old days of their films. Power of the Air has a very professional production with only a few errors. Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are all compliant with industry standards. Sets, locations, and props are also good. The only concerns in this section relate to editing, which leaves something to be desired. Nonetheless, this isn’t enough to prevent a very high score from being awarded here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Full of information-dump dialogue and expository conversations that are designed to push messages, this narrative is lacking in depth. Empty characters are simply pawns of the plot, which is full of generic Christian propaganda. The philosophy of the writers is very closed-minded and tone-deaf when it comes to real life. Administering heavy doses of legalism, the creators exchange actually story for an outdated view of society, implying that basically all media is evil. The only thing that keeps the screenplay running on fumes is a ridiculous ongoing conflict about when to air a radio commercial, and this experience is full of absurdly forced drama, trying to make the viewers actually care about this stupid first-world problem. In the end, with no potential to be had, this aspect of the movie can’t receive any points.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Throughout Power of the Air, the acting is acceptable without much good or bad to point out. Most performances are fairly pedestrian. Emotional and line delivery are passable. However, there’s simply not enough dynamic to warrant a higher than average score for this section.

Conclusion

Via this film, the Christiano team raises valid points about how American Christians unnecessarily consume too much objectionable entertainment. However, the very existence of Power of the Air only furthers the problem because it demonstrates why many Christians seek entertainment outside Christian circles: Christian entertainment, as a whole, is just bad. Power of the Air is no exception to this general rule. Why should Christians want to watch a screenplay like this? What’s the point? Until Christian creators learn why people watch what they watch, we’ll just keep having the same problems.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Furance [2019] (Movie Review)

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

Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Wager [2020] (Movie Review)

The Wager (2020) | Trailer | Cameron Arnett | Jim Gloyd | Bishop Stevens |  Ty Sheldon | John Wells - YouTube

Plot Summary

When Brucie loses some kind of supernatural wager with a spiritual being, Brucie is allowed to retrace the steps of his life to see how it happened and how things could have been different. Through mind-bending and reality-defying methods, Brucie criss-crosses through time to see his life in hindsight. Will be able to make the right choice before it’s too late?

Production Quality (2 points)

As a whole, The Wager has a fairly good production despite a lot of loud background sounds. Even still, the soundtrack is very interesting and seems too advanced for this film. Lighting is a bit inconsistent, but video quality is stable throughout. Sets, locations, and props are on par, and editing is acceptable. Thus, this rounds out an above-average section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Despite interesting character backstories, very generic dialogue consistently overstates the obvious in this narrative, thus causing the characters to be too cardboard and generic. Very expository conversations leave nothing to chance, spoon-feeding the viewer with a very pushy Christian message. Random and disconnected scenes cause the plot to lack concrete themes or purposes; silly coincidences and convenient turns also make for a frustrating experience. Large time jumps confuse the audience, as do trippy psychological sequences that lack sense and only waste time. Although this movie is full of hit-and-miss story presentations due to a meandering, stream-of-consciousness narrative, there is actually a grain of potential somewhere in this screenplay. Aside from all the clutter, several key concepts that are explored in The Wager have the ability to be great. However, the film continually gets in its own way, so only a small score can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Although there are some good performances among this cast, many of the scenes come off as very scripted and overly practiced. Emotions and lines are a bit forced and stilted at times. However, Cameron Arnette is always a standout actor, and as a whole, all the cast members improve with time. Thus, this is enough to warrant an average rating in this section.

Conclusion

In the end, The Wager is full of wasted ideas that need restructuring and repackaging. It’s clear that this creative team wanted to go in a certain direction, but they forgot to let the viewers in on where the movie was actually headed. Mind-bending psychological trips don’t exactly engage the audience or help the watcher connect with the characters. Therefore, this screenplay is an opportunity for the creators to reflect on what they want to convey in the context of film and apply these findings to future projects.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Fearless Faith (Movie Review)

Watch Fearless Faith | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Colton is a police officer who’s haunted by the trauma of witnessing his former partner get gunned down in a crossfire. Now, Colton avoids all things relating to God even though his wife wants him to come back to the faith. However, circumstances begin to change Colton’s heart as he’s forced to face the past that he’s been running from.

Production Quality (2 points)

Although this production is mostly above-average, it still has some unnecessary pitfalls, such as odd zooms in the camera work and some strangely blurry video quality in certain parts. Action camera work is inconsistent, and the soundtrack is a bit loud at times. Also, flashbacks tend to be disorienting, and the editing has a lot of quick cuts and transitions, but all aspects of the production generally improve with time. This include better video quality, audio quality, and camera work in the second half of the film. Sets, locations, and props are relatively stable throughout. In the end, this mixed-bag section does enough to warrant this score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Fearless Faith is based on a very valid and worthy idea that needs to be explored in entertainment: law enforcement trauma. However, this concept is presented with stream-of-consciousness storytelling that lacks focus or overarching themes. Average conversations don’t do enough to develop the generic characters although there is a lot of missed potential to have better dialogue. The perfect Christian characters and racial stereotypes don’t do much to help the cause of the narrative. Religious platitudes and lack of continuity are only compounded by wasted time and plot jumps. Despite dry humor and sarcasm that could have made for interesting experience, unrealistic coincidences happen just because the writers need them to. Even though the ending does a somewhat good job of bringing everything together, characters are fixed way too easily, and the conclusion isn’t properly set up. There are no meaningful payoffs because a majority of the storyline is just kicking the can down the road to get to an unearned high point. The climax falls flat where it could have soared because it lacks effective build-up, and personal tragedies aren’t exactly treated in a serious fashion. All of this is to say that Fearless Faith had the potential to be a truly interesting movie, but this section’s low score holds it back.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the acting in this screenplay is average. Surprisingly, Jason Burkey may have found his niche in this film as he demonstrates pretty good performances with dry humor and sarcasm. This role doesn’t require him to go too far beyond his abilities, which actually works. Elsewhere, there are no obviously glaring errors in this section except for some annoying yelling and screaming. In certain pivotal scenes, the acting can tend to be unnecessarily blank and not present. In the end, this aspect of them movie rounds out an okay effort.

Conclusion

Fearless Faith had a lot going for it since it was written by real law enforcement officers who know what it’s like in the real world. This creative team put forth a pretty good project in Beautifully Broken, but Fearless Faith seems to lose some of this progress. A disorganized narrative derailed most of the potential in this screenplay, and a handful of concerns in production and acting didn’t help either. Next time, however, this team can hopefully learn from their mistakes and seek better counsel in their plot development.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

God’s Fool (Movie Review)

God's Fool (2020) | Trailer | Scott William Winters | Nathan Clarkson |  Laura Orrico - YouTube

Plot Summary

Frank grew up with a privileged life, but it means nothing to him. He’s tried to fill the hole in his soul with all kinds of vices, but nothing helps. Thus, when Frank meets a Franciscan friar one day, Frank’s life changes forever as he learns about the Franciscan order’s philosophy of life. Frank commits himself to live this life but finds it harder than expected as many oppose his new faith.

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, God’s Fool has a pretty good production, including good video quality and audio quality. The soundtrack is quite intriguing, but the camera work is a bit inconsistent. Lighting is aligned with industry standards, and sets, locations, and props are acceptable. This section’s biggest drawback is its terrible editing as the film is presented in a very choppy way. Nonetheless, an above-average score is still warranted here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Despite being based on an interesting idea, this plot meanders all over the place with no focus. One random thing happens after another, including a wild 800-year time jump after an extended prologue that seems initially disconnected from the main narrative. Stream-of-consciousness storytelling leaves the movie lacking a central focus. As a result, the characters are hard to relate to, and even though some dialogue sequences are interesting, it all needs to be deeper. The characters’ struggles are very detached and hard to relate to. While many conversations bring up good points, the back-and-forth interactions are poorly presented, causing the audience to be flooded with ideas without helping them feel the conflict. In general, too many events occur in this plot, and the “bad” characters don’t have good reasons for their actions. Although this narrative explores realistic church corruption issues, it’s all too detached and vague, leaving the viewer without meaningful impact. Thus, due to a small amount of potential, only a small rating can be awarded in this section.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the performances in God’s Fool come off as staged and overly measured. Emotional and line delivery are clinical and generally lack conviction. Accents are not culturally accurate, but costuming is authentic. Nonetheless, despite these shortcomings, the acting does improve with time, which is enough to warrant an average score here.

Conclusion

It’s clear that the creators of this screenplay meant well in what they were doing. They are trying to present an honest look at modern-day Christianity. However, convoluted storytelling and uneven acting detract from the film’s potential. A more focused narrative would have gotten the presentation off on the right foot. Perhaps, in the future, this creative team can build upon what they have done here to improve their craft.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Take Two [2017] (Movie Review)

Image result for take two christian movie

Plot Summary

Clay Bauer is a nomadic film maker who’s just trying to stay clean during his substance abuse recovery. He’s cut himself off from problematic relationships of the past, but when he suddenly discovers that he has a daughter he’s never met, he wants to get to know her. However, his daughter’s living situation is not ideal, and although Clay is still trying to get back on his feet, he wants to rescue his daughter from the toxic environment. Nonetheless, the courts don’t look very fondly on Clay’s circumstances, so only God can help him in his impossible quest.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Take Two bears a lot of the marks of an independent production, such as inconsistent audio quality that’s manifested in obvious overdubs, background noises, and a soundtrack that’s sometimes good but often overpowers other sounds. Nonetheless, the film’s camera work and video quality are acceptable, and the lighting is average. Sets, locations, and props are fine, but the editing is a bit choppy at times, sometimes cutting off scenes without warning. Certain transitions are a bit shocking, but there’s overall improvement as the movie goes on, which warrants an average score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on true events, Take Two is a realistic exploration of addiction and drug issues that makes good use of flashbacks. However, the past and present subplots made it sometimes hard to understand what time period is being shown. For the most part, the dialogue is pretty good although the characters would have benefitted from longer and more meaningful conversations that aren’t as chopped up by the narrative’s quick pace and abrupt transitions. Even still, the story’s artistic sequences are intriguing, but the good themes and messaging are easily lost in the avalanche of content. With too many characters and subplots to follow, this screenplay needed a lot more focus and organization, such as a non-linear narrative presentation that was more grounded in one time period. Overall, there was tons of potential in this story that could have been a lot better with refinement, which justifies this section’s rating.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As a whole, the acting in Take Two is either average or slightly better. This is demonstrated by mostly realistic emotions and natural line delivery. However, this section is held back from being perfect by some cast members whose performances tend to drag down the final score with inconsistency. Nonetheless, there is plenty of positive to note here, and it seems like most of the actors and actresses cared about making this a realistic experience, which is why it’s just above average.

Conclusion

With a commitment to use real-life source material, this creative team has lots of potential for the future. Take Two either deserves a remake with improved storytelling and editing or this collective needs to use the film as a starting point for better things. Further collaboration may be the key to improvement, but this group definitely has something to bring to the table. With more honest creators like these, the Christian entertainment market would be much improved.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Love Me [2020] (Movie Review)

Watch Love Me | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Reggie and his friend Sam live in a tent and run a soap-making business. Sam makes the products while Reggie tries to sell them door-to-door. One day, Reggie happens to visit Charlotte, who loves butterflies and won’t go outside without her headphones due to sensory overload. Without Charlotte’s brother knowing, she and Reggie fall in love and begin to date. Will the two social outcasts be allowed to have a life together?

Production Quality (1 point)

In usual Faith House (Inspiriter) style, camera work is shaky in Love Me, sometimes zooming in during shots. Audio quality is all over the map, include a very loud and shocking soundtrack, cheesy sounds effects, and annoying background sounds. Video quality is acceptable, but lighting is sometimes poor. Sets, locations, and props are cheap, and editing is fairly choppy. The only saving grace here is that the production quality tends to improve with time, but it’s not enough to keep this section from being subpar.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Of all the ridiculous films previously put out by this team, Love Me actually centers around an interesting idea: how special needs adults are treated in our society. It’s actually Inspiriter’s best idea ever and has the most potential of anything they’ve ever come up with. However, like many intriguing concepts in Christian entertainment, some of the good possibilities are wasted on frivolous scenes, like pointless musical montages. Dialogue is passable, though, which helps the characters become more accessible and less over-the-top. This narrative unfortunately lacks central focus and purpose, and it would have been good to see more backstory from the characters. Also, the conclusion is very abrupt and lacks logic as it depicts on character changing their mind for no particular reason. This alteration is only invented to unnaturally fix the story’s conflicts. Therefore, due to slight potential but inadequate presentation, this section only receives a meager rating.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Although not perfect, the perennial FaithHouse cast members that once again appear in this movie actually found their acting niches in Love Me. Their performances are mostly authentic, despite some mumbled lines, and demonstrate realistic emotions. As such, this is the screenplay’s strongest area and makes us wonder if Inspiriter has finally hit their stride this late in the game.

Conclusion

Imagine if FaithHouse/Inspiriter had saved all the money from their previous absurd offerings and put it toward this film, which is the one interesting idea they’ve put forth. What if they took a quality over quantity approach, beginning with a raw character-based drama with subtle Christian messaging? Unfortunately, we may never know, but this is definitely a lesson for future creators: don’t settle for less because one good movie is always better than ten bad ones.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Bible Collection: Genesis (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: Watch The Bible Collection: Genesis | Prime Video

Plot Summary

In the beginning, God created humans in His image, but they sinned against Him. After most of the world went against His purposes, He sent the Flood to judge them. Then, after the Deluge, humanity sought to rebuild, and they passed on the stories of the times before them by sharing the narratives with each other.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Surprisingly, Genesis boasts a respectable production. This is likely due to good funding even though it does contain a lot of stock footage. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all great, however. The soundtrack is very interesting, and the sets, locations, and props are well-used. The only minor concern is the editing, but it’s not enough to keep this section’s score from being quite high. Unfortunately, these good elements seem to go to waste.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

It’s hard to understand why Genesis isn’t some type of docu-drama or narrated Bible project as it’s almost entirely based on narration and voiceover. This experience is extremely artistic and even ethereal at times, which necessitates reading a lot into what’s being seen. There are basically no instances of dialogue or conversations, and many of the scenes are quite vague, barely representing what the narrator is talking about. Long sequences sometimes pass without any talking at all, so while it’s fine to be subtle, it’s also possible to be so discrete that there’s no point in viewing it. Such is the case in this “narrative.” Elsewhere, there are some odd inclusions of biblical accounts that hadn’t been yet written. Although it was an interesting idea to frame the first part of the Genesis story in the context of Noah, which is one of the main things keeping this section from being zero, this movie definitely does not cover the whole book. Further, this plot ends in a strangely abrupt way like they just ran out of ideas and cut it off. In the end, this is a unique yet mostly extraneous viewing experience.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Genesis strengthens its case by casting actors and actresses that are mostly culturally authentic. However, they hardly have any chance to exhibit their potential skills due to lack of opportunities to deliver actual lines. The small amount therein is passable albeit somewhat dramatic and theatrical. Overall, this section rounds out a rather mediocre effort.

Conclusion

It’s quite unclear what this “screenplay” was actually going for. If it was part of a larger plan, this is totally lost to the audience. Despite having some interesting possibilities at their fingertips, this film’s creators squandered an opportunity to do something creatively different. Unfortunately, Genesis just falls in line with lots of other un-engaging and ultimately forgettable Bible entertainment.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Cowboy & Indiana (Movie Review)

Cowboy and Indiana" movie set to premiere June 8 in West Monroe

Plot Summary

Tyler Hughes used to be a big-time rodeo cowboy, but he got down on his luck through a series of bad choices. Now, he’s in and out of court, which where he gets sentenced to be a special mentor for “troubled kids.” Accompanied by his former girlfriend-turned-social-worker, what could go wrong as Tyler plays white savior for a kid from the “other neighborhood”? Also, several other characters do some stuff with bull riding in this incredibly long film.

Production Quality (2 points)

Production is easily Cowboy & Indiana‘s strongest suit. Camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all professional except for some slightly inconsistent filming techniques. Lighting, sets, locations, and props are all acceptable, however. The soundtrack is somewhat interesting, and the only issues with this section pertain to editing. This aspect is a bit uneven at times, but it’s not enough to pull this area below the average mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Besides being a white savior plot, the premise of Cowboy & Indiana is so trumped up that it doesn’t even seem legally sound or realistic. This causes some subtly racist undertones and a lot of patriarchal message-pushing that treats women like they’re incapable of making decisions without men around. In addition, the characters are very thin due to poorly developed dialogue and conversations, wasted scenes and sequences, excessive sports montages, and silly coincidences that make the story go where it wants to go. This narrative steering creates very steep character arcs that aren’t justified and strip the movie of any central purpose or themes. Despite some good flashbacks and acceptable dialogue in the screenplay’s second half that keeps this section from being zero, it’s just too little, too late. By the time the conclusion rolls around, it seems like the writers tried to make up for lost time by forcing things forward at a rapid pace, which produces a rushed epilogue with tons of expository dialogue that patches everything up at a breakneck speed. Needless to say, the small amount of positive in this portion just isn’t enough.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

At least the acting of Cowboy & Indiana is basically average. There’s nothing too bad or too good about it. Emotional and line delivery are just right down the middle with some being less than acceptable and the rest being fine. Overall, however, this rounds out an underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

It’s clear that this film was based on a lot of random ideas, some of which were better than others. Nonetheless, there are just too many eyebrow-raising elements here, such as the shaky legal basis. The veiled racism and patriarchy are also obvious concerns to contend with. Even without these problems, the sheer amount of content is simply overwhelming for anyone. Thus, during the creative process, it’s better to slow things down and invite God into the situation to see if you’re even meant to move forward with your project.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Worth Fighting For [2017] (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: Watch Worth Fighting For | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Alex has made a name for himself as an underground prize fighter, which has attracted the attention of the local mob. Thus, when Alex agrees to be one of their enforcers, he doesn’t realize how much he’s agreed to do. This seems to jeopardize the relationship Alex wants to have with Lilly, a girl he met at a local diner. Because of his decision, Alex will have to confront both his past and his present in order to be free.

Production Quality (1 point)

The production of Worth Fighting For is likely its weakest area, with wild camera work in action scenes, loud background sounds, and inconsistent lighting. For instance, some outside scenes are too bright while some inside scenes are too dark. Also, there are very obvious overdubs throughout the film, and the live audio sounds quite cheap. Video quality also leaves something to be desired, but the soundtrack is one of the bright spots. Further, some elements of the production do tend to improve as the movie goes on, such as the video quality, so this section overall does enough to warrant a point.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

From the beginning, Worth Fighting For contains surprisingly well-constructed dialogue that makes the characters mostly believable. However, there are also some drawbacks here, such as cheesy conversations that unnecessarily reinforce gender stereotypes and build thin romantic subplots. Nonetheless, it’s good that the viewers are able to slowly learn about the characters rather than all at once, and most of their dialogue is authentic and organic, which develops realistic character struggles and motives. Even so, there were plenty of chances for the characters to be a bit deeper and to drive the plot with their choices. As it is, the storyline tends to sweep the characters along with some head-scratching coincidences, including the slightly forced romantic relationship. Unfortunately, the narrative tends to worsen as it goes, including a lot of patriarchal messages and things happening without enough precedent, which all culminates into a cheesy against-all-odds sports climax that’s paired with a very forced and rushed conclusion that leaves things too empty. However, the first half of the screenplay is enough to warrant an average score, which is encouragement for the future.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the acting sometimes comes off as a bit blank and vanilla while some performances are a bit stiff, there are moments when the acting is better. Despite some dramatically forced lines, for the most part, emotions are believable, and the cast members definitely appear to be trying to do their best. At the very least, this is Alan Powell’s best performance to date, and the cast as a whole does enough, even though there are some rocky moments, to warrant an average score for this section.

Conclusion

Films like Worth Fighting For are complicated because they have something to offer, but it’s usually packaged in the wrong way. This is almost always due to some shortcoming within the movie-making process, and it’s typically poor screenwriting. However, that’s not the case in this screenplay; a lack of adequate funding is to issue this time. Nonetheless, all a film maker can do is put their best foot forward and let God take care of the rest. Thus, perhaps we’ll see more from this creative team in the near future.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Modern Prodigal (Movie Review)

Modern Prodigal (2019) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Brian Sanderson is an investigative reports who’s addicted to painkillers and never ceases in his quest to solve the mystery of his son’s untimely death to the same drug he’s hooked on. Even though his obsessions cause him to lose his dream job, Brian will stop at nothing to discover the truth of what really happened while also wrestling the demons inside his head. Ultimately, Brian will have to confront his dark past in order to face the future.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

After an odd opening sequences that seems to suggest Modern Prodigal is part of a crime series, weird gray lighting seems to dominate much of the film. Audio quality is also an issues as there are some obvious background sounds as well as too much dead air, even if the little soundtrack therein has some potential. Sets, locations, and props are are bit cheap-looking, and there are some unnecessarily tight shots and instances stationary camera work. Furthermore, the editing leaves something to be desired with awkward cuts and transitions, but the good news is that the production takes a turn for the better in the film’s second half that amends a lot of the earlier errors. However, this is only enough to raise this section to the halfway mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the characters are one of the strongest aspects of Modern Prodigal as some of them possess subtle characteristics that make them come off as relatable and human; their dialogue is also not all bad since it establishes them as imperfect people. However, while some conversations are quite good, others are too obvious and over the top. Nonetheless, the narrative makes fairly good use of mystery concepts throughout the plot progression and does a reasonable job at concealing important facts and revealing them bit by bit throughout the film. While there are plenty of positive aspects, there are also nagging concerns with this story, such as the fact that it’s trying to cover too much ground in one screenplay. Much of its content would have been better suited for a series, and a sudden massive time jump at the movie’s conclusion leaves the viewer somewhat confused. Nevertheless, Modern Prodigal offers a lot of hope for this writing team’s future potential.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, the good aspects of this film’s plot are detracted from by a lot of over-acting in many of the screenplay’s important scenes. This includes quite a bit of overdone emotional performances and forced line delivery. While there is some good in this section, such as some good supporting cast members and better acting in the less dramatic scenes, better coaching could have lifted Modern Prodigal to a better level.

Conclusion

This film joins a sizable collection of Christian creations that had a lot going for them but never made the next step in to greatness. Much of this shortfall is due to financial constraints, but a lot of it can be blamed on a lack of collaboration or a tendency to force something to happen before it’s time. Ideas were never meant to be carried out alone, and sometimes, it’s just not the right season for them. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see what this creative team offers next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Islands [2019] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Epiphany [2019] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

MBF: Man's Best Friend (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Paul Landings retired from the military after a disability prevented his further service, so now he works at a dog shelter and takes in dogs who have no homes. However, his practices draw ire from locals, and several troublemakers set fire to his house with the dogs still in it. Affected by PTSD, Landings commits a crime in revenge for his dogs and finds himself embroiled in a lawsuit charged with local politics. Will he be able to be set free from the bondage both in his head and in his life?

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the production of Man’s Best Friend is respectable, including good video, camera, and audio qualities. While the sets, locations, and props are mostly well-chosen, there is some inconsistent lighting in the indoor sets. However, the outside locations are better, and these issues overall improve as the film progresses. Elsewhere, the soundtrack is acceptable, and the editing is a bit odd at types although it is mostly fine. In the end, this is an above average production that could have been a little better due to the year it was made.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The opening sequences of MBF are a bit of a drag for the viewer since they are drawn out and full of stock footage and vague voiceover that both isolates the audience and wastes valuable time. However, once it gets to the substantial parts of the plot, there are actually some good explorations of how warfare effects people after the military and how one’s life can be greatly altered by the service. Nonetheless, there are a number of problems in this narrative’s character department, beginning with the fact that most of the ‘bad’ characters are total strawmen who hate the main character for no particular reason, are unrealistically anti-military, and are generally annoying. At the same time, the military characters are painted in perfect lights as they create a very odd dichotomy that tries to force the viewer to choose between the importance of a paralyzed character’s life and the lives of dogs that died in a fire. There are either perfect victim characters (though it’s not clear how some of them are actually victims) or highly corrupt small town characters, which is likely realistic in many contexts but is too over the top for this situation. Moreover, the storyline provides both a realistic look at post-war trauma and a hard examination of corruption in small towns, but many audiences may find the premise to be a bit dark and without significant hope or redemption. Elsewhere, the judge seems unnecessarily biased toward the protagonist, and some of the characters attempt to nearly justify the paralysis-inducing crime that is on trial. Dialogue is inconsistently used for information dumps, and a lot of the characters feel unfinished as they tend to crowd each other out for screen time. Also, there is some inappropriate language throughout the plot, and the ending is a bit hard to follow. Overall, much like this creative team’s previous efforts at crafting complex suspense situations (Wild Faith), MBF tries to interest the viewer in legal intrigue mixed with military drama, but there are just too many issues with this concept to justify any points for this section.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While many of the cast members of MBF tend to force their lines and their emotional deliveries in the beginning, the performances as a whole improve as the film progress. The most significantly positive aspect is the fact that DJ Perry posts an extremely memorable and groundbreaking performance as he becomes a character unlike any other he’s previously played and transforms himself for a very difficult role. This element is very impressive and is one of the main bright spots in this otherwise flawed project. Thus, this rounds out an overall above average acting effort that could have been slightly better.

Conclusion

Man’s Best Friend, like many of this creative team’s past projects, had a lot going for it, but it didn’t quite make it past the finish line. Perry, Hagedorn, Teaster, Hornus, and the rest had a lot of momentum following Wild Faith and The Christ Slayer, but MBF tends to blunt this success with its confusing messaging and dark focus. However, Perry’s breakout performance is a key bright spot that gives renewed hope for the future, so it will be interesting to see what this collective produces next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Golden Voices (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Terrell Christian College is in trouble, but if they can assemble a choir for the Golden Voices singing competition, which they are hosting this year, they might have a chance to stay alive. That’s why Georgia, the head of the music department, enlists her granddaughter, Sidney, to help her when Georgia has a back injury. Sidney only takes the temporary job since she’s in need of some extra cash, but little does she know that this experience, along with an unexpected run-in with a local celebrity, will change her life forever.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the production for The Golden Voices is average with some positives and some negatives. While the video quality is clear and the camera work is fine, there are one too many outside scenes that have noticeable background sounds and some that are filmed on the side of busy streets. The indoor sets are better, however, and the props are acceptable. Audio quality is a mixed bag due to some background echoes at times and a generic soundtrack that sometimes interferes with spoken lines. There are also some cheesy special effects and some unnecessary aspect ratio changes at random moments. Further, the editing is okay although it has some very quick cuts and transitions. Thus, in the end, this is a run-of-the-mill effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

It’s clear, however, that there were a lot of honest efforts made in the writing of this plot. The dialogue therein is not all that bad and is even sometimes funny; the characters are also on the right track as they are non-typical and feel more authentic than not. Even though the narrative basically boils down to being a save-the-school-by-winning-a-singing-competition-plot, the conversations among characters are actually pretty well-constructed. Nonetheless, it’s a shame that a lot of time is spent on musical montages rather than deeper character development that could have kept this storyline from being as basic as it is. This would have also helped to soften the basically predictable ending, but as a whole, the messaging in this film is quite good, and the movie in general avoids stereotypes that come with musical productions. It would have been good, however, to see a little more effort put forth to keep this plot from being too basic.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Despite some very obviously poor makeup work, most of the cast members assume their roles quite well. Some tend to overplay their performances, but most of them come off as quite genuine, and many of them improve as the film progress. Throughout the movie, emotions are believable, and this collective effort is enough to warrant an above-average score.

Conclusion

Over the years, Poorchild Films has tried several different ideas (Hiding in Plain Sight, Steps of Faith, A Man Called Jon), but The Golden Voices seems like their most honest creation yet. They keep trying and are getting closer to the mark with each effort. However, most of the time, collaboration is the only way forward, so it may be time for this creative team to reach out and work with someone else both for financial and productive reasons. When this begins happening on a more regular basis on Christian entertainment, we will finally be putting the older days behind us.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Job [2020] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

At one time, Lance Foster was a successful boxer who could have whatever he wanted, but when he accidentally killed a man in the ring, his life changed forever. He decided to dedicate his life to Christ, but the consequences that were set in motion prior to his conversion continued to haunt him. About to be evicted from his house and divorced by his wife, Lance suddenly finds himself at gunpoint being held up by a desperate man in search of valuables to fix his own mess. However, the two of then form an unlikely bond that leads them both to unexpected results.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a low-budget production, the creators of The Job did mostly well in making the most out of what they had. For instance, video quality is clear, and the soundtrack is quite good. There is some slightly shaky camera work, however, that needs more stability and consistency. For the most part, the sets, props, and locations are fine and are well-utilized despite their limitations. Moreover, there are some instances where the audio quality could be better, and the editing is simply passable. In the end, this is an average production that is a good start for this creative team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In a limited plot like this one, deep character development is essential, especially when the characters are confined to just a few sets. This can be done via non-narrated flashbacks and character-building conversations that show their motivations and personalities. However, this is not always done in The Job. for one, the main character is often portrayed as perfect and without flaws; he tends to lecture other characters on how to act without the audience understanding his struggles. While it’s good to explore hard topics and tough life circumstances, we need to see these issues through the eyes of more accessible characters rather than ones we cannot easily relate to. This can be accomplished through more showing than telling and through more personal dialogue and emotional connection than apologetics and witnessing talking points. Although the plot seems to get more interesting in the middle of it, the concept of holding a character hostage in order to witness to them is very difficult to portray in the right way. Some slight character motivations also surface near the end of the film, along with some interesting explorations of family systems, but the quick pace of storyline’s first half, as well as the wasted time near the beginning, reduce their impact. In the end, problems are too easily fixed, including some unrealistic notions about addictions; even though it seems like the writers meant well with this screenplay, there are still a few kinks to work out.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As a whole, the acting is likely the strongest section of the film. Though there are few cast members, they do the best they can with what they’ve been given and improve as the movie progresses. Despite being too earnest at times, they overall portray emotions as adequately as can be expected in the situations they’ve been put in. In the end, this rounds out a mostly middle-of-the-road effort.

Conclusion

Due to being a first-time production with a limited budget, The Job puts its best foot forward and is mostly acceptable. However, a more engaging plot made up of more accessible characters would have taken it to the next level. The key is to portray people in a way that demonstrates a familiarity with human tendencies; only then will the Christian message have its fullest impact. This is definitely something to note for future projects.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Sacred [2017] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Barrett Lenox, despite his dark past, aspires to succeed in the boxing ring. However, the pressures of helping his wife, Danielle, build their life together, are weighing on him. Her father, who is training him, also pushes him to do better. Will he ever measure up to who he needs to be before more time has passed him by?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

At the beginning of the film, the opening sequence is intriguing and shows promise of creative potential. Also, the soundtrack is effective, and video quality and audio quality are at least average. For the most part, camera work and lighting are good, even if there are some unnecessarily dark scenes throughout. Unfortunately, the editing is somewhat flat, which puts a drag on things, but these efforts were overall good for the tiny budget the production team had to work with. In the end, this is at least an honest attempt.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Since Sacred is only based on a handful of characters and is basically an extended short film, it would have been good to see more depth from both the storyline and the characters. Working with only one subplot requires a lot of refinement, yet there are good attempts at flashbacks throughout this film, which definitely help things. Even so, there needed to be more substantial character-building dialogue to make it easier to get to know them as real people. As they are, the conversations are a bit too matter of fact and flat, and there are a lot of sports training montages for a less-than-an-hour film. Thus, there is a lot of wasted time that takes away from better possibilities. Moreover, there are a lot of interesting concepts and ideas throughout the movie that make it more worthwhile than it would have been, even if the Christian message needs some refinement. The ending is certainty unexpected and slightly creative though it needed a better lead-up than it had. In the end, Sacred has a non-typical plot structure that shows a lot of potential but didn’t quite go as far as it could have.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the acting of this film is average since it has some good scenes and some poorly executed ones. At times, emotions are overdone, and sometimes, lines are forced. Some cast members appear to be trying too hard, but there are also a handful of good performances. Also, some of the makeup work is fairly low quality, and there’s an unusual insinuation (without hard evidence) that a Caucasian cast member is playing an African-American character, but it’s difficult to know. In the end, this section rounds out a passable effort.

Conclusion

The creators of Sacred were onto something, but it’s possible that they didn’t quite know how to convey it. With such limited resources, it was wise for them to choose a shorter-than-usual runtime though it could have been better utilized by delving deeper into character development. Because of this, the story concept could use a remake, or the creative team could use this film as a foundation to build on for better ideas in the future. Either way, it will be interesting to see what they produce next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Thomas, Close to Jesus {The Friends of Jesus – Thomas} (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Thomas followed Jesus for the three years of the Lord’s earthly ministry, yet Thomas always struggled with belief. His doubt was only compounded when he witnessed the brutal arrest of his Savior and heard how he was violently flogged and executed at the hands of the Romans. At the darkest hour of history, Thomas’ small faith would be tested like never before.

Production Quality (2 points)

As an early 2000’s production, Thomas, Close to Jesus is mostly respectable, including historically authentic sets, locations, and props. Video quality is passable, and audio quality is fine except that the soundtrack is somewhat generic. The camera work tends to be shaky at first but gets better as it goes. To round things off, the editing is fairly pedestrian yet isn’t bad. In the end, this is basically an above-average production that doesn’t make many positive or negative impact.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Lux Vide and TBN had interesting ideas in this early era of Christian entertainment to make a series of films focusing on different disciples, so a film centered around the less-emphasized character of Thomas is refreshing. However, like other Biblical films from this creative team (Mary Magdalene and Judas), the characters cannot be easily accessed due to stiff and pedestrian dialogue that feels like a Bible play. There are too many boring asides and vanilla conversations that waste time and focus on vague concepts without developing accessible characters. While there were good attempts to connect the films of the series together, there were some unnecessary alterations to the historical account. Further, the portrayal of Jesus is once again too ethereal and otherworldly, and too many scenes either contain forced drama or lag on. In the end, there was probably not enough actual content to sustain full-length movie without slid dialogue and flashbacks.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, the cast of Thomas isn’t entirely culturally authentic, but some attempts are made. Moreover, there are a lot of dramatic and theatrical performances as if this is a stage play. This brings overdone and unnatural emotions with it. Even still, the costuming is mostly historically accurate, and there are some good moments in acting, which is enough to keep this section average.

Conclusion

On a number of levels, creating Biblical fiction entertainment is extremely difficult to pull off, which is why it should never be done lightly. Since TBN’s early attempts at depicting the lives of Jesus and His disciples, Christian movies and series have definitely improved in how they portray these historical characters. They were real people, so when they are properly cast in this light, audiences everywhere can relate to them, which makes the message more powerful and meaningful.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Faith, Love, & Chocolate! {Live, Laugh, Love!} (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Following graduation from college, Jessica Miller and her two closest friends are forced to face the harshness of the real world that academia never prepared them for. They all have big plans, but they soon realize that no one in their respective job fields really cares about their dreams. Things don’t turn out like they’re supposed to, and the three friends are left scared and confused. However, this gives them the opportunity to realize that God sometimes has bigger plans for people than they can ever realize.

Production Quality (2 points)

As a whole, the production of Faith, Hope, & Chocolate! is fine for a creation produced from a university film school. They have their proverbial ducks in a row when it comes to video quality, audio quality, and camera work. For the most part, sets, locations, and props are professionally presented and utilized. The only major complaints to raise are some occasional backgrounds sounds and some cheesy flashback quality. Also, the editing is a bit generic, but on the whole, this is a respectable production that shows a creative team headed in the right direction.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the plot detracts quite a bit from this film, mostly due to the incessant and unnecessary narration that greatly hurts the possibility of character development. As such, dialogue is fairly pedestrian but not awful; however, it doesn’t do enough to build the characters beyond their stereotypical molds and expected backstories. Also, the awkward attempts at comedy throughout the storyline don’t help matters, and the fact that some plot elements aren’t entirely rooted in reality isn’t helpful either. Since the central concept of this film is somewhat interesting yet at the same time slightly standard, this character-based story needed to depend heavily on the personalities of the characters, and this was something that wasn’t accomplished. Doing this would have added a necessary level of complexity to this otherwise straightforward idea; moreover, post-college issues need to be explored as this isn’t heavily discussed in Christian entertainment, but a more meaningful basis would have done better with driving the points home. In the end, the problems presented in the story are too easily fixed with a posthumous artifact, which seems to absolve some of the characters of realistic consequences or help them to avoid real lessons. Thus, this is a nice try that will hopefully yield better results next time.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Overall, the acting of Faith, Love, & Chocolate! is fine. It’s neither dynamic nor horrible–just average. At times, some emotions come off as forced and awkward, and line delivery could be a bit more meaningful, but this is the best that can be expected from presumably volunteer cast members. In this light, each cast members takes on their roles well.

Conclusion

In summary, the creative team behind this movie likely did the best they could with what they had available. The one thing we would have liked to see more of was deeper character development, which could have only been accomplished by banning narration and by spending a little more time on the dialogue. In cases like these, it’s sometimes better to base characters off of real people or to give the characters flexibility to fit the personalities of the cast members. Nevertheless, the people behind this film seem to mean well and likely have a lot of good potential for future projects.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Run the Race (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

It seems like Zach and Dave Truett have always been dealt a bad hand in life. Their mother died, and their father soon after fell into alcoholism. Dave suffers from a medical condition, so when Zach tears his ACL at a party, his chances of a football scholarship, their only clear way out of their small town, are jeopardized. This forces Zach to do the soul-searching he had always avoided since their mother died, and it leads the brothers to unexpected places.

Production Quality (2 points)

As the first production funded and facilitated by the Tebow brothers, they have definitely shown that they can aggregate funds and put them to fairly good use. For the most part, this production is quite good and hits all the right notes, including good video quality, effective camera work, professional audio quality, and a great soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props are also adequately used and constructed. While the music is good, one drawback is the many dizzying sports montages that seem to eat up most of the runtime. Because of the time spent on this part, other scenes in the film are awkwardly and abruptly cut off with poor transitions. However, on the whole, this is an above-average production that is great for a first time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the money put into the production didn’t reflect well in the plot department. While something good is trying to be portrayed in this story, it doesn’t come through well at all, mostly due to the quick, clipped scenes that leave little room for proper development. Much of the dialogue refers to off-screen content or is very punctuated; this makes for awkward conversations that are inadequate in building characters effectively. While there are some attempts to take a real look at issues facing small towns in America and the people in them, too much time is spent on sports and training montages, which makes for a fairly choppy story presentation that doesn’t flow very well at all. There are too many missed opportunities as mindless sequences crowd the runtime, and many of the characters are too basic and one-dimensional. Difficult topics are mishandled with cliches, and unexpected time jumps leave the viewer disoriented to the story’s progression. Besides a handful of good scenes near the end of the film, this movie mainly talks about things without really showing them to you and fixes things without any heart behind them. In better screenwriting hands, this could have been a great exploration of relevant issues facing ordinary people, but we are left wondering what could have been.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

On the whole, the acting of this film could have been good, and while there aren’t any glaring errors, it’s still a bit thin. Better coaching would have likely brought out the potential in the cast members, and even so, it’s not as bad as it could have been. However, it’s not really dynamic either, which makes this an average section that rounds off a middle-of-the-road film.

Conclusion

In summary, Run the Race is fine for a freshman film effort, but with higher standards being set in the Christian entertainment market, new film makers will need to aim higher if they want to make their mark. Good productions have become more of a benchmark than they once were, and acting should at least be above average. The films that will truly set themselves apart moving forward are those that have dynamic plots and effective storytelling techniques. Perhaps in the their next attempt, the Tebow brothers can wield their fundraising skills to support a truly talented screenwriter.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Palau: The Movie (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Luis Palau, a world-renowned missionary, had meager beginnings in his life, but this did not hold him back from being all he could be for God. Under the mentorship of key people God placed in his life, Palau brought the Gospel to the countries and locations God laid on his heart and set an example for evangelism. Even today, the impact of his work is still being felt.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While this is obviously a good idea on paper for a Christian film, it seems like the execution was only partial due to budget constraints. This fact is evident in the limited sets, locations, and props, even though they still demonstrate great attempts at historical and cultural accuracy. The lighting of the scenes is back and forth with indoor scenes mostly poorly lit while outside scenes are fine. The camera work is also acceptable, along with the audio quality. At times, there are background noises, however, and the soundtrack, while culturally authentic, seems forced at times. Further, the editing is somewhat choppy, but on the whole, this production is basically average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As previously mentioned, the story of Luis Palau is a great true story to base a film upon, but the way it was conducted with this rendition wasn’t adequate in fully communicating the important messages therein. From the beginning, the attention of the audience isn’t effectively held due to an overall feel of the film being a sort of docu-drama. This attitude is demonstrated by collections of boring scenes that simply depict characters sitting around or standing while reciting lines. As such, the dialogue isn’t enough to drive the character development to where we can relate to them; we don’t know character motivations well enough even though there are some backstories portrayed. It’s a nice authentic touch to use the original language, but it tends to cloud things when it the whole film already comes off like a collection of Bible study skits. Because of this dynamic, it’s hard to see the characters as anything but representations of ideas, which is a real shame since the movie could have been a true epic story. The time jumps are a disservice both to continuity and proper development of concepts, and it ruins any chance of having central themes or concepts to center the movie around. In the end, this film is mostly benign, which also means it’s not ground-breaking.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While the acting mostly means well, it tends to fall flat due to its vanilla nature. The attempts at cultural authenticity are definitely commendable, but each cast member would benefit from improved coaching. However, it has to be considered that the lack of good written lines puts a damper on their ability to deliver them well. Nonetheless, the smaller cast tends to amplify the errors, and in the end, this is basically an average performance overall.

Conclusion

In summary, it can’t be discounted that commendable effort was made to craft a film depicting an important true story that has impacted thousands of people around the world. Since it’s such an important account, we would have liked to see a much more substantial approach that did it justice and sought to produce a dynamic experience for the viewer. However, the film makers definitely meant well, so it will be interesting to see what they put out next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Shifting Gears [2018] (Movie Review)

Image result for shifting gears christian movie

Plot Summary

Tom has worked hard to become a regional manager, which is why he’s so disappointed when his self-absorbed boss lets him know that he needs a four-year college degree to achieve this position. Frustrated, Tom quits on the spot and decides to look into the property he inherited from his recently deceased father. His wife convinces him to take on his father’s old gas station business as their new source of income. Will they be able to handle the new business while patching up hidden family issues?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

One thing that can be said for newer Christian films, especially those in the last few years: no matter how forgettable or lame the plot is, the productions are absolutely getting better. Shifting Gears has a fine production without many issues, as evidenced by good video quality and camera work. For the most part, audio quality is fine, even though there are some loud portions of the soundtrack and some annoying sound effects, but these are the only issues with the production. It’s clear that time is spent on all aspects of the production, especially the sets, props, and locations that make this movie better than it would be without it. Overall, since the editing is also respectable, this is a high-quality production that unfortunately went wasted.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As such, it’s very hard to understand the actual purpose of this plot as it meanders around peppered with head-scratching cliches and under-developed characters. It borrows a lot of elements from a typical sports underdog plot combined with a return to hometown plot, which implies that there’s nothing creative going on here. The forced and cringe-worthy comedy elements and asides waste valuable time that could have been used to craft better dialogue, but we are only left with cheesy half-measures. The story is based on too many coincidences, and the Christian message comes off as plastic and manufactured. As many of the scenes are downright eye-rolling and funny for all the wrong reasons, it goes without saying that there is little to no point in making this movie with a plot this bad.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While some cast members are fairly over the top with their performances, they aren’t all bad since some of them are somewhat professional and seasoned in their work. However, some of the cast members are trying way too hard to be funny most of the time, and many emotions come off as painfully forced. Even so, despite the awkward and unsure moments, there are also plenty of good moments that make up for these, and this overall makes this an average section, which rounds out a below-average film.

Conclusion

It’s difficult to see all this good production go to waste when films that have better plots have worse productions. This is the plague of independent Christian film: if one thing works, another thing doesn’t. The cause of this is obviously a lack of proper collaboration. The writers need to be the writers, and the directors need to be the directors. Until creative-minded Christians lay down their differences and begin working together more, nothing much will change, unfortunately.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Summer of ’67 (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In the years of the Vietnam War, families faced many different unique challenges posed by the international conflict.  Milly and Gerald have recently been married, but they have been forced to live with Gerald’s eccentric mother due to financial challenges.  Milly’s sister Kate is torn between the pro-war and anti-war efforts due to her mother’s past suicide.  When Gerald and Kate’s on-and-off boyfriend Peter are called to the war front for various reasons, Milly and Kate must both live with Gerald’s eccentric mother Joanna as the world around them seems to be falling apart.  Together, they must rekindle the faith they were always taught in order to make it through.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Sharon and Fred Wilharm of Mainstreet Productions have always had a commitment to building authentic productions.  Summer of ’67 is no exception, as they demonstrate a clear attention to specific historical detail in the props, sets, and locations.  Video quality and camera work are also quite professional.  Audio quality is mostly fine as well, although the soundtrack can sometimes be too loud and somewhat out of place.  As they are still transitioning from making silent films, some adjustments like this can be expected.  Also, the editing can be a bit choppy at times, which can cause the story presentation to be confusing.  Overall, with just a few more tweaks, the Wilharms are very close to mastering professional productions, especially those in need of historical authenticity.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, as Mainstreet Productions used to only make silent films, the plot of Summer of ’67 is not really what it could be.  It comes off as a loose collection of ideas that need better synthesis and organization.  The good thing is that the story does unfold without narration, but some of the dialogue is slightly expository.  Outside of a few interesting conversations, unfortunately, the dialogue does not do enough to build the characters as people.  Some scenes are too short and not explained very well, and time seems to jump from one thing to the next without very clear coherency or organization.  Thus, a lot of the characters come off as shallow, even though they have potential, and a lot of story ideas seem unfinished.  While the ending is very interesting and realistic, the lead-up is not quite enough to hold the attention of the audience.  Overall, it’s clear that the Wilharms really care about trying to making great films; they are just not quite there yet in the plot department.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Another adjustment from making silent films is obviously going to be acting coaching.  While this cast is mostly fine and has a lot of potential, there are one too many scenes where the cast members don’t appear to know what they are doing.  Some of the acting is too stilted and robotic in both line and emotional delivery.  As a good note, this might be Mimi Sagadin’s best role, but she needed a bit more screen time than she was given.  On the whole, this section is mostly average.

Conclusion

We know that the Wilharms really do mean well in their films, and the historical authenticity of this production has great value.  It’s definitely going to be an adjustment to move from silent to non-silent films, so growing pains are to be expected.  However, since the Wilharms have always been committed to improving however they can, we believe that Summer of ’67 is something that can be built off of for future improvement.  Perhaps next time, if a more substantial plot is crafted, the next Mainstreet film could be Hall of Fame.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Samson [2018] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Samson was chosen to be a judge of Israel by Yahweh, but he did not always do as he was supposed to do.  He was anointed by God with superhuman strength when the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, but when he disobeyed, there were serious consequences.  God used Samson to deliver His people from the oppressive Philistines, and He used an imperfect man to accomplish His will in the most extraordinary ways.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

PureFlix has clearly come a long way since the abysmal production days of The Book of Esther and the half-hearted production of movies like Apostle Peter and the Last Supper.  This newer rendition of Samson boasts a surprisingly high production quality, which is manifested in gritty and realistic elements that are not afraid to make the characters get dirty.  Action scenes are filmed very well with good camera work.  Video quality is crisp, and sets, locations, and props are very well-constructed and culturally authentic.  The editing is also good, but this production is held back from being all that it could be by weird cuts and dramatic zooms that are reminiscent of Revelation Road and by very obvious CGI architectural shots.  However, on the whole, Samson is a huge step forward for PureFlix Bible productions.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Right off the bat, the plot of Samson is hamstrung by immediate and unwanted narration.  Accompanying this story crutch is a typically PureFlix ‘creative license’ that they give themselves to do whatever they want with historical narrative.  As this film was shamelessly pushed as a ‘Christian superhero’ flick, it is full of mostly mindless action scenes and is actually quite violent for a Bible film–even rivaling The Bible miniseries for gory content.  With so many battle scenes and bodies flying around, there is no room for character development as dialogue is instead used to fill time, dump information, and force the story along in the direction the writers wanted it to go in.  In molding the story however they wanted, the PureFlix collective whitewashed the obvious mistakes of Samson the historical figure and made this movie into some kind of romance-revenge plot.  However, in some ways, they made some interesting connections between the true events of Samson’s life, which keeps this section from being zero, but they took too much ‘creative license’ with historical fact to be acceptable.  Regardless, we have no idea who Samson is as a character due to massive time jumps, and the recurring villain character is beyond cheesy.  In the end, plot was basically tossed by the wayside in the making of this pandering film.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Somewhere out there, there is a Christian movie consultant who constantly advises film makers to cast BRITISH people as Middle Eastern characters.  Sure, Middle Eastern cast members can be somewhat difficult to find, but what is the idea behind casting people with such obviously culturally inauthentic accents?  I’m sure with this budget PureFlix could have found some authentic cast members.  This consistent problem aside, the acting of this film is mostly fine except for the overly dramatic moments and forced emotions that are apparent here.  Also, it goes without saying that PureFlix consulted with Timothy Chey on how to give PhilistIne characters the worst possible makeup jobs.  On the whole, this section is average.

Conclusion

What to do with another Bible film?  Samson fulfills the gritty category, and the production is fine, but the other categories are greatly lacking in what is needed.  With a budget this big, better cast members could have been employed and better screenwriters could have been retained.  Then again, it’s doubtful that PureFlix actually cares about making a truly quality film.  Samson was just another attempt at a cash grab–PureFlix adapts with the times as needed to do the bare minimum to get enough audiences to pay for a ticket.  Now most people have forgotten this film even happened.  Oh well.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Like Arrows: The Art of Parenting (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Charlie and Alice began their parenting journey sooner than they expected, but they quickly adapted to their new life as a family, even as their family continued to grow.  They encountered many different struggles and challenges as their family dynamic changed and expanded, but they always did their best to rely on wisdom from God in their parenting.  However, when they reached a breaking point one day, their wise friends invited them to a church conference that helped them fix all of their mistakes and begin building a lasting legacy!

 

Production Quality (2 points)

On the surface, Like Arrows has a decent enough production, which is no doubt due to the consultation of the Kendrick Brothers.  This is evident in good camera work, crisp video quality, and mostly fine sets, locations, and props.  Unfortunately, audio quality is quite up to par as many lines are difficult to discern; however, the soundtrack is mostly fine.  While most scenes are well-lit, there are some head-scratching moments of poor lighting with little to no explanation.  Further, it goes without saying that the major detractor of this production is the atrocious editing, which can mostly be blamed on the ridiculous amount of content that is shoved into this film.  On the whole, this production is fine and passable, but the issues with Like Arrows go much deeper.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This ‘movie’ was originally a collection of skit clips to accompany FamilyLife’s new curriculum called The Art of Parenting.  It’s painfully obvious that this choppy and rough presentation of random ideas was borne out of these beginnings.  What begins as a semi-interesting storyline quickly descends into a roller coaster of content that takes the viewer from one high point to the next at breakneck pace.  The audience is dropped into a moment in time to look at one spoon-fed issue that needs to be highlighted, and just as soon as the sequence began, it comes to a predictable conclusion as the audience is prepared to zoom forward in time to another ‘important’ tidbit from FamilyLife’s outdated worldview that needs to be included.  This wild ride wreaks havoc on any hope of character development as dialogue is stilted and programmed based on what the ministry needed to push to whoever may watch this mess.  This section is only saved from nothingness by a semi-effective final scene that has absolutely no build-up or justification due to the fact that nobody knows who the characters even are at that point even as more characters are constantly introduced.  Also, it goes without saying that the FamilyLife product placements are vomit-inducing.  Essentially, Kevin Peeples was saddled with the impossible task of trying to force a collection of worldview-heavy curriculum skits to be a continuous and understandable screenplay.  No one should have been expected to pull this off since, based on the content provided, the task was a losing one to begin with.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting of this ‘film’ is very uneven.  Alan Powell has had better performances, and a lot of the cast members seem lost and unsupported by coaching.  However, it’s not like they had any good lines to work with in the first place.  Also, the sheet number of cast members required for the constantly changing ages (with the exception of the parents) causes a lot of confusion and extra work for directing.  Once the parent cast members are finally changed (there is a point when they seem like the same age as their adult children) and once other professional cast members are brought on (Alex Kendrick, Garry Nation, etc.), the acting actually improves for the final sequence.  However, it’s simply not enough to save this film from itself.

Conclusion

Space does not permit a full discussion on the myriad issues actually present in this film, including the mindless and patronizing treatment of women (what do you expect?), the trippy ‘futuristic’ elements in the final sequence, and the general lack of regard for understanding the struggles of real people.  This film claims to show real people doing real things, but it actually demonstrates just how far out of touch FamilyLife really is.  Did I mention how horrible their product placements are?  Implying that a family is totally fixed by going to your conference and buying your merchandise is the height of arrogance and is extremely tone-deaf.  Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that this film will make any lasting impact.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Extraordinary [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

No Lost Cause (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After BethAnn is the victim of a car wreck, she is left paralyzed and angry at the world.  She feels like God hates her, and she definitely does not want to go live with her Christian father.  She is also angry that she is now behind in school.  BethAnn feels like her life has no meaning, but her father and his farm hand help her see otherwise.  Only when BethAnn is able to forgive the man who put her in the wheelchair will she be able to move to a new place in life.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, No Lost Cause has a mostly average production.  This is evident in the fine video quality, yet the camera work and audio quality are inconsistent, including a generic soundtrack and some echoing audio.  Sets, props, and locations are somewhat limited to a few options.  However, there is improvement to these issues as the film goes on.  Editing is fairly standard, which overall rounds out an overall average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While this film is an interesting attempt to develop realistic characters with realistic struggles, it definitely does not go deep enough.  Dialogue stays around the surface rather than showing character motives, back stories, and personalities.  The premise is also somewhat limited and needed deeper characters to sustain it.  This is a nice idea with a slight amount of potential, but it needed definite upgrading.  Also, the romantic subplot is too predictable and shallow.  The characters arcs that are created are far too steep and suggest that being a good person will automatically heal you of physical ailments.  Further, the ending and resolution of problems are too rushed and unrealistic.  Thus, this idea could really use a rewrite.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While there are some moments of over-acting, including some forced emotions and lines, most of the members of this small cast are trying to be realistic and interesting in their characters, even if they didn’t have much to work with.  There are some awkward moments and a few random outbursts, but on the whole, this is an above average effort.

Conclusion

No Lost Cause is a good first-time film as it keeps things simple and doesn’t try to go too far outside of its bounds.  Even still, since this is a character-driven plot, it would have been much better to see deeper characters through more substantial dialogue and clearer character motivations.  However, perhaps this creative team still has better things in store.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Come Follow Me [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jesus called Peter to follow Him, Peter never thought he would experience what he experienced.  Jesus called Peter to follow Him no matter what, but Peter faltered at the darkest hour of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Peter could not understand why Jesus was allowing Himself to be overpowered by evil, so he took matters into his own hands and found himself fallen away was Jesus was taken captive.  However, Jesus gave Peter a second chance after His Resurrection and led Peter to change the world for the sake of Christ.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a short film with a loose association to The Visual Bible, Come Follow Me is almost an afterthought, even though the production is mostly good.  Video quality, camera work, and audio are all on par with what they should be, even if the soundtrack is a bit odd a times.  There are some random bouts of odd lighting, but the sets, locations, and props demonstrate a lot of attempts at authenticity.  There are also some intermittent sequences of slow motion, and the editing is somewhat choppy, but on the whole, this production is good enough to be above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Although Come Follow Me is not a word-for-word rendition of the story, there is still unnecessary narration presented.  However, not being tied to the word-for-word model helps to develop the characters better, even though they could still use some deepening through more substantial dialogue.  It is good to see a portrayal of different aspects of familiar stories, even if some parts are overly dramatic.  As previously mentioned, this short version of the story of Peter is a bit rushed as it comes off as choppy and even flat at times.  It tends to only hit the high points, even though this could have been a feature length film, as there is plenty of Peter content to work with in the historical accounts.  Thus, this section can’t warrant very many points.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Unlike his original performances in The Visual Bible, Bruce Marchiano shows his darkly dramatic side in Come Follow Me, which is off-putting.  Other cast members also tend to be too dramatic and theatrical in their performances.  On the bright side, costuming is fine, and there are some attempts at cultural authenticity, even though this is not consistent throughout.  In the end, however, this film comes off a mediocre and forgettable.

Conclusion

There was a lot of untapped potential left at the table when it came to this film.  There are plenty of Peter movies on the market, but we could use one that truly captures Peter as a real person who can be related to by many.  The Bible and other historical accounts have plenty of content on Peter to use, so it’s up to a responsible film maker to use them well.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Carpenter’s Miracle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Though John Camdenis is just an average carpenter who doesn’t think much of himself, when his touch appears to bring a dead boy back from the dead, the small town he lives in immediately becomes ground zero for media attention and controversy.  He appears to perform more miracles, but he has no idea what to do with his newfound abilities.  John wants to go back to the way things were, but now it’s no turning back for him or the boy who came back to life.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though this is a made-for-TV production from UP, there are some surprising production errors here.  While video quality is fine, there is a high amount of shaky camera work throughout this film, probably for dramatic effect.  However, it doesn’t come off right.  There are also some awkward camera angles that give off a feel of the camera being moved around manually.  Nonetheless, there is a lot of great attention to detail when it comes to sets, locations, and props, especially the medical elements.  The soundtrack is also very interesting, as the audio quality is also good.  Finally, the editing is mostly fine, and overall, this production is above average, despite the odd oversights.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

At first, the plot of The Carpenter’s Miracle is hard to understand, but it doesn’t get much better from there.  The plot is presented in a very confusing fashion, and it is very unclear what is meant to be learned from this story.  It is only very vaguely Christian as the underlying message is mostly unknown, except for several obvious Easter themes.  Sometimes it seems like the story is hiding some great secret from you, but no clarity is ever offered.  Is the main character supposed to be Jesus or not?  Did he perform miracle or get involved in coincidences?  Besides these unanswered questions, the characters are too one-dimensional due to stilted and under-developed dialogue.  Furthermore, the ending is very head-scratching, thus completing a very unusual experience of a film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast tends to be professional and mostly means well, there are a handful of awkward moments, especially in the beginning.  However, there is a lot of potential here, and the acting overall improves as the film goes on.  Emotional delivery is particularly believable and realistic.  In the end, however, this punctuates a unique experience that is difficult to quantify.

Conclusion

One can understand why UP would want to make another made-for-TV film to tap into a Christian audience, but this is an unusual choice.  Why not make the message more obviously Christian or at least try to offer some clarity as to what the underlying point of this story is?  Instead, we are left with more questions than answers, yet many people probably won’t ever know this film exists.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Saving the Tin Man (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Waterproof [2000] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Eli Zeal is just minding his own business as a convenience store owner when Thaniel Battle, a kid mixed up with the wrong crowd accidentally shoots Eli in an armed robbery.  This prompts his mother, Tyree Battle, to take Eli and her son back to her hometown to escape trouble with the law.  Basically a hostage, Eli meets Tyree’s eccentric family in a backwards small town, who try to heal his wound using their own sort of medicine.  Will Eli ever be able to escape the crazy house he’s stuck in?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As an early 2000s\late 1990s production, Waterproof tends to have an air of looking archaic most of the time.  This mostly pertains to the odd video quality, even though camera work is professional.  Audio quality is okay except for the loud soundtrack and some random background noises.  For the most part, sets, locations, and props are realistic, thus making for authentic historical surroundings.  The editing is fairly good throughout, and other elements show improvement as the film goes on.  In the end, this is an average production, which is pretty good for the time frame.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, Waterproof begins in a very odd manner, with a very eccentric tone and premise that dominates nearly three-fourths of the film.  The circumstances presented are almost unrealistic as they come off as cobbled-together and forced.  This story is mostly a return-to-hometown plot combined with a prodigal plot, only it comes with extremely off-the-wall characters that are trying too hard to provide comic relief.  Sometimes the story comes off as downright crazy as it is quite hard to take seriously.  For the first half of the film, it tends to meander along with no real purpose, and then near the end, it suddenly produces a profound message that is tied to an important character backstory.  However, for most audiences, this gem will be too late into the movie for it to be found due to the unusual beginning.  On the whole, it is very difficult to understand the true meaning of this story, apart from the good ending.

Acting Quality (2 points)

With professional cast members, this cast is mostly fine, even though some actors and actresses tend to be a bit forceful and stilted with their line delivery and emotions.  Other cast members are being purposely eccentric to fit their characters, but I guess they didn’t have a choice.  In the end, this is an above-average acting job that makes the film at least half-palatable.

Conclusion

It is hard to know or understand what this movie was actually going for.  Was this intended to be a satire?  If it was meant to be realistic, the eccentricities needed to be packaged a little differently.  It seems like there were many different and better ways the important message at the end could have been presented.  We may never know what was meant by this film, but perhaps someone can make an improved version of it one day.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Heavens to Betsy [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Note III: Notes From the Heart Healer (Movie Review)

For some reason, we needed another one of these

Plot Summary

After famous feel-good columnists Peyton MacGruder and Kingston Danville get married, they are suddenly the new parents of a child who was left on their doorstep by a young and desperate mother.  Unsure of what to do, they turn to the authorities and accidentally get the struggling mother in trouble.  Peyton than feels bad about what she did and tries to rectify it.  Will she be able to save this hurting family before they hate her forever and ruin her reputation as a columnist?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Much like the other installments of this unnecessary series, The Note III is a very standard Hallmark production with no surprises or deviations.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are all what you can expect from a made for television film.  The soundtrack is what you can expect from a Hallmark movie.  Sets, locations, and props are fine.  The only small issue to raise here is the slightly choppy editing, but that comes with this territory.  On the whole, this is a fine production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s beyond asking the question as to why we needed another one of these lame rip-off sequels, but does it really matter?  The Christian message, whatever there was before, diminishes throughout this series until it’s unrecognizable in this third film.  At this point, it’s impossible to understand how these plastic ideas even relate to the original Angela Hunt novel or why these stories are put in this trilogy.  They could have been shoved into any Hallmark movie on the assembly line, and they probably actually were.  Note From the Heart Healer is a cheesy, cliched story with basically no purpose or direction.  The characters are fake and plastic, mostly due to manufactured and uninteresting dialogue.  If it seems like this review has been put on repeat, it’s because Hallmark pushed repeat and replicate on this inept trilogy.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As previously mentioned in the other reviews, Ted McGinley is unbearable and ruins whatever cast he is in.  This cast tends toward the more modern plastic cast that Hallmark favors these days, but at least they are not all bad.  Emotions are inconsistent, depending on the cast member.  The same can be said for line delivery, which makes this an average section.

Conclusion

Hallmark is Hallmark, plain and simple.  They take an idea and run with it.  Sometimes they run it into the ground and even twist it, especially if a Christian novel is in the mix.  Creativity isn’t even an option as an idea is ripped off and #Hallmarked.  Thus, as this trilogy thankfully comes to a close, there’s nothing else that can really be said here.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Theory of Everything [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Doug Holloway’s charter plane business is struggling, and his marriage is strained by busyness.  On top of all of this, he receives word that his biological father is having medical complications and may be ruled psychologically incompetent.  When Doug arrives at his father’s house, he discovers that he is half-crazy and is obsessed with solving his theory of the universe before he dies so that he can know whether or not God exists.   Will he find out before it’s too late for him?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Theory of Everything begins as a very rough production, including some unusually crazy camera work and strangely poor lighting.  There are also some odd sound effects and an odd soundtrack.  Another strange element is the unusual use of overlaid and disorienting audio throughout.  This goes without mentioning the wild cuts and transitions that make for a confusing experience.  However, the good thing is that there is production improvement throughout, even though it has a lot of strange elements in the beginning.  These factors are hard to overlook, but at least the production becomes more palatable as it goes on.  Ultimately, it is an average production that needs some further work.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The best thing you can say for this plot is that it is trying to be different.  However, in doing so, it is too confusing.  It includes random Christmas elements and a lot of other random ideas that need severe organization.  At times, there are far too many things going on at once.  Thus, the story tends to lack focus and overall purpose.  The characters begin flat, but they do become more realistic as the story finds a better focus in the second half.  For the most part, dialogue is fine.  However, despite the improvement near the end, things become too rushed, which is a product of the whirlwind beginning.  In the end, it comes off as an incomplete idea in need of some serious direction and reorganization.  While this was a creative idea, unfortunately, it needs a major rewrite in order to become understandable.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Like the other elements of this film, the acting begins a bit raw and under-coached, yet it shows definite improvement as it goes on.  The cast members settle into their roles better as the movie progresses, even though there are some annoying arguing sequences.  Yet for the most part, emotions are realistic and line delivery is on point, thus rounding out an above average section.

Conclusion

Regardless, this film cannot shake its rocky start, and it thus falls short of what it could be.  However, these ideas are good enough to be used in a different context, with better production quality and a more organized storyline.  Thus, The Theory of Everything joins the ranks of films that are almost there and are thus in need a remake or a redo.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Christmas on Salvation Street (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After his wife dies, Noah Davis decides to accept the invitation of a friend to become the pastor of a California street mission that serves the poor.  One of his daughter objects to the idea, while the other one goes along with whatever he says.  While in the urban areas of southern California, the Davis family ministers to the forgotten and the lost and finds themselves in some harrowing situations with a local gang and some foster kids.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the production of Christmas on Salvation Street is average.  Video quality is good, but audio quality is inconsistent since it is sometimes too loud and sometimes has too many echoes.  Camera work is also good, but there are some cheap looking sets and limited locations.  However, there is improvement in these areas throughout the film.  The editing is also fine except for one too many montages and reused scenes.  On the whole, as previously mentioned, this production is average and definitely has some room for improvement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

At first, the story behind this movie is an interesting idea, but it is seemingly too vague at first.  It is difficult to understand the motivations of the characters as the plot tends to meander with no real focus.  The dialogue also tends to be a bit pedestrian.  Most of the time, Christmas on Salvation Street seems more like the installment of an already-existing series or the beginning of one rather than a standalone film.  While sometimes it is unserious, it is clear that the writers meant well with this film, even if the idea is incomplete.  It’s also hard to see how this needed to be a Christmas film, and things tend to be too easily fixed in the end.  But at least there was an effort here to make it somewhat interesting.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Sometimes the cast members can be a bit too enthusiastic about their lines and emotions, but they settle in as the film progresses.  As time goes on, the cast members become more natural in their roles.  Emotions and lines, for the most part, are delivered effectively, which rounds out a nearly average film.

Conclusion

Films like Christmas on Salvation Street are problematic because they show potential to do more than actually deliver on.  Movies like this do not dwell in the basement of Christian film, but they are not in the top group either.  There are a lot of movies like this that don’t quite go the distance, but perhaps one day, their creators will break through and change the film world with more quality movies.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Joseph and Mary (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Joseph was tasked with being the earthly father of Jesus, the Messiah, while Mary was chosen to be the biological mother of the Savior.  However, they were just ordinary people who wanted to follow what the Lord wanted for them.  They watched as Jesus grew up before their eyes, and they were also apparently preoccupied with the life of a random rabbi who was their friend.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a new Bible production, Joseph and Mary is mostly respectable.  It’s clear that care was given to the authenticity of the production, even though the sets are somewhat limited and reused a lot.  Nevertheless, props are appropriate, and the outdoor locations are great.  This film checks all the typical boxes of good video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is adequate.  The only other problem to raise is the choppy editing that poorly handles the large amount of content in this movie.  But in the end, John Patus and the others at Leif Films are definitely improving over the years.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

So you want to make a movie about Joseph and Mary, yet you decide to use at least half of the runtime depicting an otherwise interesting story about a fictional rabbi who shadowed Jesus in the Lord’s early years.  This is a fine idea, but why not make the movie primarily about the rabbi?  Joseph and Mary are almost supporting characters in this story.  There is also unnecessary narration that hurts character development.  The healthy construction of the characters is also hindered by the rapid passage of time that follows the same characters as they keep meeting in the same places over several time periods.  There is also a tendency to hit the high points of the story rather than to settle down and let us get to know them as people.  The stoic and overly formal dialogue certainly does not help.  However, this film is an interesting perspective on the early years of Jesus through the eyes of a flawed and accessible character that is not Joseph or Mary.  Yet this good idea is somewhat soured by the strange ending sequence that leaves the audience wandering what this movie is supposed to teach us.  In the end, the Leif Films team is usually closed to good things, as evidenced in The Apostle Peter: Redemption, but they can’t seem to get there.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, there is not much good to say about the acting of this film.  For one thing, it is very poorly cast and lacks authentic cultural cast members.  Kevin Sorbo, a generic white guy, really has no business playing Joseph, besides the fact that he is awkward in this film.  Rather than being too BRITISH, this cast is too American.  The costuming is also somewhat cheesy, yet there are a handful of good moments that keep this section from being nothing.

Conclusion

Bible films are almost always problematic.  If the production isn’t a problem, it’s the casting.  If not that, then the plot suffers.  There are so many variables that have to be aligned in a Biblical film; after all, they are historical accounts.  Thus, they needed to be treated with more care.  We can’t have any more of these Bible plays coming out because even Christian audiences are getting tired of that.  We need dynamic authenticity, but perhaps the Leif Films team will keep trying and find the mark one day.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Christmas For a Dollar (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In the middle of the Great Depression, the Kamp family is struggling to get by, but Mr. Kamp won’t let his older children get jobs.  Norman, the crippled brother, wants to see a horse owned by a local grumpy rich woman.  All the schoolchildren want to win a special box from the teacher for doing the most good deeds, even though they are all sure the local bullies are cheating in the contest.  Will they be able to have an enjoyable Christmas together?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As is the case for most of John Lyde’s productions, Christmas for a Dollar is respectable and above average.  This includes good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is a bit generic, but it’s fine.  Sometimes the sets, props, and locations are limited, but they are mostly good.  Also, the editing lags at times, but on the whole, every part of this production shows good effort, which is all we can ask for, especially considering the resources available.  John Lyde is consistent in rolling out good productions.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, also like other films from John Lyde and his team, the plot is this movie is fairly limited in its scope and tends to lack overall purpose.  While the characters show some realism and honesty, it’s hard to know where the story is going since there are several different rabbit trails it follows without really discovering a driving or underlying theme.  The characters could have been something, but some of the awkward dialogue holds them back.  Like other movies from this creative team, Christmas for a Dollar contains a lot of nice ideas that don’t come to full fruition.  This story needed a bit more work before going to production.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite the unrealistic costuming, this cast was definitely trying.  They overcame a rough start of awkward and forced lines and emotions to improve throughout the latter half of the film.  They seem like they are receiving some good coaching most of the time and really seem like they care about their roles.  This is more than can be said of most casts.

Conclusion

John Lyde and his creative team certainly care about their movies: this much is evident.  However, too often, their ideas get lost in translation and do not fully come through.  Films like this one tend to come off as nice little kids’ movies with no mass appeal outside of a small audience.  It’s a shame, because it seems like they could go further a lot of the time with their ideas.  Maybe one day soon they will finally break through to the next level, because they certainly have the ability to do so.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Silver Bells [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Bruce Dalt is obsessed with his job as a local sports anchor.  He is also obsessed with his son getting a good basketball scholarship.  However, he lets his emotions get the best of him when he gets angry at a referee who made a call on his son, Bruce finds himself in the middle of a public relations nightmare.  His media employer determines that he needs to complete community service before he can come back to his job.  Thus, Bruce is stuck ringing a Christmas bell for the Salvation Army.  Will he be able to learn the true meaning of Christmas?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Silver Bells is a typically professional PureFlix and UP production collaboration.  As such, there are few errors to note here.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit too holiday-ish, but it’s fine.  Sets, locations, and props are also fine, albeit filled with Christmas stuff.  There are also a lot of Salvation Army ‘product placements,’ but at least this is a good ministry to promote.  Finally, there are some small editing issues to note, but on the whole, this is a model production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, despite the influence of Andrea Nasfell, this plot suffers from a bout of forced comedy and cardboard cutout characters, including a stereotypical over the top holiday-hating character that is forced to like Christmas throughout the course of the film.  Also, the holiday-hating character constantly reminds the audience of his unexplained cold attitude towards Christmas.  Thus, the Christian message is quite cheap.  There is unfortunately nothing truly creative in this plot as it seems like it was manufactured in a Christmas plot factory.  Any issues raised are too easily resolved, and even though the Salvation Army has some great causes, it’s not enough to save this story from itself.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Mostly, the lead cast members trying too hard to convince the audience of who their characters are, much like many PureFlix movies.  In doing so, they come off as very disingenuous and plastic.  However, there are plenty of good moments from the supporting cast members that help this section from being nothing.  Emotions are overall average throughout, thus rounding out a nearly-average film.

Conclusion

Films like this one can’t help but be seen as just one made on the assembly line of holiday inspirational films.  If you’re going to reuse an old plot concept, at least make it was accessible and believable characters that audiences can relate to.  As it is, Silver Bells just seems like it’s trying to check the boxes so it can be a packaged made-for-television film.  We need more creativity than this, but the good thing is that Andrea Nasfell has shown that she has the ability to do this when she is supported properly.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Carman: The Champion (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Orlando Leone is not in good health, but after inheriting his father’s gym, he finds himself with mounting debt and not enough income to cover his bills.  His only choice is to re-enter the boxing scene and win a high-stakes prize fight in order to earn the money he needs to save the gym.  However, the fight will be against his gravest rival.  Will Orlando’s medical condition keep him from being the hero?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For an early 2000s film, Carman’s self-titled ego trip is not a bad production all around.  This means, as usual, that video quality and camera work are good, even in the sports action scenes.  Audio quality is adequate, even though there are some minor background noise issues and the soundtrack is sometimes too loud.  Yet there are plenty of good sets, locations, and props, especially pertaining to the sports elements.  However, there are also some editing concerns, mostly pertaining to the sports montages and the slightly choppy presentation.  But on the whole, this is an acceptable, above-average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While there is some potential in this story, mostly pertaining to the realistic circumstances portrayed in this plot, there are also a lot of formulaic elements here.  This film is basically your average sports redemption arc combined with a predictable save the farm with an impossible sports feat subtext, mixed with a dash of the medical complications subplot.  Thus, the characters are too shallow as they mainly function as pawns in the plot’s circumstances that are inevitable regardless of what they do.  Things happen because they need to and mostly consist of typical scenes and sports montages, as previously mentioned.  The romantic subplot is cheesy and rushed and the villain is a strawman.  There are also some unnecessarily edgy elements just because.  Basically, while this was a nice try, it’s not good enough.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite Carman being a lead in this film and putting a damper on things, the other cast members aren’t really half bad in this film.  However, there are moments of emotion that are too dramatic and forced.  The villain cast member is basically annoying.  On the while, this is just one of those films that has good elements but is mostly forgettable.

Conclusion

Carman the Champion was a part of an early 2000s push from Trinity Broadcasting Network and others to bring a diverse collection of Christian films to the big screen, but the effort was not entirely successful.  While this movie was sort of the first of its kind in Christian circles, replicating the basic Rocky plot using Carman isn’t really worth doing.  Christians should be more creative than this, so maybe future film makers can take cues from this.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Jeremiah [1998] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeremiah grew up in the reign of Josiah, the last golden era for Judah as a nation.  As a young boy, God called him to be a prophet; however, he did not always accept this call.  As he grew, he knew he was destined to be a Levitical priest, but God gave him a message to tell the people that no one wanted to hear.  Jeremiah was persecuted for what he had to share and suffered terribly as Jerusalem’s days were numbered by the Babylonian siege.  Yet through it all, God was with him as he carried out the Word of the Lord.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a late 1990s production, Jeremiah has plenty of good elements.  Affirm Films’ older Bible movies were certainly not perfect, but they definitely showed good effort.  The biggest plus to this production pertains to the excellent sets, locations, and props, which all demonstrate historical authenticity and great attention to detail.  Video quality and audio quality are also what they should be, including an effective soundtrack.  However, there are some drawbacks to point out, such as weird lighting in some scenes for dramatic effect, quick and rapid time jumps, fast cuts and transitions.  Thus, this production is overall average, but this is very good considering the time period.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Like too many other Bible movies like it, such as Affirm’s rendition of Esther, Jeremiah tends to portray Biblical characters in a too lofty fashion through the use of odd and cumbersome dialogue styles.  It would be nice if Biblical characters were not so inaccessible and theater-like.  But nevertheless, this is an interesting and noteworthy portrayal of a different Biblical account that often goes unnoticed.  It’s refreshing to see a different story, but at the same time, it is frustrating to watch because it had such potential that was wasted.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Much like the cumbersome dialogue, too often in this film, the cast members use weird, archaic annunciation, like this is a 1970s or older Bible film.  In a similar vein, a lot of the acting is too dramatic and theatrical at times, and too much of the line delivery is breathy.  While some cast members are culturally authentic, others are not, including several British people.  Yet there are plenty of good moments here and some cast members tend to improve throughout.  In the end, this rounds out a nearly average film.

Conclusion

It would be great to see this idea remade because it is a very interesting story that deserves to be portrayed.  Yet this movie can also serve as an example of how not to portray Biblical characters.  Audiences want to see people they can relate to, not lofty characters in a play.  The Bible needs to be brought to life in authentic and even gritty ways because it’s real life and deserves to be portrayed that way.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 pointsj

 

Scattered [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a group of friends gathers at a mutual friend’s house to celebrate her graduation from law school and upcoming bar exam, none of them could have anticipated or predicted what would happen to them that night.  Some of them are frustrated that their old friend has become a Christian and refuses to get high with them, so they decide to have their own ‘party’ secretly in her house.  However, what they do not know is that supernatural forces beyond their control are at work and they will be taken for the psychological ride of their lives—whether they want to or not.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Much like The Basement, Scattered begins with very poor production quality, including too many tight, awkward camera angles and too much shaking camera work for dramatic effects.  Though video and audio quality are relatively stable throughout, there is really only one set in this film with no outside locations except for within flashbacks.  Props are mostly fine throughout, but there are some cheesy ‘horror’ special effects that really need to be eliminated.  There are also too many choppy cuts and transitions, as well as a lot of disorienting editing to try to add to the psychological effect.  However, relatively halfway through the film, a switch if flipped and it suddenly becomes a respectable production.  Thus, it ends up average in the end, but that is not all that changes throughout this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Scattered begins as annoying as The Basement was throughout, including a lot of stupid and mindless dialogue that makes non-Christian characters very bad and Christian characters too good.  It’s also hard to keep up with all the characters at first as the first half of the plot really has no coherent thought or direction.  However, it is clear that the first half is trying to kick the can down the road to get to the big twist this movie hinges upon, however, this is not done in a very good fashion.  The tone and premise of the first half is very strange and off-putting, including ridiculous horror elements.  Though this part drags on way too long due to wasted, pointless conversations and empty scenes, the middle of the story totally flips the script and suddenly becomes the best Christian horror plot written to date.  Flashbacks are used very effectively to suddenly build the characters into real people and the ‘horror’ elements become justified and actually realistic.  The plot is not afraid to take on realistic gritty issues that people endure and suddenly makes its characters more gray rather than so black and white.  Thus, the ending is interesting and actually makes one want to see more.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the other elements of the film, the acting is quite bad at first.  The makeup is a standout problem in the beginning.  A lot of the cast members are trying way too hard at first, including forceful line delivery and wooden emotions.  However, even these issues demonstrate improvement as things completely change in the middle of the film.  The difference between the two halves is so stark that one has to wonder if the creative team completely changed in the middle.

Conclusion

Scattered bears a strong resemblance to Pendragon as a rare film that changes and improves throughout and is actually sustained by a strong and unique plot idea.  Yet the question still remains: since they showed they could improve, would it really have been that hard to go back and fix the beginning?  Sure, it would have taken more time, but think of the impact this film could have had.  This is likely the only good Christian horror concept on the market right now, and it most definitely needs to be reused in some way.  After the debacle of The Basement and the first half of this film, it seemed like JCL Production was just another failed venture, but with the total turnaround in Scattered, they have demonstrated that there is more to them than meets the eye.  Thus, it will be very interesting see what they can come up with next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Fix it Boys (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Ultimate Redemption (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeff Warner is now a street pastor, but he wasn’t always that way.  He grew up in an abusive home and found solace in being able to hustle people on the streets.  He became involved with dangerous gangs and eventually entered the wrestling scene to make some extra cash.  However, the sport soon consumes him and his family.  Only because of the prayers of his wife does Jeff ever find the redemption he always needed, so he can in turn help others find the same.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though it’s clear that the team behind this film meant well, it’s also clear that they definitely had low funding for it.  This is evident in the random nature of the production.  It has some good elements and showed slight improvement throughout.  However, lighting is too inconsistent throughout, as is the video quality.  Audio quality is fine even though it is sometimes too loud, and the soundtrack is average.  Some portions of the film are randomly black and white or sepia for no particular reason.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly realistic.  The editing is slightly confusing, but it is mostly okay.  That really tells the tale of this production: mostly okay.  They really did mean well in making this, I believe, but they might should have waited for better funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The true story behind this film was definitely worth telling, but the full arc of redemption is blunted by the flat presentation.  Though characters and the circumstances they endure are realistic and believable, they still need some more development and deepening through more meaningful dialogue.  There is not enough focus in the plot as it is quite disorganized.  What the writers are going for here can be seen somewhat, but the impact of what they are trying to do is not as much as it could be due to some rookie plot-writing mistakes.  However, there is definitely potential here that hopefully will be used in even better ways in the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

It’s interesting to have the main character played by the real person.  Though this cast is amateurish and somewhat inexperienced, they are clearly trying to post good acting performances.  Though there are some lagging issues with forced emotions and some unsure line delivery, this cast is mostly good and demonstrate a lot of potential for the future.

Conclusion

Sometimes it’s better to wait for more funding, but other times you just have to get your movie out there to start somewhere.  This is a hard call to make and there is a balance somewhere in between to be found.  Yet sometimes better funding only comes by putting yourself out there.  Ultimately, you have to do what you feel like God wants you to do with your film.  Films like Ultimate Redemption join a long list of Christian movies that are close to being great and show potential for the future.  The question is, which ones of these will rise up and make a movie that improves upon what they already have.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Redemption Way (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Pawn’s Move (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jimmy unexpectedly inherits the secretly wealthy estate of his eccentric antique-collecting mentor, he doesn’t quite know what to do with it.  Therefore, in order to escape from people who only want him for his money, he decides to take a trip to the small town where his mentor grew up so he can sort things out.  But what he finds there is unexpected and reveals a side of himself he never thought he had.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a first-time, limited-funding production, Pawn’s Move is raw and honest.  Camera work is mostly good, as is video quality.  However, lighting is sometimes inconsistent and audio quality tends to pick up a lot of background noises.  Yet the soundtrack is okay.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and authentic, even if they are a bit limited.  Finally, the editing also needs some improvement, even though it shows plenty of potential.  In the end, this is an average and honest production that definitely showed potential for the future, as we saw in The Matchbreaker.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Much like their second film, the Vetter Brothers’ freshman effort Pawn’s Move is artistic and creative.  It utilizes quirky yet believable characters in a muted romantic comedy setting.  Yet despite the huge amount of potential here, this story is severely underdeveloped and understated.  The characters are accessible, yet they need more exploration.  Comedy is subtle, and sometimes too subtle.  Overall, there are too many random ideas floating around in this plot that need better organization, but it was a great start that led to better things.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this amateur cast is somewhat awkward, they are definitely trying.  Sometimes it seems like they need a little more direction than they are being given.  They would have definitely benefitted from upgraded coaching, especially when it came to emotional expression.  Yet nonetheless, like the rest of this film, it showed promise for the future.

Conclusion

There are few film makers that can pull off comedy properly because true comedy requires an understanding of flawed and human characters, as well as superb dialogue.  While Pawn’s Move does not necessarily fully meet these requirements, it is still a step in the right direction.  All film makers, even the best, sometimes have meager beginnings, so the important thing is to keep moving forward and to keep trying to improve.  The ones who do this are set apart from the rest and make a real difference.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Andy’s Rainbow (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Rayne is caught shoplifting, she is given the choice between juvenile detention and community service.  She opts for community service and is assigned to a local home for special needs teenagers who have nowhere else to go.  She is immediately befriended by a resident named Andy, much to her chagrin, who constantly shows an interest in her as a person, something no one has ever done before, especially her drunk father.  Will Rayne’s walls come down and will she learn to love another person?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It’s clear that the effort that went into this film was honest and caring.  The budget was likely limited in this effort, however, which keeps the production from being all that it could be.  Video quality is fine, as is camera work.  Yet there are some minor audio issues, although the soundtrack is fine.  Sets and locations are somewhat limited and are sometimes oddly lit, but they are mostly realistic.  There are some odd special effects throughout, but they really appear to be trying.  Editing is just average but is better than most films.  Overall, this is an applaudable effort that will hopefully yield better results down the road.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though this story is quite simplistic and linear, it’s an honest look at real people and is a realistic portrayal of people and the struggles they endure.  Special needs people are given a good platform and character backstories are believable and demonstrate and connection to the real world.  Thus, character development is mostly good, even if the dialogue isn’t as creative as it could be at times.  The writers definitely meant well with this plot, yet it needs a little more development and complexity to be dynamic.  The ending is very touching and shows that this creative team isn’t afraid to take risks.  It will be interesting see what they write up in future projects.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a semi-amateurish cast, they post some good performances.  However, there are some forced emotions and line delivery throughout.  Yet like the rest of this film, it seems like they mean well and have a general grasp on what they are doing.  Some upgraded coaching would make them dynamic.

Conclusion

Andy’s Rainbow is another one of those low-budget first-time films that desperately needs a remake because it presents realistic and honest characters that the audience can connect with.  Yet the plot needs an upgrade, as does the acting coaching and the production.  With these minor changes, this creative will make a big difference in the Christian film world.  Hopefully they will be able to have the resources to make a better project soon.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Remember the Goal (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Courtney Smith-Donnelly, an inexperienced coach, is given the job as the new cross country coach at Orange Hills Christian Girls Private School, many parents are skeptical of her ‘unusual’ training methods.  She insists on not wearing the girls out, but the parents want a winning team.  Under the threat of being fired, Courtney pushes forward and encourages her girls to remember the goal no matter what.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

At least since they have been making films for nearly two decades, the Christiano brothers have learned how to craft a professional production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit silly at times, but outdoor locations and indoor sets are on market standard.  The only real issue to point out here is the slightly poor editing job, which manifests in too many sports montages.  But in the end, at least the production quality of this film is fine.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, after all these years, the Christiano brothers have not been able to figure out how to craft a plot that relates the real people and real circumstances.  They still demonstrate a trite and sometimes childish outlook on life, which includes a silly and plastic handling of otherwise important issues.  The characters are also extremely thin and one-dimensional due to mindless dialogue.  There is hardly any content in this plot except for sports sequences and lingo and there are a lot of disjointed subplots.  But perhaps the most memorable part of this plot—for all the wrong reasons—is the forced and confusing parallels between Christianity and cross-country, as well as the ridiculous persecution the main character undergoes for training her team in a supposedly controversial fashion.  This component dominates the film and is downright laughable, not to mention all of the quick fixes in this film.  Basically, there is still nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the Christianos mostly departed from their usual cast in his film, there are still issues here.  The lead actress is often overly practiced yet unsure of herself at the same time.  Other cast members are fine, but emotions often seem forced.  Overall, this is an average performance.

Conclusion

Remember the Goal is a departure for the Christianos in that they have finally allowed a female character to take a lead role in a plot that does not involve them being confined to the house.  Yet it still contains a lot of their typical shallow elements and their limited outlook on life and faith.  Unfortunately, they’re not going to improve until they learn how to relate to real people and stop thinking that everything is a persecution ploy.  But after all this time, why would they change?

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points