Two Weeks by Karen Kingsbury

Image result for two weeks karen kingsbury

Author’s Note: We were provided with an ARC of this novel in exchange for a  fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Karen Kingsbury’s newest novel in the acclaimed Baxter family series, titled Two Weeks, is coming out in early April next year. The novel tells the story of Ashley and Landon’s son Cole, and a young woman named Elise. Cole is just starting his senior year in high school, and has big plans to be a pre-med major at Liberty University by the next school year. Elise is a hurting young woman who has just moved to the area and is staying with her eccentric aunt and alcoholic uncle. Cole has a stable family life, good friends, and a strong faith in Christ. Elise has never known her father, and her mother has worked full-time – sometimes at multiple jobs – for as long as she can remember, leaving her little time to spend with Elise.
Elise’s dream is to be an artist – a dream her mother disapproves of. She doesn’t see how God could love her after the bad choices she has recently made. Cole has never been interested in dating and wants to wait to start a relationship towards the end of his college years. That changes on the first day of school. He finds himself drawn to Elise and her difficulties – a fact that soon leads him to more involvement than he bargained for. Elise soon spills her secrets to him – she just left an abusive relationship and thinks she could be pregnant – and both of them are left floundering. Cole seeks God for wisdom, while Elise retreats deeper inside herself. In the end, God orchestrates a divine plan that involves healing many hearts, and leading some back to Him. First, there are many positives to this novel. I was impressed at Kingsbury’s obvious growth as an author and at her apparent spiritual growth, which was reflected throughout the story. Her examples of God’s perfect plan for each person’s life are relatable and encouraging to the reader. Additionally, her characters’ commitment to prayer is the central theme of the novel. (spoiler) I also liked that Cole and Elise do not end up married. In comparison, the only flaws here are minor. First, the Baxter family theme is a bit repetitive at this point. Second, at times the novel lapses into the information-dump style of writing. However, these flaws are inconsistent at best, and do not majorly affect the plot. Therefore, Kingsbury earns an almost perfect score in this section.

Character Development (3 points)

Kingsbury’s commitment to character development is upheld in this novel. Cole and Elise’s characters are shaped by their past experiences, and both are realistic and have a clear purpose in the story. The secondary characters are also quite good because they add continuity and depth to the plot. Furthermore, Kingsbury does a good job of connecting her characters together without being cheesy or predictable. One special note here is that the characters are used to present the Biblical view of the unborn in a non-preachy and down-to-earth manner. The unexpected plot twist with one of the minor characters is also quite good. Additionally, the flaws here are few – a bit of melodrama and a few too many people with the same personality. Needless to say, Kingsbury earns just shy of a perfect score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

In conclusion, Kingsbury earns a full point in originality for writing a novel unlike any I have read from her before. She avoided most of her usual pitfalls and turned out a poignant and faith-based read that is sure to inspire many readers. For this reason, I feel that this novel could either be a part of the Baxter Family TV Series already in progress, or a standalone film. As a film, it could promote the Biblical view on life before birth as a drama/coming of age storyline. The casting would have to be on point, for the characters drive the plot. Good production quality is also a given, not to mention good continuity. In the hands of a proven or budding filmmaker, this could be a pro-life film to rival the famous October Baby. Great job Mrs. Kingsbury! I was pleasantly surprised by what Two Weeks has to offer.

Wish List Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

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Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

Mark of the Raven (The Ravenwood Saga Book #1) by [Busse, Morgan L.]

Author’s note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)

Morgan L. Busse has crafted an exciting and engaging storyline in this new novel that is character-driven and has much potential to be a fantasy TV series. Mark of the Raventells the intersecting stories of Selene and Damien. Selene is the heir to House Ravenwood, a fact that comes with more bad than good. Selene has inherited her mother’s ability to dream walk – to take the form of a raven (hence their family title) and enter the dreams of others at night, discover their fears, and manipulate these fears for their advantage. At first Selene is open to this ability because she feels it is her duty as the heir to uphold her family’s traditions. However, her willingness fades when she learns the ultimate goal of many dream walking missions is to kill the subject. Torn between duty and disgust at the darker side of her gift, Selene feels helpless to change her fate. Damien has experienced multiple tragedies in his young life. The death of his father and younger brother shook him internally, and he has never been the same since. Damien’s family has been gifted with the ability to control water – to create water walls that protect their village from invading naval forces. When Damien is called upon to use his gift for the first time on a mass scale, he is thrilled with the victory caused by his gift…until he sees the people he has unintentionally killed by protecting his village. When a meeting of the Great Houses draws Damien and Selene onto the same ground, Selene is intrigued by Damien’s devotion to the Light, as it is so different from her family’s commitment to the Dark Lady. Will Selene be forced to kill to uphold her family heritage? Will Damien trust that the Light will help him make wise choices when using his gift? To answer these questions, read the book!:) Busse’s obvious strength is her storylines, a fact that is reflected in this novel. I could find little wrong with this plot, and aside from a few editing errors and a hint of choppiness here and there, this is a nearly perfect storyline that puts many fantasy novels to shame.

Character Development (3 points)

In comparison, the characters in this novel are as strong as the plot. Selene is a multi-dimensional character who is well-developed and realistic. Her spiritual journey is relatable and downright poignant. In fact, Busse’s creatively subtle insertion of the Gospel message into this novel is the hallmark of the story. Damien is an equally good character, which is surprising when one considers his abrupt insertion into the plot. My only complaint regarding the characters are that he and Selene needed to be written in first person. The secondary characters are well-thought-out and intriguing, and are left unfinished for future novels in the series. Yet, a little more effort was needed here. Thankfully, the good outweighs the minor bad here.:)

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Lastly, Busse is also strong in the area of creativity and originality. She earns a full point in creativity for crafting a fantasy world and above average characters. Mark of the Raven, and hopefully the future novels in the saga, will make an excellent TV series. The plot is quite good as is; no alteration is needed by a screenwriter. They should instead spend their time on building on the character foundation Busse has laid, and honing the dialogue to attract both young, semi-young, and older audiences. To conclude, good job Ms. Busse. It is nice to see that there are still fantasy authors out there who care about quality Christian content! I look forward to reading and reviewing your next Ravenwood novel.

Wish List Rating: 7 out of 10 points

Jerusalem’s Queen by Angela Hunt

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Author’s Note: We were provided with an ARC of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)

Angela Hunt is back with Jerusalem’s Queen, the third installment in her The Silent Years series. Like the other books in the series, this new one is obviously well-researched and contains an abundance of historical facts. However, I wonder if this novel has a bit too much fact…and not enough fiction. Jerusalem’s Queen begins where Judah’s Wife left off, but quickly changes to a unique story of it’s own. Salome Alexandra is a lonely little girl with a scholar’s mind who has just lost her father and older sister Ketura in a tragic accident. Salome was always closer to her father than her mother, while Ketura was her mother’s pet. Now that her father has tragically died, Salome feels alone in the world. Just when things seem like they cannot possibly get worse, a rider arrives at their home announcing that a wealthy distant relative, who also happens to be the high priest, has accepted Salome and her mother as members of his household. When they arrive, they are shocked to find luxuries and comforts beyond anything they have ever known. Salome is given a Egyptian handmaid who quickly becomes her best friend and confidante. As she grows older, Salome quickly learns that a woman with an able mind and inquisitive spirit is frowned upon by the patriarchal society she lives in, and that her future… husband, friends, and social status…are to be determined by the high priest. After many years of waiting, he finally betroths her to one of his sons….who is many years her junior. Salome questions his judgement, but as one thing leads to another, she will find that HaShem has a divine plan in even the most unusual circumstances. On the whole, Hunt crafts an engaging and interesting story that displays God’s divine plan in the good and bad times of life. However, I have two negative observations regarding the plot and storyline quality. First, on several occasions the characters engage in dialogue that sounds more like a Biblical history/Torah lesson than casual interaction. Secondly, the first half of the book is fast-paced, while the second half is a bit too slow at times. Therefore, Hunt earns a just above average rating in this section for some plot inconsistency and moments of excessively academic dialogue.

Character Development (3 points)

In comparison, Hunt has always had strong character development, and this novel is no exceptional. Salome is masterfully crafted through the use of first person, and the reader is able to relate to her struggles and triumphs. Her handmaid, Kissa is also well-crafted and her parts in the story give meaning and depth to an otherwise basic tale. Furthermore, the secondary characters, such as Honi the rainmaker, add much to the plot.. Additionally, I appreciated Hunt’s accurate portrayal of dysfunctional family systems in this novel. The only flaw to point out here is that at times it is hard to keep up with all of the characters in this story. While they all have their purpose in the end, the reader will likely lose track of a few during some parts of the tale. However, this does not have a significantly negative impact on the character development, so Hunt earns an almost perfect score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, Hunt earns a full point in originality for writing about a Biblical character that no one has written about before, and for using her life to create an above average work of fiction. Hunt also earns a half point in creativity for bringing to light how Salome Alexandra’s life was a part of paving the way for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. Therefore, I feel that this book series would make an excellent Christian miniseries. All three women are in the line of Christ, so it would be easy for a screenwriter to subtly link their stories together for the sake of continuity. To conclude, good job Ms. Hunt! We here at BOR can’t wait to see what you do next!

Wish List Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

River to Redemption by Ann H. Gabhart

River to Redemption - By: Ann H. Gabhart

Author’s Note: We were provided with a review copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Ann Gabhart’s new novel River to Redemption is a captivating read with an inspiring central theme. I found it refreshing that the novel is awash with passages of Scripture and real-life applications of the same. While the novel isn’t perfect, it is obvious that Gabhart has the potential to go far. Adria Starr has just lost her parents and little brother the cholera epidemic of the 1830’s. She has nowhere to go and no hope for her future…until she is found by a man named Louis. Louis and his fellow slave Matilda have been caring for those affected by the sickness, and believe that God has kept them from getting sick for this purpose. Louis finds the sick and buries the dead, and Matilda tries her best to nurse the sick back to health. Thanks to Matilda’s loving care, Adria survives the illness and is taken in by the former schoolteacher’s wife, Ruth. Ruth has barely been able to accept the reality of her husband’s death when she agrees to care for the orphaned Adria. She deals with her grief by not dealing with it at all, she buries her emotions and focuses on providing for Adria’s needs…without becoming too attached to her. After all, she tells herself, I’m not her real mother. Ruth provides for herself and Adria by assuming her late husband’s position as the local schoolteacher, and by selling baked goods on the side. Fast-forward to the present, and Adria is a young woman caught between accepting a marriage proposal and living a life that goes against all of society’s expectations. Adria has always felt that the slave trade is unjust and should be stopped, but doesn’t know what to do about it. The more she learns about her suitor, the more she is inclined to avoid marrying the first man who asks and settling down…for good. When an opportunity to make Louis a free man arises, she jumps at the challenge. However, trying to free one slave from bondage will lead her to others in need. Is Adria up to the task of living an dangerous and unpredictable life? Is the cost of becoming an abolitionist worth the reward? To answer these questions, read the book! Gabhart crafted an engaging and meaningful storyline in this novel, and there are very few flaws. First, I felt that the novel’s ending was too predictable, and that Ruth’s eventual romance is unnecessary. Secondly, while the first half of the novel is a bit pedestrian, the second half is a bit rushed. However, these errors are small and easily overlooked. On a positive note, I like that Gabhart based this fictional tale of off real facts. Louis was a real person who made a difference in his hometown. The town in the novel is based off of this town, as are the people. Therefore, Gabhart earns an average score in this area because her strengths and flaws are present in equal amounts.

Character Development (3.5 points)

Gabhart’s strength is character development. She earns just shy of a perfect score in this section for creating well-rounded and relatable characters who are based off of real people. Adria is a strong protagonist whose passion and determination drive the plot. Ruth is a strong character because of her imperfections. Furthermore, her life struggles are neither overdramatic nor understated. Will is mostly well-crafted, however, because he enters the scene almost halfway through the novel, I feel that his character is a bit underdeveloped. Carlton is a bit of a straw man, but thankfully his scenes are few and far between. As previously stated, I feel that Ruth’s romance should have been left to chance and not forced to occur. In addition, sometimes it feels like Adria’s character is too perfect, while other times she is very down-to-earth. On the whole, with a few tweaks, Gabhart’s characters will be perfect.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 point)

Lastly, Gabhart earns a full point for originality and a half of an x-factor point for her creative use of real life occurrences. It is always better for an author or screenwriter to start with what they know to be true, before weaving in what could have happened. Gabhart did an admirable job here, and I believe that River to Redemption would make an excellent Christian drama film. In the right hands, this tasteful portrayal of social issues could reach people who would not otherwise be open to different viewpoints. I recommend that Gabhart should be included in the screenwriting process so that her characters would be accurately portrayed on the big screen. Finally, thank you for sharing a great read with us Ms. Gabhart! We expect great things from your career!

Wish List Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

 

Burden of Proof by DiAnn Mills

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Author’s Note: We were provided with an ARC of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 

Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

DiAnn Mills’ new novel is a breath of fresh air in the romantic suspense genre. In Burden of Proof, she takes a step forward from past novels by deepening the complexity of her storyline and adding a couple of unexpected, yet well-crafted plot twists. Mills has always had great potential as a writer, but in this novel she really shines. Burden of Proof tells the story of April Ramos and Jason Snyder, two people who are drawn together by a tragic web of intersecting circumstances in Jason’s hometown. April Ramos, a special agent in the FBI, has always struggled with letting her personal feelings enter a case, and tonight was no different. After failing to talk a former businessman out of committing suicide, April feels guilty and depressed. However, she has no time to dwell on this perceived failure, because she’s about to be thrown into the middle of a small-town feud. When an frazzled woman hands her a crying baby in a coffee shop and doesn’t return, April prepares to call the authorities, only to be escorted out of the building at gunpoint by a man claiming to be the child’s father….Jason Snyder. Jason Snyder has just been accused of murdering his good friend Russell, a deed he did not do, and has been searching for his daughter Isabella, who was recently kidnapped. When he finds her in April’s arms, and learns she is an FBI agent, he sees an opportunity to clear his name. Jason decides to tell April his story, and hope for the best. At first April finds his story incredulous, and is less than cooperative…but as evidence starts turning up, she begins to see the truth in his words. When April and Jason reach his hometown and she begins investigating, she finds that solving the case is nearly impossible as her plans are continually thwarted by the town’s sinister sheriff. Will April solve the case before anything else happens? To answer this question, read the book!;) Small-town corruption is very accurately portrayed in this story. Furthermore, the plot holds the attention from beginning to end, and the outcome is mostly unpredictable. There are some predictable elements, but not enough to mar the plot quality. Finally, I only have two flaws to point out. First, the story is a tiny bit choppy at times, and second, sometimes it seems like April is able to go against FBI procedure without having to face consequences. However, on the whole Mills’ has created an enticing story that is well worth a read.

Character Development (3 points)

April and Jason are both well-developed and relatable characters who evolve through their experiences. Yet, first person could have developed their characters even more. In addition, I feel that the eventual romance between them, while downplayed, is unnecessary. On a positive note, I appreciate Mills’ attempt to include more diverse characters, for many Christian romance novels use only white people or portray other races as a stereotype. Mills does neither and her diverse list of characters is refreshing. The only other flaw to point out is that Willis (the sheriff), is at the same time a straw-man and a realistic villain. Overall, Mills has produced strong characters who drive the plot and make the story all that it is.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Mills earns a half point in originality by portraying all ethnic groups as equal and important, and a half point in creativity for crafting a great storyline that was obviously well researched. She has obviously grown through experience, and the passion that was once a bit misguided is maturing into something admirable. There is no going back from here. This is why I believe this book could make an excellent Christian miniseries. With a good screenwriter (perhaps Ms. Mills!), and a great casting job, this suspense story could reach a lot of people who would not otherwise seek out Christian films/series. To conclude, well done Ms. Mills! Your books have the potential to make a huge difference in the world of Christian filmmaking!

Wish List Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

Isaiah’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Isaiah’s Daughter, Mesu Andrews’ latest novel, tells the tale of three people, the prophet Isaiah, an orphaned girl named Ishma (who later becomes Hephzibah), and Hezekiah, the future king of Israel. Five year old Ishma’s most recent memories are of destruction and violence. After witnessing the murder of her parents, she and her friend Yaira are taken captive, only to be released by God himself. They find themselves in the home of the prophet Isaiah, who treats them as members of his family. Ishma is scared of the world and has not spoken since her parent’s death. However, a chance encounter with Prince Hezekiah will decide her destiny. Prince Hezekiah is growing up in a broken home, he has witnessed the rages of his father King Ahaz and his marital abuse. Not to mention the fact that he has just been subjected to watching his older brother Bocheru being sacrificed to Molech. One day, a chance encounter with a fellow suffering child – Ishma – will begin the road to healing. Isaiah is tasked with tutoring and raising Hezekiah and Ishma to follow the ways of the Lord, something he finds difficult at times. However, his unshakable faith that God will do what he promises sees him through both difficult and unusual circumstances. As the story continues, Andrews weaves together the broken pasts of Ishma and Hezekiah and shows how these experiences mold them into the adults they become. Hezekiah and Ishma will discover that while trusting God is not always easy, He is always faithful. The main issues here are some continuity errors, and the need for a bit more editing, especially where sub-plots are concerned. Therefore, while the storyline is not the strength of the novel, Andrews rounds out with an average score all the same.

Character Development (3 points)

Andrews has always had strong characters in her novels, and this one is no different. Ishma and Hezekiah are portrayed as flawed people who struggle with weaknesses, yet who also have God-given gifts that they use for his glory. I especially liked how she built them into adults through the broken pieces of their youth. While some novels that cover a lot of time neglect to develop the characters and leave plot holes, this one does the opposite. The main errors here are the presence of a few too many minor characters, and likewise, the need for a bit more editing. However, these characters have a lot going for them, so Andrews earns above an average score in this section.

Creativity and Originality (1 point)

Finally, Andrews earns nearly the maximum number of points in this section for creativity and originality. While the stories of Hezekiah and Hephzibah have been successfully interpreted by other authors of Christian fiction in the past (e.g. Lynn Austin); Andrews brings fresh meaning and poignancy to the tale. The novel is well researched and she is creative in her implementation of historical fact by weaving these into her tale subtly. Furthermore, her novel is in no way similar to other Biblical fiction about these two Biblical characters. Thus, she also earns a half point for original content. All of these reasons lead me to one conclusion, this novel should hit the big screen ASAP. This novel has ample content for a Christian miniseries.  Something else to note here is the need for exceptional casting. The novel is character-driven and anything less than the best in the area of casting would be a disaster. Lastly, it is time for writers like Andrews to be discovered and given the credit that their humble hearts likely don’t desire, but deserve.

Wish List Rating: 6 out of 10 points

The Cokeville Miracle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a madman and his wife entered a small Wyoming elementary school and took everyone inside hostage for an astronomical ransom, it seemed like all hope was lost.  As the hours ticked by and tensions rose, no one could have predicted how it all would end.  The crisis escalated and a seeming tragedy struck, but no one in Cokeville was prepared for what happened next.  The children of the school claimed a miracle had occurred, but many were skeptical at first—until they saw the evidence for themselves that God was at work.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Cokeville Miracle is a raw production effort that starts out, unfortunately, very cheap-looking and drab.  This mostly pertains to some poorly lit scenes, some grainy video quality, and some poor special effects.  However, as the movie goes on, all production elements improve.  It’s clear that this team stayed within their means and did not over-exhaust their resources.  By the second half of the film, there are virtually no production errors, making this a very unique production.  Overall, it comes out as average, and since the production does get better as it goes, the film is saved from total disappointment.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

We always say you can never go wrong depicting real life on the big screen, as long as it’s depicted properly.  The story of the miracles at the Cokeville Elementary School in 1986 is one that is worth portraying, but also difficult to portray since such a portrayal could easily become sensational and unrealistic.  However, this was not the case with this film.  Each character is realistic and believable—even the villains—and dialogue is effective in building the characters.  This type of story is not easy to craft properly, yet The Cokeville Miracle unfolds exquisitely and makes you stay until the very end.  Historical authenticity is preserved as this story makes everyone, even skeptics, think about the nature of modern day miracles.  In short, this is a film well-worth your time.

Acting Quality (3 points)

For an ‘amateur’ cast with not much notoriety, the cast of this film gave a slam dunk performance.  There are no acting errors here, even where there were potential pitfalls, such as villain acting and child acting.  Care was taken to preserve the original people who experienced this crisis firsthand.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is effective.  This rounds out a job well done.

Conclusion

While we would have loved to see higher production quality, this team did everything they could do with what they had, and that’s really all we ask of film makers.  Whatever God has given you, do the best you can with it.  The Cokeville Miracle proves you don’t need a big budget or big names to make a great movie.  All you need is a good story and the care enough to tell it properly.  ‘Little’ films like this one put ‘big’ ones to shame and demonstrate true greatness.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

 

Heaven Bound [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ted is a successful dog food marketer until one fateful day when he accidentally kills his company’s iconic mascot and becomes the town laughingstock.  Underemployed and in debt, Ted and his wife Josie are doing their best to make ends meet, but it’s not enough.  Josie is unhappy, so she concocts a plan to swipe her elderly boss’ valuables in order to pay their debts.  Accompanied by her lazy little brother, Ted and Josie attempt to pull off a caper but soon find that their intended victim has more in store for them than they thought.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

Heaven Bound is a measuring rod for films with limited sets.  It uses each location to its fullest potential through effective and witty camera work and crisp video quality.  Audio quality is also exquisite, including a memorable original soundtrack.  The editing is highly effective in driving the comedy home.  In short, there are no production errors, thus giving this area a perfect score.  Adam Drake and Torry Martin show true talent with productions and great potential for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

You can always count on Marshal Younger, Torry Martin, and Rene Gutteridge to deliver an eccentrically funny storyline filled with true comedy.  This plot is a masterful mix of humor and meaning.  They demonstrate how to write a plot with only a handful of characters: though they are few in number, each character is very deep and believable.  The biggest drawback to raise here is that the plot is mostly formulaic and predictable, but it is still highly enjoyable.  This team took the storyline to its fullest potential, and that’s all we ever want to see.  They have true talent and should be utilized in more movies in the future.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Though a small cast, this group carries the film well with highly professional acting.  Each character is cast appropriately and delivers their lines effectively.  A wide range of believable emotions are also displayed.  With no errors, this is a job well done.

Conclusion

With Drake and Martin handling production and Younger, Martin, and Gutteridge handling the writing, Heaven Bound is a true work of art—a lethal combination of comic genius, thus warranting a spot on the Hall of Fame.  This film had a limited budget—imagine what they could do with more resources!  This team has true talent and they will be getting bigger and better as time goes on; we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.  In the meantime, Heaven Bound is definitely a movie you want to make time to see.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

https://vimeo.com/199484564



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

Summer Snow [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Dan Benson’s wife dies, he and his three kids are left trying to pick up the pieces and figure out how they are going to move on.  Julie is getting married soon and has big plans with her fiancé.  David is trying to find his way through teenage-hood without his father around.  Hallie is a young girl who touches everyone she meets in special ways.  Little do they know that their lives will soon be changed forever.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

In Summer Snow, American Family Studios and team have shown a dedication to professional production quality.  Video quality and audio quality are clear and the soundtrack is fairly good.  Camera work is effective and sets and locations are realistic and down to earth.  The only issues to raise here are some minor editing problems due to some missing plot pieces, but it’s not enough to totally derail this otherwise superb production.  We expect more greatness in the future from this team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Summer Snow is a raw character-driven plot about real people doing real things.  The dialogue is excellent and helps the viewer to really appreciate the struggles of the characters.  The plot is artistic and engaging and a good mix of comedy and hurt.  While we would have expected American Family Studios to awkwardly handle the social issues portrayed in this film, this was not the case.  The social issues are handled very well and framed in very interesting ways that make one think.  The biggest things holding this plot back are some minor plot holes and some parts that need to be expanded upon.  The end is also neat and tidy but still ambiguous at the same time.  In short, Jeremy and Kendra White need to be utilized more in writing inspirational plots because they have true talent that can be expanded upon.

Acting Quality (3 points)

This is a flawless casting job with no errors.  Each person is cast exquisitely.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are excellent.  Rachel Eggleston is possibly the best child actress in a Christian film to date.  This is a job to be proud of.

Conclusion

Films like Summer Snow should be the standard for Christian movies.  It takes on family values and social issues in realistic ways without creating strawmen or making Christianity offensive.  It depicts real people in real life so that all audiences can access what they are going through.  While it’s not the most complex plot in the world, it gets the job done and deserves recognition for that.  We can’t wait to see more from Jeremy and Kendra White and American Family Studios.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

 

Seven Days in Utopia (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When he blows his chance to make it big on the golfing scene, Luke Chisholm has a televised meltdown that leads to him running from his controlling father and crashing into a farm fence.  The owner of the land, rather than take him to the authorities, decides to let him stay there and learn some finer points of golf.  Frustrated and skeptical, Luke begins taking eccentric golf lessons from the older man and soon finds that the farm, Utopia, is more than it seems, just as his new mentor is more than he seems.  Little does he know that he is about learn more than just how to play golf better, but how to win in life, and that seven days in Utopia can change everything.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Seven Days in Utopia is obviously a well-made project.  The creators did their production homework and scored.  The camera work is great and enhances the film, including artistic camera angles and clear video quality.  Outside scenes are filmed well.  The musical score is intriguing.  The surroundings are authentic.  The only caveat to raise here is that some parts seem like they need to be edited better—there are some wasted scenes that only fill time.  But otherwise, Utopia is a top-notch first-time production that should serve as a model to follow.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

For a sports plot, Utopia is very unique psychological journey.  It reminds the audience that there is more to every sport than just technique—athletes are people with pasts that need to be dealt with appropriately.  While the message is not as explicitly Christian as it could have been, the point is clear: behavioral tendencies need to be explored head-on into order to live up to one’s full potential.  The plot of Utopia is a slow burn, and is more than it seems, which is also conceptualized in the plot.  Flashbacks are used exquisitely to strengthen the story.  Dialogue is profound and the characters are solid.  As previously mentioned, there are too many filler scenes that keep this plot from being all that it could be.  However the end of the movie is extremely epic and changes everything for it.  Without this end, this movie wouldn’t be what it is.  Utopia has arguably one of the best sports ends on the market.  In short, while it had room to grow, this film is definitely one of the best of its genre.

Acting Quality (3 points)

This is obviously a professional and well-coached cast.  This is not an exclusively Christian cast, but there are no acting errors here.  Emotional delivery is great and line delivery is solid.  There is nothing to complain about here.

Conclusion

Utopia is a one-of-a-kind movie; there has never been one like it and there likely won’t be again.  It should serve as an example to the inspirational market of how to make a niche movie that stands out among the rest that are easily forgotten.  We were disappointed in its lack of a clear Christian message, but Christian elements exist.  Nevertheless, it earns a Hall of Fame spot and its concepts should be replicated in different and creative ways.  The Christian market desperately needs more movies like this.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe [2005] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Torn from their parents and hometown due to the rage of World War II, the Pevensie siblings must make their new home in the mansion of an eccentric elderly man and stay out of the way of his picky housekeeper.  Little did Lucy Pevensie know that choosing to hide in a wardrobe during a game of hide and seek would give her entrance to a mystical world called Narnia.  After meeting a new friend, Mr. Tumnus, Lucy soon discovers that all is not well in this land where winter is year-round.  After being mistreated by her brother Edmund, who also found his way into Narnia, the four siblings are forced to enter through the wardrobe, and are surprised to find that the creatures of Narnia have been awaiting their arrival, along with the coming of a legendary lion named Aslan.  Together, the siblings must band together and dig deep in order to fulfill an ancient prophecy and to save an entire land.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As is to be expected from the production crews involved, the production is professional and obviously well-funded.  The classic children’s series from C. S. Lewis was long awaiting a high quality rendition, and it was providence that his stepson Douglas Gresham was allowed to be an executive producer, so to preserve the original intent of Lewis’ work.  The camera work is great, as are the video and sound quality.  Fantasy productions are expensive and hard to do well due to difficult sets and costuming, but this one pulls it off well.  The only issue to raise in this film is some obvious green screens and CGI in some parts, but it is not glaringly obvious.  In short, this is finally a quality film based on the timeless work of Lewis.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

The book’s plot is adapted very well, even enhancing the original plot without losing the allegorical message, which is surprising with Disney involved.  Douglas Gresham can be credited for this preservation.  The character development is decent and the dialogue is both realistic and character-building.  The twists involved are true to the book; no extreme creative license is taken here.  The one issue to raise here is that some parts of the plot tend to be overly dramatic, no doubt a Disney contribution.  But the bottom line is that this is a solid plot that does not compromise the novel’s purpose.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The funding paid off—the acting is overall professional and well coached.  Though it is largely a mainstream cast, they demonstrate great acting skills, taking on the book’s characters well.  One caveat to bring up is that a few lines fall flat in an attempt to be sensational.  But this is not really a big issue and is easily forgotten.

Conclusion

A lot of things could have gone wrong with this film: Disney could have run away and destroyed the plot, the acting could have been deemphasized in favor of action sequences, or it could have been another cheap puppet production like so many Narnia movies before it.  None of these scenarios occurred, and thus, this movie lands in the Box Office Revolution Hall of Fame.  It is not a perfect film, but it was a great start to the unique Narnia movie saga and must be recognized for its strengths.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

King’s Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Brendan King has been everywhere and done nearly everything.  Mike and Vanessa are not the first foster parents he has had, but they have agreed to give him one last chance to help him finish high school and turn his life around for good.  Informed by his newfound faith, Brendan seeks to leave his checkered past behind and discover exactly what God wants him to do.  But he did not expect to get pulled into the troubled life of the local homecoming queen, be harassed by a suspicious detective friend of his new foster parents, or be visited by unwelcome characters from his criminal past.  In spite of the odds against him, Brendan must dig deep in his faith in order to navigate the turbulent waters ahead.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

King’s Faith may be an obscure Christian film, but it is certainly not to be overlooked.  The production quality is envied by many low budget independent movies.  Its camera work is great, as is the video and sound quality.  The editing puts many unique scenes together skillfully.  Diverse sets are used to film many different types of scenes, from action to soft.  The costuming and makeup work are good.  The only caveat here is that there seems to be a few filler scenes to lengthen the runtime.  Otherwise, there is nothing to complain about in the production of King’s Faith.  It sets a new standard for first-time independent Christian films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

King’s Faith is based on true events, and the plot captures a sense of realism.  It is a semi-linear plot, and not completely non-linear.  The dialogue is authentic, thus building the characters well.  The intentions and personality traits of the characters are showcased well.  Issues that face juvenile ex-convicts are portrayed well.  The end is not what is usually expected of semi-inspirational plots.  However, as previously mentioned, there is some wasted time in the movie.  Another issue is the presence of unnecessary narration.  We suggest that more flashbacks to build the characters would have remedied both of these issues, thus creating a perfect plot score.  Nonetheless, King’s Faith is a great plot and an excellent starting point for future movies from this crew.

Acting Quality (3 points)

For a cast of little-known actors in an obscure movie, the acting is excellent.  Nothing is overplayed and emotions are displayed accurately.  This demonstrates the handiwork of great acting coaching.  Though the cast is modest in number, they carry the movie well and prove that it is possible to have great acting in a lesser-known independent film.

Conclusion

Re-integrating into society after concerted jail time is difficult for a juvenile offender.  Such a person needs a social safety net, accountability, and a purpose in life.  King’s Faith deals with all of these issues without being too obvious or preachy.  The Christian worldview is slightly understated, but it is not lacking.  Overall, King’s Faith demonstrates that there is no excuse to ever make a cheap Christian film.  Though it is not dynamic, it is profound and worth your time.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

Escape [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following a tragedy in their lives, doctors Paul and Kim Jordan decide that it’s time for a change of scenery.  Therefore, they accept an opportunity to leave their American comfort behind in order to serve a struggling medical clinic on the streets of Thailand.  All seems well until Paul follows a mysterious local boy in order to help a patient unable to come to clinic, only to find himself captured by local traffickers in need of his medical expertise.  Separated from his wife, who begins to beg the local authorities for help, Paul seeks moral from his fellow captor, who brings him face to face with the God he has been running from all his life.  Together, they must not only plan to escape with their lives, but they must contend with the problem of suffering and how God works in the world.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For a modest budget, Escape boasts plenty of positive qualities.  The camera work is above average, as is the video and sound quality.  Though the sets are slightly limited, they are authentic and the crew did good with what they had.  The action scenes are well-produced and do not give the appearance of a cheap production.  The only caveat here is some indie-ish elements that are very minor and easy to pass over.  In short, there is nothing flashy here, but the production quality is solid.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Escape explores a genre that is unfortunately often unique to Christian films: suspense adventure.  It would have been easy for the plot to come off as shallow and cheesy due to reliance on action sequences, but this did not happen.  The plot is simple yet profound; the plot twists are straightforward and while it does not necessarily make waves, it does not crash and burn.  The dialogue is solid, which leads to good character development.  With the small amount of characters in a limited area, their success is key.  They pass the test.  The only issues to bring up here are the small scope of the plot and the overall simple feel of the movie.  Some parts at the beginning could have been better explored.  In the end, the plot is refreshing and the end somewhat unexpected.  The crew delivered with limited resources, which is a win.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The acting quality is overall professional, with only some minor errors.  The cast is small, but they do not commit errors that completely derail the movie.  They carry the movie well as they have obviously been coached well.  Some of them seem slightly inexperienced, but it is not a big deal.  The good thing is that real Asian actors are used rather than forcing white people to seem Asian, as some low cost productions do.  Overall, Escape is well-acted.

Conclusion

Escape receives half an x-factor point for dealing with the problem of pain in a very appropriate and poignant manner.  This philosophical issue is explored through dialogue and is not shoved down the viewers’ throats.  The bottom line is that while Escape is a very simple movie, it is also very deep.  Rather than exploring a broad scope, the writers chose quality over quantity.  The action elements make for a unique Christian movie and do not detract.  In short, Escape is an underrated Christian film that deserves applause.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

What If… [2010] (Movie Review)

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wlkg

Plot Summary

In a moment of decision that altered his life’s course forever, Ben Walker left his chance to go into full-time ministry and marry his longtime girlfriend behind and instead entered the cutthroat business world to pursue a six-figure salary.  He achieved the salary and snagged a fiancée that looked good next to him, but he never found something to satisfy the emptiness within.  Hence, his car is hijacked by a mysterious tow truck driver who claims to be an angel and Ben is transported to an alternate timeline where he gets to live as if he had married his old girlfriend and gone into full-time ministry.  Unable to escape his alternate life, Ben is forced to play along and discover what the true meaning of life is.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

There are really no production errors to speak of in What If…  The camera work is professional and the editing is straightforward.  It is difficult to pull this type of plot without including cheesy production elements, but What If… avoids these pitfalls.  The sets are diverse and there are no video or sound quality errors.  The soundtrack is effective.  This film takes the route of not committing errors and while it does not do anything dynamic, it also does not turn off the viewer.  This is a well-done production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

While there is nothing original with this sort of parallel universe plot, this rendition is a good one.  The plot twists are minor but the dialogue is good.  The characters are believable, as are most of the events of the plot.  There are some predictable elements and while the overall plot is quite simple, there are once again few errors committed.  There is truly funny humor throughout that is not overdone.  The only caveat here is the confusing end that seems to force a certain conclusion to occur.  Otherwise, this is a very good plot.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

In keeping with the theme of this movie, the acting is good without detracting from the overall movie.  This is perhaps Kevin Sorbo’s best lead role.  John Ratzenberger is cast very well.  The only issue Box Office Revolution has with the acting in What If… is the fact that there is no excellent acting, just great acting.  But when considering many Christian films, this is truly an accomplishment.

Conclusion

What If… is a Christian film that is recommendable and may even appeal to some non-Christian audiences.  In a field of poorly production Christian films, What If… stands out.  It is created well enough to join the ranks of the best Christian movies.  Christian film makers should delve deeper into these types of psychological genres without falling into typical plot patterns.  What If… can be an example to follow.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

War Room (Movie Review)

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stllgs

Plot Summary

Elizabeth Jordan, on the surface, has an ideal life—a good job, an expensive house, a husband with a high salary, and a nice daughter.  However, something isn’t right, something is just missing.  She can’t really seem to get along with her husband anymore, he seems distant and preoccupied with other women, and she barely knows her daughter anymore.  Everything changes for Elizabeth when she meets her new realty client, Miss Clara.  Miss Clara subtlety pricks into Elizabeth’s personal life just enough to make Elizabeth interested in finding out what Miss Clara’s secret to happiness is.  After talking long enough, Elizabeth discovers that her life is not alright and that Miss Clara’s secret weapon is worth a try.  The secret weapon?  A war room, or a prayer closet.  Miss Clara teaches Elizabeth to fight for herself and for her family on her knees so that God can fight for her rather than her fighting for herself.  Little did they know that the battle had only begun.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

In the same vein as Courageous, the production quality of War Room is high.  Despite this being the first Kendrick movie away from Sherwood Baptist Church, nothing in the area of production quality changed between Courageous and War Room.  While there are no real action scenes in War Room, the diversity of sets is still present.  The soundtrack fits into the film neatly.  The editing and the production give the movie a close to home feel, which seems to be what the creators were going for.  In short, this is business as usual for the Kendricks.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The plot of War Room follows a typical non-linear Kendrick plot with minor twists and turns—one that defies conventional plot structure.  In the beginning, the plot depicts realistic struggles of accessible characters paired with a clear Christian message, which is a hallmark of the Kendrick brand.  Dialogue is mostly effective in building character motive and driving character arcs, and the message is obviously a powerful one, but there is a point where the storyline of this film overstays its welcome through multiple moments that seem like the end and through stop-and-start sequences that lag on a bit too long with the purpose of driving home how the characters have become seemingly perfect.  Thus, while there is plenty of good in this plot and while there is no doubt of the film’s success, we needed a bit more realism in the arcs of the characters.  However, the message of War Room is still worthwhile.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

In the first movie away from the Sherwood acting pool, there are no concerns here.  The actors behave just as all actors do under the tutelage of a Kendrick movie crew.  The delivery of lines is solid and the emotions are believable.  This type of movie is heavily dependent on the acting quality, and they did not disappoint.  A continued under-appreciated aspect of Kendrick films is their commitment to diversity of casting.  This is huge, since Christian movies should be better than mainstream movies.

Conclusion

The Kendricks have a brand, and they are sticking with it.  War Room feels like a redux of Fireproof with better cast members and a less textbook message, but the up-and-down career of the Kendricks continues in this rendition.  They know their audience, they have the marketing skills down, and they have the name recognition to basically do whatever they want from here on out and still have box office success.  War Room takes another spot on the Hall of Fame, but we have to wonder if the Kendricks will branch out in their post-Sherwood career or if they will continue to churn out more high-quality but safe films.  We are banking on the latter, but we will be looking for them to do something more creative in their next film.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

 

Courageous (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Adam Mitchell and Shane Fuller are just average deputies in an average Georgia city.  They’ve seen humanity at their worst and have tried their best to not become desensitized to the world.  But their mediocre existence is altered when they meet Nathan Hayes, a transfer deputy who truly lives out his faith and his commitment to his family.  Hayes challenges them and a young deputy, David Thompson, and eventually a mutual friend, Javier Martinez, to commit to become better men and fathers, not to just settle for the status quo.  They don’t take him very seriously until tragedy rocks all of their worlds and they are forced to truly look at what they believe in and what they are working towards in life.  Yet as they each make their own decisions in response to the tragedy, they find that every choice has a consequence and the right way is hardly ever the easy way.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

In their largest budget at this point in time, the Kendricks minced nothing.  They left everything on the proverbial production field.  The camera work is masterful, from filming difficult action scenes with skill to bringing an overall high quality and professional look to the movie.  The editing is at least average, especially when considering the large amount of plot content.  There is an excellent balance between action and serene and even sad.  Audio quality is excellent, including an effective soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are very realistic.  This was no doubt a difficult production to pull off, but the Kendricks did it very well.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Courageous follows a typical Kendrick storyline, including multiple subplots and non-linear elements.  There are a lot of great attempts to develop characters through dialogue and realistic situations.  The stories of the characters are intriguing and mostly relatable, even if it sometimes seems like there is a lot going on in the film.  Many different issues are covered in the plot, which is both good and bad.  Not everything turns out to be perfect, and many very relevant concepts are included.  However, sometimes the storyline comes off as a bit disorganized, and sometimes the messaging it a bit too obvious.  Moreover, there is plenty of good here, and many audiences will enjoy this film.

Acting Quality (3 points)

What else can be said about the acting coach talents of the Kendrick crew?  Once again, seasoned actors are mixed with ‘average’ actors, and there is no difference.  Kevin Downes, with years of acting experience, is no better or worse than Robert Amaya in his masterful acting debut.  In addition, the Kendricks continue to show a commitment to diversity of actors, which something many Christian film makers struggle to do.  As a whole, the Kendricks are consistently great in the categories of production and acting.

Conclusion

The Kendrick Brothers have definitely found a Christian movie-making model, and they are sticking with it.  They have an audience, and they know what types of stories they want to portray and what types of characters they want to craft.  There is always plenty of positive to find in their films, and their consistency puts many Christian film makers to shame, but one can see how this movie model can become pedestrian.  In future films, they should consider retaining better screen-writing, but since they have something that works so well, it’s hard to see it changing.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

 

Fireproof (Movie Review)

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thea

Plot Summary

Caleb Holt is successful in his career as a fire captain.  He will risk his life for anyone, but he does not care about his marriage as it begins to fall apart around him.  His wife, Catherine, has a successful career of her own and she is tired of the conflicts she continues to have with her husband.  All Caleb seems to care about is his job, saving up for his boat, and looking for fulfillment from places other than his wife.  Catherine is lonely and becoming hardened to her husband as she tries to care for her elderly parents and directs her attentions towards a nice doctor at the hospital she works at who gives her more attention than Caleb does.  Caleb is ready to throw in the towel before his father steps in and gives him a forty-day challenge, The Love Dare, to try to save his marriage before signing the divorce papers.  Little do Caleb and Catherine know that they are in for changes and trials beyond their marital discord.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

In keeping with the production spirit of Facing the Giants, Fireproof does not disappoint.  The higher budget is maintained and even expanded, and it pays off.  Difficult firefighting scenes are successfully executed, and diverse sets are used.  The editing is concise, making for an easy viewing.  As is the Kendrick norm, there are no caveats here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Another Kendrick movie, another solid Christian message packaged in a believable real-life plot executed by realistic characters.  The plot is not too preachy as it is both evangelistic and discipling towards Christians.  Strengthening weak and broken marriages is a very important message for viewers today, both Christian and non-Christian.  This could not have been pulled off without imperfect and accessible characters, which there are in his movie.  The usual comedy scenes are included.  Yet there are a few caveats here.  The plot is more linear than usual for Kendrick plots and the dialogue is lacking in some areas.  But even with these issues, Fireproof makes other movies pale in comparison.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The Kendricks departed from their usual model of only using ‘inexperienced’ actors by bringing in Kirk Cameron, but the transition is seamless.  This is likely Cameron’s finest acting work to date.  The same can be said for co-star Erin Bethea.  The supporting cast is no worse in talent than these two, thus reflecting acting coaching success for the Kendrick crew.

Conclusion

Even when the Kendricks are not at their finest, they still rise to the top in the Christian movie industry.  As their career has progressed, their quality has improved in all areas.  Fireproof marked a huge turning point in many ways, if not only for their tackling of a timely message that many Christian movies either ignore or portray incorrectly.  Yet this installment was only a harbinger of greater things to come.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 points

Mom’s Night Out (Movie Review)

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andre

Plot Summary

Sarah Fields just wants to know that she is doing a good job in her occupation as a full time homeschool mom to her three young kids.  But a lot of the time, she feels like she does not measure up.  She’s also a struggling blogger.  She looks up to her pastor’s wife, who seems to have everything put together.  On a whim, Sarah decides to plan an impulse night out with her pastor’s wife and her best friend Izzy, also a young mother.  Sarah’s husband Sean gets on board and agrees to help watch the kids, but none of them are prepared for the crazy night ahead.  Together, along with a cast of offbeat characters, they are thrust into an impromptu search for a missing baby and discover along the way that the things they are all looking for are right under their noses.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

As expected, the Erwin brothers have put together another top-notch production, from camera work to special effects to editing to creative overlays.  Several difficult scenes are filmed with professional flair.  The camera angles are well done.  Special effects and creative overlays are used appropriately.  The soundtrack brings the movie to life exquisitely.  Finally, the movie is edited to perfection.  There are no wasted scenes and no plot holes.  To put it plainly, the Erwin brothers continue to set themselves apart in the area of production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The scope of this plot is limited, but the Erwin brothers make the best of it.  The comedy is not overdone and is actually quite funny, contrary to most attempted comedy in Christian movies.  It is driven by excellent and witty dialogue, which also supports the accessible characters.  The thing that makes the comedy truly humorous is the fact the real-life predicaments are shown in hilarious and sometimes satirical lights, such that we could easily see ourselves in these situations.  The film contains no real plot twists, but the events are realistic and true to life, as previously mentioned.  Besides the limited plot scope, the one error of this section is the overuse of narration throughout.  However, it is still a highly enjoyable storyline that provokes the thinking.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The Erwin brothers continue to make average actors great.  Each character is cast into an appropriate role, as is to be expected.  Kevin Downes and Andrea Logan White play perhaps their best roles to date.  In a comedy, the acting is the anchor that determines the quality.  The excellent acting coaching of the Erwin brothers crew hit another slam dunk.

Conclusion

In short, the Erwin brothers have defied typical Christian movie genres by creating a successful and truly funny comedy, proving that vulgarity and cheesiness are not necessary to produce laughs.  October Baby and Mom’s Night Out could not be any more opposite in genre, yet they are both executed wonderfully.  Great things can be expected from this crew in the future.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

Beyond the Mask (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

William Reynolds is not a good man.  As an unofficial contracted ‘enforcer’ for the East India Company, he has committed many undocumented international crimes.  That’s why his boss, Charles Kemp, enlists him and his partner to steal and replace an incriminating Parliamentary report that could shut down the entire company for unethical business practices.  However, after this mission is complete, William intends to put his criminal life behind him.  Little does he know that Kemp has other plans for him.  After secretly surviving a failed attempt on his life, Reynolds is forced to take on the identity of the man who foiled the murder—a young vicar headed to a local parish.  It seems easy until Reynolds must fabricate a knowledge of the Scriptures and come to grips with his newfound love for a local girl who has no idea who he really is.  What Reynolds learns is that life in hiding is anything but straightforward, especially during the tumultuous political times of pre-Revolutionary War England and America.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

Burns Family Studios did an excellent job on the production of this adventure epic movie, including camera work, special effects, and historical costuming.  It would have been very easy for this type of large scope movie to be cheaply produced, but this was not the case.  The editing must have been very tricky, given the time that the movie covers, but it is done fairly well.  There are virtually no errors here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

However, the same cannot be said about the plot.  Box Office Revolution believes talented writer Paul McCusker bit off more than he could chew with this historical epic.  The movie covers at least two years of highly important content, and it walks the line of being too fast paced and being just good enough.  In some respects, the plot moves too fast to develop the characters, but in other respects, it is a very exciting movie full of intriguing plot twists.  It is creatively woven around historical events, yet BOR wonders if Mask should have been two movies or even a miniseries.  At the same time, BOR realizes that money is always an issue with independent Christian films, so it is likely that McCusker and Burns Family Studios did the best they could with what they had.  In short, the only real errors in this aspect of the movie are the fast paced plot and some small yet unrealistic action scenes.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Andrew Cheney and Jon Ryhs-Davies are obviously well-seasoned actors, and they are coached well.  However, the ‘amateur’ actors are also coached very well.  BOR noted that staff positions on the production of this movie were devoted to acting coaching, something that other Christian productions need to take note of.  There are virtually no acting errors in Beyond the Mask.

Conclusion

In short, there are two ways of looking at Beyond the Mask, much like the masks of William Reynolds.  Either McCusker and Burns Family Studios did the best with what they had or they did not do enough.  BOR chooses to adopt a position in between these two options.  Beyond the Mask is clearly above average and Paul McCusker has always been known as an excellent story writer.  The movie is a breath of fresh air in the Christian movie industry and has made BOR very excited to see the future movies of Paul McCusker and Burns Family Studios.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points