The Prince of Egypt (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In this animated retelling of the Book of Exodus, upon discovering his roots as a Jewish slave and upon promptings from God. Egyptian Prince Moses embarks on a quest to free his people from bondage. When his plea is denied by his brother Ramses, the new pharaoh, a series of horrific plagues strike Egypt. However, upon following Gods instructions, Moses finally leads the Israelite’s to freedom by parting the Red Sea and drowning the Egyptian army. God then gives Moses the Ten Commandments, a list of rules for his people to live by.

Production Quality (3 points)

The Prince of Egypt is still today the best animated christian film to date. Dreamworks surprised everyone back in the late 90’s with the idea of making a musical/biblical rendition of the story of Moses (The Prince of Egypt), in his early life. The production quality of this movie is superb especially considering the age. Not only is it a well done Biblical epic it is also a wonderfully orchestrated musical. It is very rare to have not only a well done animated christian production but also one that manages to add an original soundtrack on top of it all. The music as mentioned already, is excellent one main reason for this is that it really adds to and tells the story very effectively. It’s not like other animated productions where there are mindless sing along sessions where the characters randomly burst out into shallow (not to mention really annoying) singing for a “montage” or a “funny moment”. This brings us to the other main point for why the music is top notch. The characters can actually sing! Not to forget of course that the music is composed by Hans Zimmer and Stephen Schwartz, so you know you can’t get much better than that. Anyway to sum it up you won’t be able to find a much better quality production in an animated christian film than this one.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The plot of The Prince of Egypt is overall excellent like the rest of the movie, they slightly altered and added to the original Bible story only slightly. Although we are not sure what actually occurred in the real story as far as moments with Ramses and Moses or the scenes with Egyptian Priest’s Hotep and Huy (which are not their real names by the way). Another aspect of the plot versus the events in the Bible, is that of Moses’s age when he confronted Pharaoh. As stated in Exodus 7, Moses was eighty years old as well as was Aaron when confronting Pharaoh. Which we are not clear of in the movie as far as how old Moses is, however, it is pretty obvious he is not eighty years old in said moments. This is not to even mention the total absence of Aaron alongside Moses in the movie. Compared to what the Bible says concerning that God sent Aaron alongside Moses to confront Pharaoh because Moses was worried about having to speak. Nevertheless this is not the case in the film, they basically combined Moses and Aaron into one character and the Aaron in the movie is for the most part absent from the film. In the end these are just nit picky complaints, however, just so it’s made known that it is not entirely accurate to what the Bible states. For the most part though the plot is very well done and authentic in that they tried to stick to the true story for the most part. Nonetheless, we cannot overlook inaccuracies of the Bible that is why it has received a lower rating in this area.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The cast of The Prince of Egypt is also of course excellent. All the characters are very well cast and their quality of acting is superb. It certainly makes a massive difference in the quality of a film especially an animated film to have a capable cast. It would be very easy to say that The Prince of Egypt also steals the prize for the best acting quality for a Bible based animated film. There are really no complaints here at all for acting quality, characters do not put on an overbearing or glass half empty performance.

Conclusion

This film is one of the best ideas Dreamworks has ever had, what better way to make a movie than one based off of a Bible story. Even better still one that manages to pull of a wonderful musical (yes I’ve mentioned this a lot already:) that manages to add to the plot of the film. In conclusion this film is a must see for all ages and all demographics.

Final Rating 8 out of 10 points

The Hunter and the Valley of Death by Brennan McPherson

Image result for the hunter and the valley of death

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)

Brennan McPherson, a new face in the writing world, has recently released a new novella titled The Hunter and the Valley of Death. This creative novel tells a parable of sorts about a man called the Hunter who is trying to destroy death so that his true Love will not stay dead as a result of her terminal illness. Set in a fantasy world, the novel tells the story of how God destroyed death so that we could live with Him forever. The only negative elements to point out are a bit of sensationalism and the predictability of the ending. However, in spite of the simplicity, the message of the tale is powerful and effective. This fact earns McPherson just short of a perfect score in this section.

Character Development (4 points)

In comparison, McPherson is obviously quite talented in the area of character development. His characters are realistically flawed and drive the plot, as it should be. While their purpose is predictable, their story is a necessary reminder of magnitude of our sin, and the power of Christ’s forgiveness. The Hunter is the strongest character because he grows spiritually in response to his experiences. His true Love is also a good character because she is a reminder of the blessings God showers on those who trust Him completely. I also think that McPherson did a good job of portraying, through his God character, how Jesus came down to our level and humbled Himself so that we might be saved. These facts earn McPherson a perfect score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Lastly, the novel is very creative…but a bit far-fetched at times. Yet, it is quite original, for no one has ever based a fantasy world on a single Biblical passage and pulled it off. Therefore, McPherson earns a half point for creativity and a half of an x-factor point for doing something no one has done before…and doing it well. In spite of the simplicity of the story as a whole, I think that a screenwriter could play around with this content and add a couple of plot twists to make it more movie-friendly. Most audiences like fantasy movies, and I think a lot of people could be reached by this fantastical portrayal of salvation. To conclude, good job Mr. McPherson! We look forward to your future books with interest and high hopes!

Wish List Rating: 8 out of 10 points

I’m Not Ashamed: The Rachel Joy Scott Story (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rachel Joy Scott was an artistic free spirit who longed to change the world.  When her father left the family when she was young, it left her confused and searching for affirmation in her friends.  However, after a spiritual experience one summer while staying with her cousins, Rachel knew she would never be the same again.  But she still struggled with trying to hang out with her old friends, who always tempted her to be like them.  As Rachel tried to discover her true identity, she still felt like she needed to change the world.  In the end, as tragedy hit Columbine High School, she did change the world, and touched many lives in the process.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

This is obviously a talented and dedicated production team, as they went all out to make this movie as realistic as possible.  They stayed true to authenticity with the sets, locations, and props, demonstrating that this was not created lightly.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are obviously flawless.  The soundtrack is effective and thought-provoking.  The only detracting factor in this movie is a slight editing issue that is mostly due to having too much content to deal with.  But otherwise, this is a high quality production that shows both the commitment and the skill of those involved.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

We say this all the time—it’s almost always better to portray a real life story in a movie.  With guidance of real events and people, the Rachel Joy Scott story has been thoroughly and effectively brought to life in I’m Not Ashamed.  The characters are highly accessible and relatable, as are the circumstances they experience.  Rachel is a real person with real struggles and real problems, as are the other characters.  The dialogue is excellent and builds strong personalities for the characters.  The only caveat to raise here is the fact that since such a large story was taken on, some parts seem rushed through, but nothing bad enough to ruin this story’s overall point.  The message that is communicated through this plot comes across very well and challenges Christians to live out their faith without compromising.  This is a job well done.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Movies can be made or broken by their casting, but I’m Not Ashamed does not disappoint.  Each cast member fits their character exquisitely.  This is arguably Ben Davies’ best performance to date.  All emotions are realistic and lines are delivered effectively.  Costuming is realistic.  There are no errors here.

Conclusion

It might have been tempting for someone with less than pure intentions to portray Rachel Joy Scott as a perfect saint, but this was not done by this writing team.  She was a teenager who struggled to live out her Christianity, just as many of us do.  Yet though she was surrounded by confusion and turmoil, she made a difference with the short life she had.  Besides being a quality film, I’m Not Ashamed succeeds in communicating this important message.  This is what Christian film should be about, so things are certainly looking up.

 

Final Rating: 8 out of 10 points

 

Return to the Hiding Place (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As the Nazis strengthened their grip on the Netherlands, the brave Ten Boom family and their accomplices—a secret army of teenagers and college students—worked tirelessly to undermine the evil work of the Third Reich.  From hiding Jews and sympathizers to tracking Nazi movements to distributing illegal material to springing prisoners, the ragtag force was constantly doing something to resist the evil.  But when they are stretched to their furthest point and feel like all hope is lost, they will have to dig deep and determine what really matters most.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

From start to finish, it is evident that the Spencer family and their team are dedicated to high quality productions.  It was ambitious of them to choose a difficult historical setting to portray, but they delivered exquisitely.  Each set, location, and prop is perfectly crafted for realism.  Video quality is excellent and camera work is effective in building suspense.  Audio quality has no flaws and the soundtrack is epic.  The only nitpick to raise here is some minor editing problems, probably due to the nature of this large-scale story.  But in the end, this is a top-notch production that will take them places in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

We always say that when it comes to movies, true stories are usually better than fiction.  Return the Hiding Place is an example of this.  Though the historical topic is very large and difficult to handle, it is handled almost perfectly.  Though there are many subplots, a common thread weaves them together to forge a true historical epic.  The characters are many, but they are believable and authentic.  Real, even hard, life is portrayed effectively.  The ending is powerful and drives the point home.  The biggest issue to raise here is the constant and seemingly unnecessary narration throughout.  While the dialogue therein is great, we would have liked to see more showing than telling.  But otherwise, this is a plot to behold and one you don’t want to miss out on.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Much thought was put into making this cast historically and culturally authentic, from costuming to accents.  Each character is cast excellently.  Line delivery is very much on point and emotions are real and believable.  The only compliant to raise here is some minor accent issues, but it’s not enough to detract too much.  In short, like every aspect of this film, it’s a job well done.

Conclusion

Return to the Hiding Place receives half of an x-factor point for portraying an important issue by properly connecting with audiences in multiple ways.  This is the sort of film we should see over and over again produced from Christian entertainment.  It’s high quality, plot-heavy, and well-cast.  Money was clearly spent wisely to make this film the best it could be, and it paid off.  The Spencer family and their team are truly talented, so we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 8 out of 10 points

 

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

Risen [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Clavius is a Roman tribune who has seen everything in battle and thinks he has encountered every type of first century person possible.  He is hardened by violence and gore and shows little emotion anymore.  Battle-wearied from dealing with zealots in the wild Roman province of Judea, the last thing Clavius wants to do is perform an extra task for Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea.  The task: make sure a Jewish rabbi named Yeshua dies so that His following disperses and things calm down in the area in time for the Emperor Tiberius’ arrival to the province.  Clavius expects his task to be open and shut, but what he finds instead is an experience that could change his life forever, as he encounters the mysterious followers of the even more mysterious Yeshua.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

So many times, bad production quality derails movies with great ideas, especially Bible movies.  Too many Bible movies give off a church play quality, but Risen takes this concept and obliterates it.  The sets, locations, props, and costuming are exquisitely authentic, which is often the first hurdle to clear for a first century narrative.  Next, it actually contains action scenes—very well crafted action scenes.  The first century surroundings are highly believable and gritty.  The video quality and sound quality are flawless.  The camera work positively enhances the film, including poignant camera angles.  A lot of Christian movies in general have a poor or vanilla musical score, but Risen uses music to bring the movie to life.  In summary, the production quality of Risen lives up to the marketing and delivers a movie to be proud of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The journey of Clavius is very linear and straightforward—if you know the Biblical narrative, you will not find any plot twists here.  However, plot twists are likely not the purpose of this movie.  Though the investigation is somewhat simplistic, the gospel message is very clear and is presented in a realistic way that can be accessed by all.  The characters are extremely authentic and the dialogue is witty.  Another common error in Biblical films is portraying Scriptural characters as inaccessible and ethereal; Risen does not fall into this trap.  Its characters alone make this plot stand alone from others in its genre.  The Peter character is likely the best portrayal to date.  Jesus’ adaptation is also very accessible for audiences everywhere.  Subtle humor is inserted into the plot that is appropriate for the historical time period and makes for a well-rounded viewing.  The only caveats to raise here are a minor plot hole, a time-filling action sequence, and the somewhat vague conclusions to the Roman political subplot.  But this small issues aside, Risen is a unique and creative take on Biblical and historical narratives, with accurate elements integrated throughout.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The cast of Risen is obviously professional and very well coached.  Each actor and actress becomes and embodies their character excellently.  The line delivery is masterful and the emotions are felt.  The only negative element here is that Risen does fall into a common Bible movie trap by casting quite a few British actors.  The only thing that keeps Risen from being completely authentic is the presence of more obviously European actors than obviously Middle Eastern actors.  Otherwise, there are no acting or casting errors.

Conclusion

Risen receives half of an x-factor point for having a dynamic underlying worldview that drives the movie.  For once, this is a film that a Christian could take an unbeliever to in order to expose them to a clearly communicated and well packaged gospel message without being ashamed of low quality.  The problems with Risen are very minor and will not be enough to keep widespread audiences from seeing and enjoying this film.  A movie in the vein of Risen has been long overdue on the Christian scene and we at Box Office Revolution heartily anticipate more like it in the near future.

 

Final Rating: 8 out of 10 points

Amazing Grace [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

William Wilberforce, always a crusader for social justice at all levels, had never considered the evils of slavery in the British Empire until his friend William Pitt introduced him to a group of anti-slavery activists, or abolitionists.  After learning about the horrors that occurred on slave ships and on plantations in the West Indies, Wilberforce began using his influence in the House of Commons to put a stop to the evil practice through legislation.  What he did not anticipate was the pushback from the pro-slavery lobby.  After exhausting all his options, the source of Wilberforce’s motivation suddenly comes from an unlikely source—a blind pastor with a song that was destined to change cultures everywhere.

Production Quality (3 points)

Amazing Grace has obviously been produced by a top notch crew.  Many crews are wary of historical movies, likely because it is difficult to achieve the proper level of professionalism and to acquire the props, costumes, sets, and locations needed for an authentic film.  Amazing Grace accomplishes all of these very well, bringing this historical story to life without committing the usual errors.  The camera work is excellent, as are the video and sound qualities.  There is nothing negative to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

Adapting a historical plot can be difficult, depending on how much content the writers want to cover—sometimes they can bite off more than they can chew.  However, it can also be a far better plot than most fictional plots, since it is based on true events, and both of these things can be said about Amazing Grace. Though it covers a lot of time, the character development is efficient and believable, which is very difficult to pull off.  This is due to great dialogue an a poignant message of social justice.  Sensitive elements are dealt with handily without sugarcoating reality.  Great care is given to historical accuracy while balancing effective storytelling.  This film has the true feel of a historical epic that has transformational application for us today.  Overall, this is a great historical narrative to adapt into a movie, and the end result is still masterful.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Since this is a professional and mainstream cast, we should not expect anything less than great.  As a side note, it is unfortunate that this cannot be said about predominantly Christian casts.  In Amazing Grace, each actor or actress fits their role very well—each has been cast very appropriately.  Line delivery is excellent, as is emotional expression.  Also, the costuming is historically accurate.  While there were a lot of potential acting pitfalls, none of them were fallen into.

Conclusion 

More movies need to be made on important historical topics such as the different facets and time periods of the abolitionist movement.  Though historical films often require sizable budgets and subject matter experts, this rendition handles these complications without blinking.  Amazing Grace needs to serve as a constant reminder of the types of movies that Christian film makers should be consistently rolling out.  Therefore, Amazing Grace receives an x factor point for re-watchibility and joins the ranks of perfect Christian films.

Final Rating: 10 out of 10 points

The Last Sin Eater (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cadi Forbes has lived all her life in a Welsh immigrant settlement deep in the Appalachian Mountains, isolated from the world outside.  She has lived in fear, as have the people in her settlement, and now she has a terrible secret to guard.  Not only that, but she has risked trouble on her life by laying eyes on the forbidden sin eater—the cursed individual who must atone for the sins of those who die in the settlement.  Seeking a way to end it all, a mysterious girl guides Cadi to listen to a stranger preach to the forest about a hope she has never heard before.  She is now more curious than ever to learn about the stranger and even the identity of the cursed sin eater.  But what will it cost her in the end?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The production of The Last Sin Eater is excellent, with only minor problems.  The camera work is good, as is the video quality.  The only issue to raise is the inconsistent lighting in some scenes, though it could be argued as realistic.  The audio quality is overall good, though the soundtrack could be a little more inspiring.  There are diverse sets and the Appalachian scenery is realistic.  Some of the flashback content seems a little low quality, perhaps on purpose.  In the end, this production is done very well.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

This is likely Michael Landon Jr’s best movie to date, but it can be credited to the writing genius of foundational Christian author Francine Rivers.  Her book that inspired this movie is among her best, and Landon’s adaptation is seamless.  The plot ties realistic historical events to an excellent fictional story built around believable characters.  The superstition is woven wonderfully with Biblical elements.  The characters are realistic and flawed, driven by true-to-life dialogue.  There are twists and turns in the plot, and the end is slightly unexpected.  In short, this excellent plot can be attributed to the genius authorship of Francine Rivers and to the honest adaptation of Michael Landon Jr.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

For a cast of largely little known actors, they perform quite well.  The line delivery is mostly accurate, though it seems forced at times.  Sometimes the Welsh accents seem fake, but other times they do not.  Despite these small issues, there are no extremely negative elements where the acting is concerned.  This cast is a good example of what can be done with the proper coaching.

Conclusion

There are plenty of lesser and well known Christian novels that can and should be adapted for the screen.  Where many movie plots are stock, there are plenty of Christian works of fiction that could be portrayed through video instead of more bland inspirational films.  The Last Sin Eater is an example of what can happen when an excellent novel is adapted correctly into a movie.  This film should be a blueprint for many more movies in the future.

 

Final Rating: 8 out of 10 points

Old-Fashioned (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Clay is a simple guy running a simple antique shop in rural Ohio.  He’s not looking for love when he rents out the upstairs apartment to Amber, an itinerant wandering woman about his age.  But when she becomes curious about Clay’s ‘theory’ regarding dating and marriage, Amber keeps coming up with reasons to talk to him, even though he will not allow them to be in the apartment alone together.  Eventually, she convinces him to go on a date with her, but she has no idea what she is in store for.  Beginning with a premarital counseling session, continuing by going over the premarital counseling workbook, and finishing with practice on feeding food to a toddler, their first date is less than typical.  As the two begin to spend more time together, their checkered pasts are exposed as they both try to come to grips with who they are in Christ.  Everything comes to a head when both Clay and Amber are forced to move beyond their sins of the past in Christ’s strength in order to embrace His new future for them.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a debuting film for Rik Swartzwelder and the Skoche Films team, Old-Fashioned is huge in a good way.  The camera work is excellent, as is the editing.  The film as an artistic undertone that is fueled by subtle camera shots, scenic overlays, and thinking scenes.  The musical score is engaging.  The only issue to raise here is that some scenes seem to last longer than they should.  Overall, this is not a cheap production.  It is simple yet profound.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

The plot is linear, straightforward, and somewhat predictable.  However, Skoche did everything they could do with it.  This is a very deep plot, rather than a wide and shallow plot.  Swartzwelder and team maximized on every opportunity to make this usually typical plot structure as good as it could be.  The dialogue is excellent and drives the plot, as it should.  It also develops deep, believable, and realistic characters.  There are no real plot twists and the only flaw of the plot is that it is fairly predictable.  Otherwise, the plot is highly professional.

Acting Quality (3 points)

There are no high-profile actors in Old-Fashioned, yet they are obviously well-coached and well-trained.  Absent from this movie is typical PureFlix acting, and it is replaced with professional talent that defies convention.  There are few characters in the movie, which perhaps gave the directors the opportunity to develop each actor well.  Fewer characters also keeps with the movie’s theme of having quality over quantity.

Conclusion

In summary, quality over quantity is the theme of the first box office installment of Skoche Films.  Box Office Revolution was pleasantly surprised that PureFlix discovered the rare talent of Rik Swartzwelder and gave him the space to create without intrusion.  His first movie is a rare gem in a desert of mediocrity.  Old-Fashioned can be reasonably christened a modern-day Pride and Prejudice with a Christian worldview.

 

Final Rating: 8 out of 10 points