Movie Renovation: Do You Believe?

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

Much like other newer, more mainstream PureFlix releases, Do You Believe sports professional production quality with very few errors to speak of.  Naturally, due to the nature of this film, the editing is mostly a mess as each scene tries to be a dramatic climax with no resting periods or relief scenes.  Thus, the only issue with the production can be rectified by improving the plot.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

Much like God’s Not Dead, Do You Believe takes on far too many subplots than it can handle.  Easily half of them are unnecessary, as each of them try to insert a dramatic turn into nearly every scene that comes up.  The paramedic subplot is mostly unrealistic and unnecessary, and its deletion would have also rendered the Andrea Logan White\Sean Astin subplot useless.  The military veteran suffering from PTSD and the girl with the unknown past who tries to commit suicide belong in their own film, so they can be developed better as characters.  The criminal brothers subplot is awkward and stereotypical.  With the removing and reassignment of these subplots, the more pertinent elements of this storyline, namely the older couple who helps the homeless mother and daughter and the pastor and his wife who help the young homeless mother, could have been given more room to grow and be developed beyond their current state.  An alternate option to improve this plot would have been to start at the mass car accident scene and then work backward by following each character’s path to the accident, but this would take a lot of skill and discipline.  Also, the narration has to be totally eliminated.  In short, there is so much content in Do You Believe that there is bound to be potential in here somewhere.

Acting Improvements

While there are some good elements to the acting of this film, most casts would be improved in the absence of Liam Matthews, Andrea Logan White, and of course, Ted McGinley.  There are just so many cast members involved here that any good portions are cancelled out by poor performances.  However, if the storyline was pared down to a realistic medium, the cast would have also been trimmed to ensure quality of quantity.

Conclusion

Quality over quantity was truly the order of the day for this film.  Dumping every subplot you can think of into one film will make a film that a lot of people will see and perhaps like momentarily, but its lasting impact is blunted by its onslaught of content.  However, there are enough good ideas in this film to perhaps kickstart a better film in the future.

 

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Movie Renovation: God’s Not Dead

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

There are really few production errors to note in the first God’s Not Dead film.  The primary issue with this production is, of course, the editing, due to the large and complex amount of content that is attempted to be used in this film.  Thus, if the plot categories were improved, the editing issue would likely also improve.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

The plot of God’s Not Dead needs some serious work.  For one, there are too many ideas shoved into one two-hour film.  A lot of these ideas really need to be movies of their own, such as the Muslim family subplot and the Chinese student subplot.  The blogger character and all of her connections (Dean Cain, the Robertsons, etc.) need to be deleted completely.  The woman with dementia is an interesting aside, but it needs better development.  Pastor Dave and his connections really wouldn’t be missed either; this area might be better if it was altered.  Finally, the portrayal of the atheist professor is noteworthy and better than most, but it still could be better and less over the top.  The “character who is an atheist because their mother died of cancer” trope is a bit thin.  Also, there are obviously instances of anti-Christian bias in academia, but this story could have been a bit more down to earth.  Thus, with a lot of separation, editing, organization, and focus, this plot could have pushed the film into the Hall of Fame.

Acting Improvements

While the acting of the original God’s Not Dead is actually a major improvement over most PureFlix casts, it still isn’t perfect.  For one, David A. R. White and Tommy Blaze rarely need to be acting.  Trisha LaFache is average at best and needs serious coaching.  Dean Cain should probably never be cast again.  Kevin Sorbo has his place, but not as a raging professor.  Otherwise, this cast is fine.

Conclusion

There was a reason the beginning of the God’s Not Dead saga was so popular, and it wasn’t because of its portrayal of atheists.  It has a lot of intriguing content and a lot of ideas that need further exploration in different venues.  Trying to lump all of it together in one film was a disappointment.  However, it was the first time PureFlix actually proved they could be at least somewhat responsible with their budget, including a high-quality production.  Perhaps one day someone will use some of the half-baked ideas of God’s Not Dead for greater purposes.

Camp Cool Kids (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Spence’s older brother Zach never wants him around because he embarrasses him, but their mother wants them to stick together now that their father has died.  Zach is headed to summer camp and Spence is supposed to go with him, but Spence is afraid.  However, Spence’s grandfather convinces him to go and Spence soon finds out that there’s a whole world out there if he will face his fears and not let his overactive imagination get the best of him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a new production, there are obviously a lot of positive elements here.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all on standard.  The soundtrack is a little silly and it is quite excessive as it dominates the film, especially with the many montages that make up this movie.  Sets, locations, and props, however, are professional and appropriate.  Yet there are some unnecessary ‘silly’ special effects that cloud things, not to mention the fact that there’s really no editing in this film.  In the end, this is a typical new baseline production; it’s good to have a new baseline, but production isn’t the only thing you need.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s unclear what the true purpose or intention of this movie is supposed to be.  Is it a kids’ movie?  It sure seems like one.  Characters are very lazily presented through lame attempts at dialogue and comedy.  There is really no plot to speak of, as the story mostly consists of a lot of silliness, quirkiness, and montages to fill time.  The Christian message presented is very plastic and forced.  In the end, there is little overarching or driving purpose to anything that happens in this film, so it’s hard to understand why it was made or what audience it is intended to reach.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Lisa Arnold and company are reliable in putting together a good cast that mostly knows and cares about what they are doing.  There are no glaring errors among this cast—just some uninspiring and seemingly uninterested performances.  Then again, the cast members really didn’t have much to work with.  The whole film seems like an afterthought.

Conclusion

In the not-too-distant past, a film would have been a basement dweller due to low production quality and unprofessional acting.  Yet the new professional industry standards of Christian film have been raised, and thus raise films like this from the ash heap.  But that doesn’t mean that they are any more justified—it just means more money was spent on them.  Thus, we have to ask why.  We know Lisa Arnold and her team mean well and are capable of great things, so why did they make this film?  It seems like the money could have been spent better on a different idea.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 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

 

God’s Not Dead 2 (Movie Review)

Is this thing over yet?
Is this thing over yet?

Plot Summary

When Christian teacher Grace Wesley is sued by a student’s parents for daring to mention the name of Jesus in her classroom, she is confused as to what is even happening to her. Yet, inspired by the wisdom of her ailing father whom she takes care of, Grace refuses to back down and begins working with her union-appointed lawyer to fight back in court. With her faith under fire, Grace’s case draws the attention of many from the town of Hope Springs, including Pastor James White David Hill, who serves on the jury. As Grace’s beliefs are attacked and tested over and over again, she must dig deep to withstand the world’s onslaught so that Christianity is not snuffed out forever.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In the new era of PureFlix, video quality and camera work are no longer in question.  The sets, locations, and surroundings are respectable.  The musical score is average.  On the surface, God’s Not Dead 2 looks like a professional film, but there are many hidden issues therein.  Of the high profile Christian movies we have reviewed, this is possibly the worst edited one to date.  The many-subplots addiction from God’s Not Dead and Do You Believe? is back, and this time, they are more empty than ever.  As will be discussed next, there long sections of this movie that consist of characters staring into space and attempting to sing.  Essentially, this was just a lazy production effort that looks good on the outside but not on the inside.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In this plot, Christian characters are very perfect in every way while atheist characters are hopelessly evil.  What’s more, atheists are borderline ridiculed, giving an embarrassing feel to the film.  Subplots jump all over the place, confusing the viewer.  The premise and other plot happenings are unrealistic and cannot be reconciled with reality.  The storyline is saturated with legal rhetoric that is either only half-true or isolating to the audience.  Besides these glaringly obvious issues, the plot does not hold the attention and is very drab.  There are many slow and melancholy scenes that seem to be designed only to pad the runtime.  Large portions of the film are dedicated to advertising apologetic books and other Christian ‘celebrities’.  While there is a lot of good information in these product placements, it flies over the audience’s heads and is not remembered.  With all this wasted time, there is zero character development, therefore we cannot even appreciate the struggles that are portrayed.  In addition, the dialogue is chock-full of swipes at atheists and ‘worldly’ people.  The ending is very empty and anticlimactic (despite desperate attempts) and even includes an off-the-wall post-credits scene.  Basically, David A. R. White and company just phoned this one in, hoping that the title name recognition would garner them some more cash.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While this section is not all bad, there is a lot of monotone acting in this film.  In another attempt to create buzz by trotting out C-grade ‘big name’ actors and actresses (in addition to the typical PureFlix clowns), this attempt basically flops.  Most of the characters carry a Hallmark-ish look to them, with far too much makeup and costuming.  Other cast members are just blank—even though they show potential, there’s no one to draw it out.  In the end, there is really nothing new here.

Conclusion

In our experience, the world portrayed in this film has never existed.  This is not to diminish the plights of some, but the realm PureFlix constructs in many of their films is over the top and outside of reality.  Rather than preaching to the choir with a juvenile us-against-the-world narrative that further divides Christians and atheists, the money spent on these types of films would be better spent on films that actually strengthen the church as a whole and tastefully address how American Christian behavior can improve.  No one will be saved as a result of God’s Not Dead 2.  Christians will not be inspired to grow closer to God as a result of viewing this movie.  I would never recommend this movie to a non-believer because the creators give no concern to opposing points of view.  Since we as Christians have the truth, we have no need to force it down people’s throats with no regard for their feelings.  Delegitimizing someone else’s beliefs has no place in the gospel message.  Yet with an awkwardly placed post-credits scene, we are all but promised more of the same nonsense from PureFlix.  This is not the direction Christian film needs to go in and now more than ever we need someone who will stand up and combat the image movies like this one project.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Caged No More (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Aggie never thought it would turn out this way.  She had always cared for Elle and Skye, the daughters of the family whose house she cleaned.  But when they disappear along with their father, Aggie feels like she has to care for the distraught mother left behind.  However, when the mother commits suicide, a string of events are set into motion that alert Aggie to sinister activity that Elle and Skye might be caught up in.  Therefore, she takes a leap of faith to get the help she needs in order to get her girls back.  As the journey takes her across two continents, Aggie clings to faith in God and to the hope that she will find her girls again.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

It seems like the creators of Caged No More had good intentions, but not the resources to pull it off properly.  They likely bit off a larger portion than they could chew.  At least the video quality is clear, which is something most new Christian movies are finally getting right.  The audio quality is passable.  The camera work is okay; sometimes it tries to be too ‘dramatic’ and it comes off wrong.  However, the lighting is very inconsistent.  Some scenes are very dark, seemingly on purpose, but it doesn’t make any sense.  What’s more, the sets are too limited for this scope of a plot.  The surroundings are fairly realistic but sometimes seem empty.  Speaking of scope, the editing of this film is deplorable.  As will be discussed next, Caged No More is a collection of spliced together sequences forced to fit together.  In short, while the effort is applaudable, the delivery is frustrating to watch.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Caged No More is built on a very choppy plot that is patched together with constant narration that either reminds us what just happened or explains something that happened off screen.  There is no coherence between subplots, and the one interesting subplot is wasted and underdeveloped.  The storyline contains too many leaps in logic and is based far too much on coincidences and happenchance.  The characters are thin and empty, crafted with stiff and cardboard dialogue.  It’s really a shame that this review has to be so negative, because the genre this film is trying to break into is interesting.  The idea behind this film is quite interesting, but it is very much wasted potential.  Between the vague ending and the rushed plot, this film felt like it was just speeding to the sequel, but it gave us nothing to be interested in for in the sequel.  At this rate, there is little purpose in creating a sequel; money would be better spent on a remake.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

These cast members seem like they mean well, but they have been thrown into the mix with little to no coaching at all.  Emotions are very overdone and not believable.  Line delivery is forced and awkward.  Kevin Sorbo playing two different characters just doesn’t work at all.  Christian ‘celebrities’ are shoehorned into the cast only for the sake of having their name on it.  In short, there is some potential here, but it is not tapped.

Conclusion

Caged No More is a sad production in many ways.  It really could have been a great genre-breaking work based on an important topic, but it fell very short of the mark.  It pretends to be something bigger than it is.  Buried inside of it are good ideas, but they will likely be wasted as this movie is forgotten over time.  We desperately need different genres of Christian\inspirational films, but this is not the way to go about it.  Human trafficking is a highly important topic that needs to be exposed, but this isn’t the way.  I hope a lesson can be learned here that will make a difference.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

This is Our Time (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ethan, Catherine, Luke, Ryder, and Alexandria, friends through college, have finally reaches graduation and are ready to go out and change the world.  However, the world they find outside of the college classroom is not the one they anticipated.  Catherine and Luke seem to be following their lives’ purposes when they embark to serve the Lord in India.  Catherine and Ryder are set on making an impact in the business world.  Ethan feels stuck working for his lonely father’s restaurant, even though he dreams of going to graduate school.  Each person has a different path to follow and each friend must discover God’s purpose for their lives.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Unlike most PureFlix distributed films, This is Our Time has good production elements.  The camera work and video quality are both pretty good.  The sound quality is inconsistent at times.  The sets and locations are pretty good, considering the story takes place in America and India.  The editing is unfortunately sub-par; there are too many scenes that appear to be filler.  Some events take place off screen and confuse the viewer.  Overall, This is Our Time has a pretty good production effort, but it is not quite there yet.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

This is Our Time has a very unique plot structure that is not typical to most inspirational plots.  Usually, when more than three subplots are crammed together in a movie, it comes off as choppy, but in this instance, it works fairly well since the subplots are all related to characters who graduated together.  The topics discussed in the film are accessible to average viewers.  There are some interesting twists throughout the film.  However, there are just too many negative factors in this plot.  Some situations are very trumped up and contrived.  Most of the dialogue is empty and thus, the characters are left wanting.  The worst part is that it didn’t have to be this way—we feel that Lisa Arnold has more potential than this.  There are several important messages in this film that are lost due its low quality.  In short, we believe that a larger, more dedicated crew would have greatly improved this movie.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This cast had potential, but they are obviously not coached well.  A lot of the line delivery is very forced and the emotions are not believable.  Once again, we believe that it didn’t have to be this way.  There was simply too much left on the proverbial field.

Conclusion

This is Our Time joins a collection of Christian films that desperately needed a rewrite and\or a redo.  Had Lisa Arnold had a better team surrounding her in the production of this movie, it could have reached its full potential.  Quality control is the real issue here—the tools are there, but they are not placed in the right hands.  In the future, we hope to see Lisa Arnold recruit people who can help bring her intriguing plots to life.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Do You Believe (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Pastor Matthew has almost forgotten why he believes what he believes.  His spiritual life is stagnant and he wonders why he is even a pastor, until one day he when he encounters an eccentric man on the side of the road carrying a cross.  The man asks him if he truly believes in the cross he preaches about.  This prompts Matthew to alter his approach to ministry by assisting a homeless pregnant girl and by learning more about the lives of his congregants.  Outside of his realm of influence, events begin to take place that indirectly affect him and the people of his church.  They are all headed for an unexpected collision and are forced to truly look at the lives they are living—what do they truly believe?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

In the same vein of God’s Not Dead, the production of Do You Believe is an improvement over previous PureFlix installments.  The camera work is good; several difficult action scenes are portrayed well.  The sets are realistic and diverse.  Audio quality is also good and the soundtrack is respectable.  There is not too much wasted time in the movie, but the editing is not the greatest.  However, this is most likely due to the high amount of plot content.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

There are a lot of well-meaning intentions in the plot of Do You Believe.  There are a lot of good stories, but like God’s Not Dead, they are all crammed together, thus making it hard to focus on one or for each one to develop as they should.  There are more subplots in Do You Believe, and a handful of them are unnecessary and stereotypical.  There is also too much narration that replaces the value of developing a plot.  Due to the large amount of content, most of the characters are reduced to stereotypes and are therefore not accessible.  What would have greatly improved this movie would have been to start at Do You Believe’s climax and then work backward by integrating the past and the present.  As it is, a lot is left on the field.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Some actors are professional, while others seem unrealistic in delivery.  The cast is very diverse, which is a plus.  It is possible that the many characters crowded out the scene and did not give actors enough time to work through their characters, but it is also possible that not enough acting coaching was employed in Do You Believe.

Conclusion

Do You Believe has an excellent message, but it is too issues-based.  The better production quality and the action sequences do hold the attention of the target audience, but the movie is not as good as it could be.  There is plenty of potential with some of the better story lines, but they are drowned out by too much content.  It is noble that the creators wanted to address a lot of important issues in a Christian movie, but the point may be lost.  In the end, it will be interesting to see how this PureFlix saga plays out in the future.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

God’s Not Dead (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Josh Wheaton didn’t ask to be put in the philosophy class of the infamous Professor Radisson.  He also didn’t anticipate having to sign a piece of paper stating that God is dead in order to achieve a high grade in the class.  But prompted by the help of a local pastor, Wheaton decides to not only refuse to sign the paper but also to prove God’s existence in front of the class in addition to his other class assignments.  It’s something that those closest to him do not understand or agree with, but it brings him closer to God and to other people.  Little does he know that Professor Radisson and even those connected to him are being profoundly impacted in ways he never expected.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

This is perhaps the strongest area of the movie.  God’s Not Dead has better production than a majority of PureFlix movies, which shows great progress.  The camera work is great, and the editing is pretty good considering the many interconnected story lines.  The sets are authentic and varied and the lighting is good.  The soundtrack is effective.  The only real error to consider here is the fact that there may be too much content included.  In short, the money used for the movie is mostly put to good use.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, the plot is a bit weak, mostly due to the large number of story lines.  There is nothing inherently wrong with a movie about the interconnected lives of people, and for the most part, God’s Not Dead does a fairly good job managing the content.  However, it seems like there are one too many subplots and one too many characters.  If one or two of these were eliminated and that time used to develop other more interesting characters, this movie would greatly improve.  As it is, the dialogue is pretty good considering the number of characters.  There are some interesting twists and not everything turns out as expected in the end.  Most of the characters are believable, but some seem to be caricatures.  In summary, the plot is a mixed bag with a lot of untapped potential.

Acting Quality (2 points)

When compared to older PureFlix movies, the acting in God’s Not Dead is superb, for most of the actors.  This is David A. R. White’s best acting job to date.  Shane Harper is great in his major debut.  However, Dean Cain and Trisha LaFache are uninspiring.  But still, one could argue that they did not have much to work with.  All in all, the acting is another mixed bag.

Conclusion

God’s Not Dead is the best PureFlix-created movie in their existence.  Improved acting, improved production quality, and improved plot development all contributed to this rise.  However, they still have not hit their ceiling.  There is a lot of potential in this movie, and on its face, it is still an above average movie.  What is most important is that the core message of God’s Not Dead is driven home without being overly preachy or unwatchable.  This is success in and of itself.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points