Paul, Apostle of Christ (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Paul had completed many full years of missionary work across the continents of Asia and Europe and after carrying the Gospel of Jesus Christ to thousands of people, both Jews and Gentiles, he appealed to stand trial in Rome before Caesar, but this decision only caused him to suffer further for the cause of Christ at the hands of cruel Romans.  With the church in Rome on the brink of total annihilation, Priscilla and Aquila house many wanted Christians in their home, and Luke is sent to tend to Paul in prison.  As many Christians begin to question the words of Christ, Luke begs Paul for a fresh word to strengthen the church in her dark times, yet Paul is plagued by his thorn in the flesh–namely the lives of all he killed while he was a religious zealot.  With darkness seeming to close in on Christ’s people, the story of Paul’s life carries the same message that saved all followers of the Way: where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Gone are the days when ‘Bible plays’ like The Book of Esther are socially acceptable as Christian films.  We are in a new era of Christian productions, and Paul, Apostle of Christ is another hallmark of this era.  Similar to recent Biblical depictions, such as Risen, this new look at Paul’s life is gritty and authentic and has no fear of being painfully realistic.  This is evident in the excellent and historically authentic sets, locations, and props.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are also what a professional production should be.  The soundtrack is very engaging and thought-provoking, and the editing is quite creative and effective in presenting the story.  The only drawback to this production is a collection of very dark scenes that may be realistic but do not make for great viewing.  Nevertheless, this is a top-notch production that we should see over and over again in Christian films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

While most standard Biblical plot fare is very flat, face-value, and vanilla, Paul, Apostle of Christ rejects this mold and upends the Biblical genre once and for all.  By inserting extremely creative and well-crafted psychological elements into the core of this storyline, Andrew Hyatt and his team have created a point of no return for films based on Biblical events.  Much like their work in Full of Grace, which showed the potential they have always had, their portrayal of Paul’s thorn in the flesh and the trauma he went through in his life is revolutionary in this genre.  This is exactly what needs to be done to show the humanness of Biblical characters through the exquisite use of effective flashbacks and through processes that demonstrate real motive.  Elsewhere, dialogue is rich and meaningful, and the other subplots are intertwined very well as each character is very well-developed.  Care is given to demonstrate great historical accuracy, and while there are some slightly slow scenes and areas that could have been fleshed out with further dialogue and flashbacks, this storyline is a breath of fresh air in a world of very poor Biblical screenwriting.  To top things off, the ending sequence completes the film excellently and is well worth the wait.  In short, this film is a job well done in nearly every area.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

While there were a few missteps with cast members that are not entirely culturally authentic, they are trained to appear culturally authentic, which is leagues better than having a fully BRITISH cast.  Elsewhere, there is plenty of culturally authentic casting to make this section great, and there is clearly a presence of professional acting coaching.  There are very few errors to point out here, and costuming and makeup are also extremely realistic.  In summary, there are many positive elements to point out in this breakout effort.

Conclusion

This film receives a full x-factor point for its effective use of poignant psychological elements as Paul, Apostle of Christ takes its rightful place among the greatest Christian films of our time.  Andrew Hyatt and his team are clearly going places, and even though their sophomore effort was somewhat muted by the blockbuster release of I Can Only ImaginePaul is a signal that a new force to be reckoned has finally arrived in Biblical films.  It will be exciting to see what this team puts together next, but for now, we can enjoy this great movie.

 

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

 

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Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ben Carson grew up disadvantaged and underprivileged, but his mother was determined that he and his brother would not be stuck with the street life.  Thus, she guided them to read as many books as they get could their hands on, even she herself could not read and struggled with mental illness due to what was done to her in the past.  Ben was his share of struggles as well, but he never forgot the God his mother had taught him about, and he was given great opportunities to become one of the best neurosurgeons of all time.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a well-funded made-for-TV production, Gifted Hands is very professionally done.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all on industry standard, and the soundtrack is historically relevant.  Sets, locations, and props are very authentic and well-constructed, especially the historical and medical elements.  There is very little negative to point out here, except for the fact that editing tends to be choppy due to the large amount of content in this film.  However, this is only a blip on the radar and is not enough to keep this production from being great.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The story of Ben Carson is an excellent true story to make a movie out of, but this rendition does not go as far as it could have.  Granted, they had a lot of content to deal with, so the use of flashbacks and modern timeline intertwining together is effective.  However, it’s likely that a longer runtime was needed to handle the full breadth of content better and to give this film the epic feel that it needed.  While there is an excellent use of subtlety throughout instead of using a narration crutch, there still could have been some better sequences of dialogue to build the characters rather than the many montages that were included.  There are also some abrupt cutoffs between Carson’s life segments without smooth enough transitions between then.  Nonetheless, there is plenty of positive to note here as this realistic true story is brought to life to highlight many pertinent issues, as well as an important message of never giving up on God’s plans for you, even when you grow up disadvantaged.  Thus, in the end, this will be an enjoyable film for many audiences.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Gifted Hands is very professionally cast with no obvious errors at all in this cast.  Emotions are handled realistically, and line delivery is almost always on point.  Each cast member is cast appropriately for their character.  This is the way a cast should be assembled and coached.

Conclusion

This story idea had a lot going for it already, so it was only helped by great production and acting quality.  However, a handful of minor lingering issues hold this movie back from being what it could have been.  Movie plots centered around biopic and epic qualities need to live up to their fullest potential.  Even though this film would have flourished in the right hands, it is still adequate and will find its place among most audiences.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

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

For some reason, we needed another one of these

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Note II: Taking a Chance on Love (Movie Review)

Love the smiling faces!

Plot Summary

David Danville, the son of popular columnist Kingston Danville, doesn’t want to go to college on a sports scholarship because he wants to be an artist, but he is afraid to tell his father.  Thus, he tells his father’s girlfriend, Peyton MacGruder, which causes a conflict between them that confuses Peyton’s thoughts of love for Kingston.  What’s more, her latest column mystery is making her wonder if true love even exists and if it’s even worth it or something.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Taking a Chance on Love is once again a typical Hallmark production, with a few more quirks than usual.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are fine as usual, but the soundtrack tends to be odd and annoying at times.  Sets, locations, and props are also mostly realistic with some minor issues.  The main problem is that editing tends to be confusing as this story is trying to be cut for a television length.  However, many of these small issues can be easily overlooked, which makes this yet another business as usual production for the Hallmark team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Although the first installment in this ‘series’ had some amount of substance, this highly unnecessary and forced sequel lacks it in every way.  The premise is very shallow and thin as it unsuccessfully tries to piggy-back on the success of the first film.  This story is full of silly conflicts and romantic subplot clichés that are inevitably and easily resolved within the allotted time frame.  Thus, the storyline overall is very empty, as are the characters.  Cheap dialogue is used to speed the plot along and build the cheesy romance.  The end result is a cringeworthy collection of plastic people.  The other big issue is that there is barely any potential in this dead-end plot idea, not to mention the fact that not much happens here.  Essentially, this film’s necessity is highly suspect.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Much like other casts that involve Ted McGinley, this one is very underwhelming.  Besides Ted’s usual annoying and plastic presence, most emotions from the cast are fake and manufactured.  Line delivery is extremely measured and robotic.  However, not all is bad here, and there are at least a few good moments from the supporting cast members that keep this section from being nothing.  Yet it doesn’t help the fact that this movie is basically pointless.

Conclusion

Sometimes movie companies will do anything to squeeze a sequel out of a slightly successful idea.  In this case, the Hallmark crew just transposed the cheesiest possible romance story idea onto a flimsy premise and injected familiar characters into it.  This is a very low-effort film with no risk-taking or creativity.  The plastic nature of the people involved is very off-putting and annoying, which rounds out another day in the Hallmark business.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Note [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After an airplane tragically falls from the skies and kills many who were involved, struggling local reporter Peyton MacGruder discovers a note at the crash site that leads her to some investigative journalism about the note’s author and intended recipient.  Thankfully, she has the help of office love interest Kingston Danville to help sort out this holiday mystery.  You never know when or where love’s going to find you at Christmas time!

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As usual for a Hallmark Christmas movie, The Note has a high-quality production.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are all on par with what they should be.  The soundtrack is about what you can expect for a Hallmark holiday creation.  Sets, locations, and props are all professional, and Christmas decorations are even kept to a happy medium.  There are just a few minor errors throughout, like some awkward transitions, but it’s only nitpicking.  As a whole, this is a great production that is mostly the norm in made for television films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As the Hallmark team decides to borrow a plot from acclaimed author Angela Hunt, The Note is unsurprisingly more creative than most Hallmark plots, even though this is not Hunt’s strongest storyline in the least bit.  However, the characters at least bear a semblance of realism due to some good dialogue, even if the plot tends to be based on too many coincidences.  Even so, there are a lot of great messages and ideas throughout this story.  Yet there are one too many moments that come off as a little too cheesy, as well as the inclusion of too many random, disconnected scenes.  Yet on the whole, this is perhaps the best Hallmark has to offer in the plot department.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Another common pitfall in Hallmark movies pertains to the casting and acting.  Any cast that involves Ted McGinley is rarely good, but at least the other cast members besides him are fine, even though he tends to drag down an entire movie with his plastic and overly fake demeanor.  Yet there are enough good and honest moments from the other cast members to make this section at least average.  The one thing that can be said is that it’s not as bad as usual.

Conclusion

Bringing Christian novels to life is almost always a great idea because the plot is already written, and these plots almost always involve some different and non-typical elements.  Angela Hunt is certainly a great author to choose from.  However, production companies are still usually safe in the plots they choose and don’t go too far outside of the norm.  In the end, companies like Hallmark have advertisement spaces to sell, so they don’t want to be too risky.  Perhaps the advent of more Christian-based streaming services will allow more creative content to flourish.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Jeremiah [1998] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 pointsj

 

All Saints [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

The Lost and Found Family (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Ester’s husband dies, she discovers that their estate is not as wealthy as she thought it was.  All she is left with after the debts are paid is a small house that’s being rented out to a foster family, so she sets out with the hopes of kicking them out, but what she finds instead gives her a whole new perspective on life.  Though she began trying to get rid of them, Ester soon discovers how she can help them and puts her mind to doing just that, if they will have her.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Affirm Films have always been faithful in their production quality, no matter the time period.  The Lost and Found Family is no exception.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality reflect this professionalism, even if the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  Though sets, locations, and props are slightly limited, they are utilized well and are realistic.  The main issues to point out here are some typical problems with editing, such as abrupt cuts and transitions.  It seems like some content was cut out in post-production that causes there to be odd stops and starts.  But in the end, this is a high-quality production that should be a mainstay in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As previously mentioned, this plot seems like it was originally longer, because the final draft is slightly rushed.  Regardless of this, the plot progression is too predictable and includes of a lot of stereotypical rural plot elements.  Though the characters are believable and authentic due to their dialogue and although their struggles are realistic and accessible, The Lost and Found Family is still based on the stereotypical premise of a save-the-house-from-the-evil-businessman story using a historical discovery to do so.  The beginning of the story is creative and interesting, but it ends up a very typical plot and fixes too many conflicts in unrealistic ways by the time it’s over.  This story and its characters had so much potential, but it needed more twists and turns in order to work.  It might have been better to make this a two-part story, but funding was obviously a constraint in doing this.  In the end, it’s unfortunate that more couldn’t have come from this movie.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Affirm has also built their reputation on professional casting and acting coaching, and this film is no exception.  Each character is cast very well.  Emotions are very effective throughout and line delivery is on point.  The only nitpick to raise here are some slightly over-practiced performances, but this is only a small issue.  In the end, this is a professional film that many will enjoy.

Conclusion

Truly character-based plots like this one are hard to come by, so it’s refreshing to see one, even if the premise and plot progression are very formulaic and predictable.  A longer format would help this sort of story greatly because it would give more room for character exploration and would lend opportunity for more twists and turns.  Yet as it is, The Lost and Found Family will be enjoyed by many audiences, so it’s likely worth your time.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Mercy Streets [2000] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

John and Jeremiah are estranged twin brothers who were separated by tragedy.  One thinks the other is dead, while the other resents his twin for leaving him behind.  Now one of them is a priest, while the other is a slimy street dealer.  When they accidentally trade places and find themselves in harm’s way, they discover what they are really made of.  Will they be able to reconcile their differences before one of them is killed?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As an early 2000s production, Mercy Streets has a lot of eccentric elements.  A lot of the time, it seems like this film is trying to mimic some cheesy 80s movie.  Video quality is mostly fine, but camera work is strange, with random and unwanted freeze frames at inconvenient times.  Audio quality is good, however, and the soundtrack is actually effective and interesting.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and authentic.  However, the editing, like the camera work, is also unusual and hampers the viewing experience with odd stop-starts and slow motion.  In the end, this is an ambitious production, but it is stuck at average due to some off-the-wall issues.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Mercy Streets is one of those rare movies wherein the plot is better than the casting.  Though the story is built on a somewhat predictable twin-character-switch premise, it is a still a unique standout among Christian films.  The characters are quirky but are at least interesting and flawed.  Dialogue is all over the place—sometimes creative and sometimes ridiculous.  The twists are not really twists at all, and the ending sequence is a bit confusing at times, but overall, the storyline does not follow a very predictable progression, even though it has some predictable elements.  In the end, this story is worth a rewrite at some point—as long as a different cast was utilized.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This is an unusual instance in which the clown cast really drags down the characters and the story.  Unless this movie was supposed to be a comedy, which we don’t think it was, this casting is terrible.  Eric Roberts makes a great comic villain, but not an actual one (although, this is probably his most dedicated performance to date).  David A. R. White can rarely be taken seriously—in this film, it seems like he’s trying to mint his career by copying some iconic performance.  Also, he fulfilled his dream of playing two characters (which he also did later) and laid the groundwork for his later ‘comedy’ preaching.  Need we say anything about Kevin Downes and the others?  This cast really puts a damper on things.

Conclusion

Jon Gunn and his team have always had potential to do something great, but little issues always hold his works back from being great.  But definitely has great things ahead of him if he can continue producing good plots, improve production quality, and find better cast members.  If these three elements come into alignment, there are great things in store for him and his team.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Esther [1999] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When King Xerxes banished his wife, Queen Vashti, for refusing to obey him, he called all the young women of the Persian kingdom to come and audition to be his new queen.  Among them was Esther, a Jewess, whose cousin Mordecai instructed her to hide her ethnic identity from the royal leaders.  Little did either of them know that she had been raised up by God for such a time to save His people from certain destruction.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though this film was made before the 2000s, Affirm Films demonstrated even in 1999 that they were committed to professional production quality.  Video quality and camera work are good in this film, even if lighting is sometimes inconsistent.  Audio quality is average, and the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  The biggest win for this production is the professional and historically authentic sets, locations, and props which demonstrate care for accuracy.  The editing is fine but it could use a little improvement.  Overall, this is a respectable production and shows why Affirm is where they are today.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This rendition of the story of Esther was likely the first of its kind in the modern era, later to be follow by For Such a Time As This, One Night With the King, and the deplorable Book of Esther.  In this 1999 version, care is also given to an accurate retelling of the story, even if it is a little too literal.  This is the only film we’ve seen that portrays Xerxes very well and likely accurate to the historical figure.  At least this story shies away from the silly ‘love story’ trope that modern film writers try to force into the account.  However, the characters in this version still don’t seem like real people as they are too dramatic and boring at the same time.  There are a lot of dead sequences and not enough substantial dialogue.  Overall, this was a nice try, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast, though semi-professional, is overly theatrical and too practiced.  Though costuming is culturally authentic, the casting is not always this way.  Emotions are also forced and feel manufactured, like this is some sort of Bible play.  Yet not all is bad here and this rounds out an acceptable effort.

Conclusion

A lot of time and money was likely spent on sets and costumes in this film, much like its later relation, One Night With the King.  However, what both of these films forget is substance.  Though Esther is better at adhering to the true historical account, it is still not presented in an interesting way that will engage audiences.  Biblical film makers can learn from this to not abandon accuracy but still develop the characters like they’re real people, not lofty ‘heroes’ that have no connection to us today.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Miracles from Heaven (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Anna Beam is diagnosed with a rare digestive disorder, her parents, especially her mother, are thrown for a loop.  They question their faith as they are swept up in the chaos of medical treatments and tests.  In the face of adversity, the Beam family must pull together and dig deep to discover what they truly believe, because a miracle from heaven could be just around the corner.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

With top level production budgeting and resources, Miracles from Heaven is clearly a high quality production.  Everything looks great—camera work, video quality, sets, props, and locations.  Audio quality is professional, but the soundtrack is standard.  The only flaw to point out here is some lazy editing—there are a lot of montages and footage scenes that seem to pad the runtime.  But otherwise, this is the kind of production that should be the norm in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

It’s undeniable that this true story touched the Beam family in more ways we can imagine, and it’s always great to portray real life on the big screen.  This is obviously an amazing story, but we can’t help but feel that it could have been portrayed in a better way.  For one, though these are real people in the story, they don’t feel real, which is probably due to the fact that time speeds by in this plot.  There’s obviously a lot of ground to cover, but the pace of the storyline leaves little room for meaningful dialogue or character development.  This is a collection of snapshots—good snapshots, mind you—but snippets nonetheless.  In the end, many will find this movie enjoyable, but we just would have liked to get to know the characters a little better.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

This is clearly a professional and quality cast, as lines are mostly delivered well.  The main drawback to raise here are some over the top emotional deliveries.  But otherwise, each character is cast well and each cast member delivers professionally.

Conclusion

Stories like the Beam family’s story are powerful and deserve recognition in Christian entertainment.  They are meaningful and can be very powerful for those who watch.  Movies like Miracles from Heaven will have a lot of impact with a lot of audiences.  However, we would have liked to see the characters of this movie deepened so that its impact would have been maximized.  But as it is, many people will enjoy this film and it’s certainly something worth watching.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

The Moment After 2: The Awakening (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After the Rapture, the inevitable one world government materialized and began rounding up the Christians when they wouldn’t take the mark of the beast.  Thus, Christians began to form groups in secret to protect each other from the new one world order.  Former FBI agent Adam Riley, now a resistor, escapes from captivity and sets out to find the truth about the Christians in hiding.  His former partner Charles Baker is also called back to serve the one world order and to search for the elusive Jacob Krause.  As their paths cross once again, choices will be made that will affect them forever.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Awakening is a slight improvement from the first Moment After installment.  Camera work is the most marked improvement, as action scenes are shot better.  Sets and locations are also improved to give the film a bit more of a realistic feel.  Audio quality is fine, but video quality is slightly inconsistent.  Some scenes are not lit as well as others.  The soundtrack is just average.  However, the editing has its positive elements as the story seems to unfold.  In the end, this is an average production, but something is still missing.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Awakening has strong comparisons to Revelation Road and could be considered its predecessor.  As such, there are some intriguing elements in The Awakening, but it’s still not a very dynamic story.  Slightly more effort was put into the complexity of this installment than in the first one, and there is an interesting twist near the end, but there isn’t really much else good to say here.  The characters are still empty and the plot is filled with too many boring and meandering conversations.  The villains are quite cheesy and the apocalyptic elements are, as usual, manufactured.  Also, this film is inevitably continued into nothing, like many apocalyptic efforts after it, thus making the overall story very empty and pointless.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This acting performance is much the same as the first installment, just with an extra dose of Andrea Logan White in all her usual stiffness.  David A. R. White and Kevin Downes are also their usual selves with random outbursts and fake action-guy demeanors.  Brad Heller surprisingly remains sane throughout the film.  Overall, this is just another below-average performance.

Conclusion

Why start a series you never intend to finish?  This incident was not isolated to The Moment After series; the Whites and company repeated this again with Jerusalem Countdown, In the Blink of an Eye, and possibly The Mark series as well.  The fate of Revelation Road is still unknown, but the bottom line is that if you keep starting and never finishing the same apocalyptic plots over and over again, there’s a problem.  Rather than constantly flooding the market with half-ideas, how about finishing what you start and actually delivering something original for a change?

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

The Moment After 1 (Movie Review)

The old days

Plot Summary

In one moment, millions disappear and in the next moment, millions are left to wonder what just happened.  As the government tries to sort out the pieces, they send out FBI agents to investigate those left behind (haha).  Adam Riley and Charles Baker are just the agents for the job and they soon become caught up in an intrigue involving trying to find a mysterious former Jewish rabbi who seems to have special powers.  In the end, which path will they choose as the world descends into chaos?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Made in the late 1990s, The Moment After 1 has considerable production deficits.  Though video quality is decent and audio quality is okay throughout, there is a lot to be desired here.  Sets and locations are pedestrian and action camera shots are not what they should be.  The soundtrack is also very standard.  There is really no editing present as the plot slogs from one thing to the next.  In the end, this is just another below average production that does not live up to full standard.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Another year, another carbon-copy apocalyptic film.  Likely a precursor to every unfinished PureFlix apocalyptic idea (Jerusalem Countdown, In the Blink of an Eye, and the Revelation Road series), The Moment After 1 really has nothing to offer.  Empty characters, stock dialogue, and a predictable apocalyptic progression.  Rapture, fallout, Christian explanations and lingo, government takeover, blah, blah, blah.  This film offers nothing special and adds nothing to Christian entertainment.  It’s inevitably continued and offers no real surprises as Kevin Downes and David A. R. White interview a bunch of people about stuff.  Basically, if you watched any of the above mentioned films, you’ve probably seen this one.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though Brad Heller posts a better performance than usual, David A. R. White and Kevin Downes are their usual action-here-wannabe selves.  Though there are no truly embarrassing performances, there are no dynamic ones either.  Line delivery and emotions are below average and don’t really inspire.  Like the rest of film, this is just unimpressive.

Conclusion

Apparently there was a point in Christian film when creators thought the only action or suspense plots that could be made had to involved the Rapture and another apocalyptic lingo and concepts.  The LaHaye pre-tribulation theory has been conceptualized in film too many times to count, and the The Moment After 1 simply adds to the pile.  There is simply nothing interesting to note in this film and you’re definitely not missing anything.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

The Confession [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Leaving her Amish family behind in order to discover who she truly is in the world, Katie Lapp soon discovers that the Englisher life is harder than she anticipated.  She tries to work a restaurant job while searching for the mother she never met, Laura Mayfield-Bennet.  As a wealthy woman with a terminal illness, Laura is wary of leaving too much for her husband, Dylan, to gamble away like he has before.  She longs to find the long lost daughter she gave up years before, but she gives up all hope until one day, a miracle seemingly occurs.  Has her daughter really returned to her or has her husband pulled another one of his tricks?  In the midst of the confusion, Katie Lapp must keep her head above water and trust that God is in control.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Michael Landon Jr. and Brian Bird always seem like they are on the cusp of production greatness, and The Confession inches closer to production perfection, improving from the standard performance of The Shunning.  Camera work is highly professional, as is video quality.  Sound quality is good across the board.  The sets and locations are more realistic and diverse than the previous installment and give the film a tangible feel.  Yet two areas—the soundtrack and the editing—keep this production from being all it could be.  For one, The Confession utilizes a vanilla Hallmark-ish soundtrack that doesn’t inspire much.  For another, there are some lapses of editing, namely some odd assumptions, leaps in logic, and plot holes.  For the most part, the editing is fine, but there are just enough errors to create a small amount of confusion.  But in the end, this is actually a really good production and showcases what the Landon Jr. crew can do.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The Confession is more complex than The Shunning and it is really an interesting storyline.  The structure is unique and is mostly not one that is commonly used.  The conflict is slightly simple, but at least it’s not a copy of a copy of a copy.  Characters feel more real in the second movie than in the first one, and this is probably because of some more meaningful and deeper dialogue.  But there are a few silly moments that keep the character development from being all that it could be.  Elsewhere, as previously mentioned, there are some plot holes and leaps and logic that are inserted just to keep the plot moving to a desired conclusion.  For instance, how did replacement servant never arrive from ‘the agency’ and expose Katie for not being the replacement servant?  This allows the plot to progress forward to its desired conclusion with a dramatic will-signing scene.  For the most part, the error finding in this film is a little bit nitpicky, but we would have preferred to see the plot progress more naturally and not so carefully orchestrated.  Also, the ending of the film is quite confusing and isolating, obviously just setting up for the next film.  In the end, The Confession is an enjoyable plot with a touching message—it’s just too bad it wasn’t better because it definitely could have been.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Usually, changing a handful of the cast members in the middle of a trilogy isn’t a good idea, but it actually helps this franchise.  Katie Leclerc is a much better Katie Lapp and makes her character feel more authentic.  Elsewhere, emotional delivery and line delivery are much improved.  Everyone is cast very appropriately.  For the most part, Landon Jr. and company avoid their usual over-costuming mistakes.  Unfortunately, a handful of minor errors keep the acting quality from being perfect, but it is still a formidable effort.

Conclusion

Landon Jr., Bird, and their comrades have always demonstrated an ability to adapt Christian novels into films, and The Confession is probably their second best.  It’s oh-so-close to being Hall of Fame due to its professional feel and slightly creative plot, but several minor issues become a perfect storm to keep this from happening.  Unfortunately, only major plot reconstruction would have made it any better.  Yet it is good how it is and many people will enjoy this film.  Therefore, we can’t help but wonder that Hallmark’s production absence from this film somehow made it better.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Soul Surfer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ad avid surfer living the dream in Hawaii, Bethany Hamilton always sought to know God better and to improve her technique on the waves.  She had her life planned out fairly well: surf and compete.  What she least expected was having her arm horrifically bitten off by an unforeseen shark one day while surfing with friends.  After being rushed to emergency care, Bethany began a slow recovery process, but in the midst of this, she discovered that her life would never be the same again, for her passion—surfing—was suddenly next to impossible for her.  She is forced is come to grips with both her faith and her dreams and discover what her true purpose in life is.

Production Quality (2 points)

With an obviously large budget and professional production teams at work, Soul Surfer looks great on the surface.  Its marketing campaign was backed up by beloved Hawaiian scenery, captured by professional camera work and clear video quality.  There is no question that the sets and locations are professional, and the scenery is diverse.  Sound quality is excellent, especially in the many outside scenes.  The soundtrack is intriguing and attempts to capture the local culture.  The biggest issue with this production is the one that plagues the entire film: poor editing, which is coupled with a blurry and confusing storyline.  With this level of professional production crews, the editing should be far better than it is.  Scenes are largely understated and meaningful segments are cut short to jump to more Hawaii landscapes.  The editing makes it hard to follow the actual purpose of this film.  There are too many time jumps and wasted scenes.  Overall, the production is clearly professional, but the editing unfortunately holds this movie back from being all that it could be.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Based on a great true story of Bethany Hamilton, whom we maintain is an excellent Christian role model, Soul Surfer falls short of capturing the depth and meaning of the true story.  Realistic events obviously happen throughout, but we cannot help but think this movie would have been less realistic were it not bound by real life events.  In the midst of Hawaiian beaches, surfing lingo, wave scenery, and surfing competitions, the characters are left shallow and wooden.  The audience cannot connect with them as real people—they are just characters that are swept along by the plot.  Dialogue is stiff and procedural, leaving much to be desired.  The plot ebbs and flows, sometimes hitting high points and missing them other times.  The Christian message is vague at first, then becomes very clear and meaningful, and then fades away again.  The ending is interesting enough, but it just ends up washing away like the tide (pun intended).  The audience is left thinking that they should like the movie because it’s a Christian movie based on a true story, but Soul Surfer is actually quite forgettable and disappointing.  True stories are usually undiscovered treasures when it comes to the big screen, but Soul Surfer is just another average film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Someone thought that putting together a collection of semi-big-name actors and actresses would make this movie work, and there is really nothing glaringly wrong with this cast, but like the rest of the movie, they leave much to be desired.  Their professionalism only carries them so far—they needed to perform better.  Line delivery is mostly good, but emotions are hard to connect with.  A lot of the acting comes off as stiff and procedural, just collecting a paycheck.  With big name talent comes big responsibility.

Conclusion

As we have mentioned before, true stories should be among the best of Christian movies.  Whether viewers or creators realize it or not, audiences everywhere connect better with a movie that’s about real people like them who experience real stuff.  But after experiencing Soul Surfer, the audience doesn’t really learn anything else about Bethany Hamilton except that she surfed and stuff.  This is no discredit to her as a person, since she is likely a nicer person than we are.  But we remain opinionated as always: while still an average movie, Soul Surfer disappoints expectations.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

The Grace Card (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Police officer Mac McDonald has big plans for his future career, but his entire life crashed down the day that his son was killed in an accident involving racial violence and drugs.  With his life in a tailspin, Mac’s family and work environment feel the effects of his newfound anger towards the world.  But he especially directs his anger at African-American criminals, further contributing to the racial divide in the community.  However, when Mac is paired up with Sam Wright, a popular African American police officer and part-time pastor, he is reluctantly forced to take a look at the basis for his racial hatred—is he angry at African-Americans or at God?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

At first glance, it seems like The Grace Card had time and money spent on its production.  The video is clear and the sound quality is pretty good.  The musical score is intriguing, but there are still some minor issues that plague the film.  The camera work is good in some parts, but not good in other parts.  Some of the action scenes are a bit shaky.  The sound quality of some of the action scenes is also inconsistent.  Lighting is good in some scenes, but not in others.  The sets and locations are slightly limited.  But at the same time, some scenes and elements of production seem well constructed.  Overall, the production quality comes out as average due to inconsistency.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

This is an excellent topic to discuss via a Christian movie—the racial divide in most American cities combined with tense relations between police and racial minorities.  From the beginning, it is unfortunately obvious where the plot is going to go, but at least the journey is interesting.  The Grace Card mostly stays away from stereotypes, an important factor in this type of film, but some of the characters are a bit too obvious.  The dialogue is mostly thought-provoking and balances out the action sequences.  However, it seems like these characters could have been deeper than they were.  Also, there are some seemingly unnecessary parts in the plot, including scenes in which it is difficult to tell what’s going on.  Overall, the storyline is above average, but once again, little issues keep it from being all that it could be.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting in The Grace Card is neither obviously great nor obviously bad.  Each actor and actress seems to be cast into their respective roles very well.  There is obviously cast diversity.  Yet it feels like these actors and actresses could be more than they are in this film.  Their potential needed to be drawn out more.  Therefore, the ultimate outcome of this movie is average.

Conclusion

The Grace Card is a great start for a new film making team.  It exhibits an important issue that needs to be tackled and confronted in every area of Christian culture.  But we could not help but watch The Grace Card and wish for something more.  Nonetheless, it is definitely something to build off of for the future.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

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

Abel’s Field (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Seth McArdle didn’t ask for his mother to die or his no-account father to leave him to take care of his two younger sisters.  Despite his pleas, Seth’s brother refuses to help him or have anything to do with him.  Therefore, Seth must attempt to successfully complete high school instead of drop out like his father did, and hold down two jobs in order to barely support him and his sisters.  What’s more, the football coach and his quarterback son both hate Seth’s family, prompting Seth into a fight that lands him with a third unpaid job working under an eccentric maintenance worker named Abel.  With the bank calling to collect on the overdue house payments, Seth feels like his whole world is crashing down around him.  He must either choose to ask for help or resort to desperate measures.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For a little known production, Abel’s Field puts many independent Christian films to shame.  While the video quality is slightly inconsistent, the angles are not.  While it is easy to discern that this is a limited budget production, the crew did the best they could with what they had.  They optimized their funding better than many movies who had more money to work with than they did.  The only real concern here is the editing; some portions seem to drag on too long and needed a little but more time at the editor’s office.  Otherwise, there are no negative elements to bring up—this is huge for a movie this obscure.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Abel’s Field has a very interesting point that is tied to a twist at the end of the movie.  We will not spoil anything except that it makes the movie very intriguing.  Leading up to the end, the plot has a very authentic feel and is driven by believable and accessible characters.  Though they seem simple on the surface, their dialogue is profound.  The one drawback is that the plot may be a little too slow to hold audience’s attentions, but it is the simplicity of the plot that makes this movie what it is.

Acting Quality (3 points)

This movie is both cast well and acted well.  Kevin Sorbo manifests arguably his best role in playing a very difficult character.  Samuel Davis is excellent, as are the supporting actors.  It would have been easy for the acting to have been bland and wooden, but this is not the case.  There are no negative acting elements.

Conclusion

With a better budget and a smidgen more time spent on the plot, Abel’s Field could have been a perfect film.  Yet even still, it proves that it is possible to make a quality film with only a limited budget.  The plot is very compelling and is filled with realistic characters living out realistic lives.  While Abel’s Field is underrated, it deserves more attention than it is getting.

 

Final Rating: 8 out of 10 points

The Remaining (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jack, Dan, and Allison are excited to be a part of the special day for their friends Tommy and Skylar, who are marrying each other.  Dan looks forward to capturing the day with his camera.  However, the wedding reception is interrupted by an unexplainable cataclysmic event—thousands around the world are turning up suddenly dead.  As if this was not enough, natural disasters begin occurring one after another, driving the five friends to seek shelter along with millions of others as darkness descends on the planet.  They must come to grips with the Christian beliefs they have long been ignoring in order to survive the chaos.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

This is intended to be a found footage production, but the movie does not stick with found footage for the entire duration, even though multiple characters are shown filming with various devices.  In conjunction with this, the camera work is expectedly shaky, probably to add some kind of sensational feel.  Since this is supposed to be a horror movie, there are also obligatory cheesy jump scares, cheap dark action, and poor special effects.  Multiple scenes have constant flashing lights or piercing noises, making for a cringing watch.  In addition, there are multiple scenes that repeat over again due to characters watching the footage they have already recorded.  In summary, the production is C-grade; do not watch if you have epilepsy or dizziness problems, because this movie will not be kind to you.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

What is the plot?  The Remaining falls in line with many apocalyptic action and horror movies that discard the plot and exchange it for sensationalism.  There is no driving purpose except for trumped up drama.  There too many characters, and they are all empty, neglected in a quest to attempt to entertain young audiences, we are guessing.  The dialogue is stock and forced, like it was added just because the characters had to say something.  The Biblical elements of the movie are juxtaposed on top of an overdone horror concept.  No matter where you stand on end-times prophecy, the succession of the judgments is sped up to suit this movie’s runtime.  Furthermore, the end of the movie is extremely perplexing, like they just ran out of ideas.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The acting is cheesy and amateurish.  Most of the time, the actors are either trying too hard or not trying at all.  Horror acting is already bad enough, and this cast took it to a whole new level.  We feel that even coaching would not have helped because of this movie’s clear lack of direction.

Conclusion

The Remaining feels like a group of college students got together and wanted to make a horror movie.  When they were rejected by mainstream producers, they decided to slap a Christian message on it and hope it stuck.  Why this movie was distributed is beyond Box Office Revolution.  It should have been stripped of its funding early in the production process.  It will forever be remembered as one of those cheesy Christian apocalypse films that never made any real impact.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

When the Game Stands Tall (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

War Room (Movie Review)

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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)

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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 superb.  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.  There are no production errors.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

It is very difficult to quantify the plot of Courageous into a plot summary.  The one written above does not even do the movie justice.  This is the most complex Kendrick plot, in which they have perfected the non-linear model.  It is not a simple, straightforward plot, but one filled with twists, turns, and real-life events that are accessible by the audience.  There are surprises, character arcs, realistic action scenes, and yes, the staple of Kendrick movies—true comedy.  The characters are believable and are supported by excellent dialogue.  At the end, not everything is neat and tidy, and things do not end the way one would expect them to end.  In short, there are no negative plot elements.

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, something mainstream moviemakers need to learn from.

Conclusion

Courageous receives the extra x-factor point for delivering an important issue in a masterful and non-preachy fashion.  This movie is truly the pinnacle of the Kendricks’ careers.  Few moviemakers ever reach this point when they can produce a movie with virtually no errors.  The brothers’ commitment to Christ and to delivering solid Christian movies has paid off.  Courageous achieved the rare status of being a perfectly rated Box Office Revolution movie.

 

Final Rating: 10 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

Facing the Giants (Movie Review)

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bgn

Plot Summary

Nothing ever seems to work out for Grant Taylor, high school coach of the Shiloh Eagles football team.  His team is the laughingstock of the conference, his job is perpetually on the hot seat, his income is sub-par, and he and his wife cannot seem to have any children.  What’s worse, the allegedly Christian football players have horrible attitudes toward the game and toward life, thus causing their new season to go from bad to worse.  Everything comes to a head one day when Coach Taylor overhears the top men of the private school discussing his potential exit with one of his trusted assistant coaches.  This causes Grant to cry out to God for help, and He answers, telling him to disciple his players and to foster a new attitude on the team.  This is all confirmed by a faithful praying man who refuses to give up on the spiritual state of the school.  When Grant gives everything over to God, he is shocked at the results that are produced not only at his job but also in his personal life.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

Giants was a landmark work in the Christian movie industry.  It upped the standard of Christian movie production quality, something that was long overdue.  The Kendrick Brothers invested in better equipment, and it paid off.  Gone are the days of poor Flywheel production.  The camera work, which could have easily been poorly done due to difficult football game scenes, is flawless.  There is no more grainy video or medieval sound; the lighting in Giants is excellent.  The soundtrack and audio quality are professional.  Box Office Revolution sees little to nothing negative about the Giants production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This is perhaps the weakest area of Facing the Giants.  The plot is fairly predictable, but it is done in the best way possible.  The characters are believable and the Christian message is meaningful without being preachy.  Dialogue is meaningful and real life events play out that the viewers can relate to.  There are no real surprises or plot twists, but after all, this was the Kendricks’ second movie on a relatively small budget.  One breath of fresh air is their continued commitment to well-thought-out comedy scenes, something that makes average movies great.  Overall, this is not a creative plot, but it is done well.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Who needs ‘professional’ actors when the Kendricks are the acting coaches?  ‘Amateur’ actors are made great in this movie.  They make their characters believable rather than stereotypical.  Dialogue is delivered well.  BOR sees no real errors here.

Conclusion

In short, while Giants is not the best movie, it is certainly an above average movie.  This is due to superb leadership and a commitment to a meaningful Christian message.  Production is top-notch and the acting is excellent.  This movie’s only weak area is its average plot, but this is only a small issue when compared to other Christian movies.  The most important thing is that the Kendrick Brothers were not done yet.

 

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

October Baby (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Hannah Lawson grew up a fairly normal girl with some slightly unusual health issues, but she adjusted fairly well and had an enjoyable albeit sheltered family life.  However, everything changes when she has another onslaught of health issues while performing a college play.  This only exposes her silent struggle with depression and a secret her parents have kept from her all her life—that they adopted her as an infant because she is the survivor of a failed abortion.  This revelation leads Hannah to confide in her childhood friend Jason, which prompts him to help her find her birth mother, who might live six hours away from her.  Against the advice of her overprotective father, Hannah embarks on a spring break trip with Jason and his friends in order to discover her origins.  However, a fight with Jason’s girlfriend causes Hannah to strike out on her own, prompting Jason to follow her.  Together, they not only discover Hannah’s past, but also the feelings they have kept hidden from each other.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For a pilot movie, the production of October Baby is top notch.  The camera work, including angles and shots, is exquisite with an artistic flair.  This is not a cheap production.  Filming is not contained to buildings, and outside scenes are not cheaply produced.  Lighting and video quality are very professional.  The soundtrack is excellent and enhances the movie; audio quality is exquisite.  The only caveat here is that some scenes seem too long; some editing might have been prudent.  But besides this, October Baby is very refreshing.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

October Baby has a simple linear plot, but it is a deep plot.  The Erwin Brothers did everything they possibly could to do the best with what they had.  There are some slight plot twists that are not overstated.  The characters are well-developed through believable dialogue and are very authentic.  There is even dry humor that is pulled off well and is not cheesy.  The plot is not entirely about forcing the pro-life message, but it still offers a poignant true-to-life expose on the importance of valuing all human life.  This is a truly meaningful plot that could convince someone to become pro-life.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Casting is perhaps a special talent of the Erwin Brothers.  Every actor is cast perfectly with their part.  The less experienced actors are as well coached as the more experienced actors.  In the opinion of Box Office Revolution, this is the best movie John Schneider has ever acted in, and it can be credited to the expertise of the Erwin Brothers.  The story behind Shari Rigby’s casting is a divine appointment.

Conclusion

October Baby receives an extra point for having an x-factor of dealing with the sensitive issue of abortion in a superb manner.  Issues like this can come off as too pushy or preachy, but not so with the Erwin brothers.  Instead, the issue is woven throughout the plot through believable characters.  This movie’s only weakness is some scenes that appeared to last longer than they should have.  The production is excellent, as is the acting.  In short, October Baby is the Erwin brothers’ huge entrance into the Christian movie scene—signaling even better things to come.

 

Final Rating: 9 out of 10 points

Flywheel (Movie Review)

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mma

Plot Summary

Jay Austin is a typical used car salesman: dishonest and unashamed of it.  He will do anything to make good margins, including cheat old women and lie outright about the quality of his vehicles.  However, his financial situation is not what he wants it to be, as he is at risk of losing his business to foreclosure.  He calls himself a Christian, but he does not feel conviction for his actions until one day, when he is desperate, he happens upon a television sermon that pricks his conscience regarding his common business practices.  In order to receive God’s favor, Jay turns his philosophy around and begins to build a reputation of integrity for himself.  This causes him to part ways with some of his salesmen, who learned Jay’s former dishonest ways.  On the brink of losing his business, Jay cries out to God and obeys His prompting to return money he cheated out of people.  Following this, a miracle occurs when Jay sells nearly every car on his lot on the day his bill is due at the bank.  It was that day that Jay truly learned what it meant to serve God in all areas of his life.

Production Quality (.5 point)

Anyone who knows anything about the Kendricks knows that Flywheel is not their best movie by far.  The camera work is very poor, as is the editing.  Sometimes the video is hard to make out and there are frequent background noises that disrupt viewing.  Camera angles are not the best.  There are quite a few lighting issues.  While this looks like an overall cheap production, first time film makers get a break on production quality, especially if the budget is tight.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The plot of the inaugural Kendrick film is not bad, but it could be better.  It showcases the beginnings of the trademark Kendrick non-linear plot style, but not to its full potential.  Most of the characters are stereotypical and the dialogue is un-compelling.  There is really nothing dynamic here except for some brief comedy scenes that hold the attention.  The ending is fairly predictable, but Kendricks do a pretty good job at driving home the parable narrative.  They showed great potential, even early on.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The poor acting can be excused by not only the early stages of Kendrick productions, but also the fact that this movie is made of entirely inexperienced or semi-experienced actors.  While many of the actors are seemingly down to earth and realistic in some respects, they are not up to par with high quality productions.  Thankfully, Kendrick movies did not remain on the level of Flywheel.

Conclusion

In the end, Flywheel shows a lot of raw talent, initiative, and want-to.  The production is raw and honest.  The plot is semi-complex and the actors are close to home.  However, it is not enough to warrant a re-watch.  Flywheel will forever serve as a reminder of how blockbuster moviemakers get started.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points