Extraordinary [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

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Brother’s Keeper [2015] (Movie Review)

 

Plot Summary

Andy and Pete Goodwynn are twin brothers and always have each other’s back, even when they do not see eye to eye on things.  However, when one of them is falsely accused by a powerful man in town who can have whatever he wants, neither twin brother knows what to do.  Though it seems like there will never be justice, little do they know that they will be challenged to grow closer to God as a result of the adversity they face.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It is clear that a lot of work was done in Brother’s Keeper to have a professional production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is very engaging and interesting.  Sets, locations, and props are all appropriate and realistic for the time period.  There are really no glaring errors to point out here.  The only caveat to raise pertains to some minor editing issues, since a large amount of content is being handled here.  But on the whole, this is nearly a model production and one we should see more of in the days to come.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The storyline of Brother’s Keeper is one of the most interesting yet most frustrating plots to witness.  It depicts an unfortunately realistic corrupt small-town premise filled with believable characters that each have their own flaws.  The plot writers were not afraid to be real in their depiction of people and thus have crafted some good dialogue here.  However, despite this plot’s many positives, it is hamstrung by a very disjointed structure that includes large and seemingly unnecessary plot holes and time jumps.  The portions that are chosen to be time jumps really make no sense as to why they couldn’t have been included.  Due to the other plot elements, one would think that the story could have more continuity.  Yet nonetheless, this is an interesting story that is at least worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is a relatively professional cast, and it even has an excellent villain cast for Ray Wise.  There are only minor errors to speak of here, mostly pertaining to some overdone emotions.  However, there are plenty of good moments to highlight, and line delivery is on point.  Though there are some small areas for improvement, this is a great example of good casting and coaching.

Conclusion

Due to the scope of this idea, the movie either needed to be split into two parts or it needed to be made into a miniseries.  There is enough content and character development here to sustain at least a two-part miniseries or movie.  Even though this film falls short of the Hall of Fame, there are plenty of positive elements in it that can be applied to other films, such as a non-typical, complex storyline, as well as professional production, casting, and coaching.  It will be interesting to see if this creative team makes anything else in the future.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

The Potential Inside (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chris Carmik is a successful professional cyclist and is an extremely competitive athlete.  However, his great success on the track has caused his family life to suffer.  His wife and daughter barely know him or see him.  But one night, a tragedy changes their family forever and leaves them reeling in the aftermath.  With the rise of a new cyclist who wants to be trained by Chris, will he be able to pick up the pieces and turn back to God before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As usual for Scotty Curlee and the Liberty University team, production is certainly not a major issue in their early film The Potential Inside.  Video quality and camera work are professional, as are audio quality and the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are adequate and appropriate, especially the sports scenes.  The biggest issue to point out here, as usual, is the fairly choppy editing job.  It’s difficult to follow the story due to this fact and makes the experience uneven.  In the end, while Curlee and team are masters of production quality, they often get lost in film school and forget about real plot content.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The Potential Inside is the same song, different verse for the inspirational sports genre.  This story follows the rock bottom journey of a typical downtrodden and troubled athlete character who needs a comeback to save his career and his family.  All the typical melodrama ensues, even though these characters are circumstances are mostly believable.  Yet it’s difficult to get to know these characters as real people rather than as cardboard cutouts.  As the story jumps all over the place and wastes lots of time, there are way too many sports\training montages to pump the runtime.  Due to this fact, the message of this film is fairly unclear, even as it introduces unwarranted quick fixes to patch things up in the end.  Unfortunately, there’s really not much good to say here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the Liberty University team usually assembles semi-professional casts, coaching isn’t their forte.  The performances of this cast are mostly okay and passable, but there are some forceful emotions and yelling sequences that get annoying.  Line delivery is mostly on point.  In the end, a lot of parts of this film seem to be checking boxes.

Conclusion

This film was early in Curlee’s career, so perhaps he will only grow from where he has been.  He and his team have all the potential in the world—as well as an amazing amount of resources that some film makers only dream about.  Now it’s time for them to marshal these resources properly and to truly make a film that can turn the industry on its ear—because they definitely have the ability to do so.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Altar Egos (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Pastor John Bridges inherits his father’s church, he is given huge expectations by the congregation, who is led by his suspicious and controlling stepmother, Mary Margaret.  John’s wife Betsy wants him to look for a better opportunity, but John wants to follow in his father’s footsteps.  However, when Mary Margaret leads a church revolt against John, he decides to take matters into his own hands and enlists the help of his theatre-guru son to help him create an alter ego to convince his stepmother to reconcile.

Production Quality (3 points)

For the obviously low budget that was provided here and other limited resources, this is a highly impressive production.  This is a key example of what we want first-time film makers to do: use everything you have to the fullest potential, even if it’s small.  Every aspect of the production of Altar Egos is highly professional and there are no errors here.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all flawless, even though there are both indoor and outdoor scenes.  The soundtrack is a little goofy but it works for the comedy genre.  Sets, locations, and props are all realistic and authentic and demonstrate care.  Finally, the editing is good, although there is only a small amount of plot content to work with.  In the end, this production could have easily been another Flywheel, but it wasn’t.  New film makers are raising the standard for the market.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

As with most church comedies (and Christmas comedies for that matter), the plot of Altar Egos is fairly limited in scope.  It follows a predictable progression and isn’t really all that creative.  However, the characters are highly believable since the dialogue is well-written.  The comedy is subtle instead of obvious and is actually truly funny as it pokes fun of realistic church situations that many can relate to.  Though the message presented in this film is good, this movie tends to overstay its welcome with one too many extended sequences and montages.  As previously mentioned, you can see the ending from the beginning, but nevertheless, like all comedies, the characters make this movie what it is, thus making it worth your time.

Acting Quality (3 points)

You can hardly ask for a better casting and acting job than this for a first-time film maker.  Robert Amaya assume his first lead role very well, and even Erin Bethea is good as a quirky side character.  Victoria Jackson is always hilarious when she’s cast as an unserious and goofy character.  The new cast members also add a lot to this film as each of them assume their characters very well.  Basically, comedy is made or broken by the acting, and this cast passed the test.

Conclusion

Once listed in the Box Office Revolution Movie Purgatory, Altar Egos has made a comeback and has risen to the top of the market, leaving behind other 2017 films that were better funded and marketed.  This just goes to show you what can happen when a film maker really cares about the movie they are making and takes time and effort to make it happen the right way rather than just any way.  Altar Egos demonstrates top-notch production, despite low funding, as well as superb casting and acting.  Though the plot is a little thin at times, effort is put into dialogue and character development.  All of this spells a bright future for Sean Morgan and his team—so far, he’s the best Liberty University has to offer in the writing and directing department.  They should consider using him for their future projects.  Regardless, this film is certainly worth your time.

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

77 Chances (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jason Shaw is a photographer who always wants to capture the right moment.  But what happens when the same moment repeats over and over again?  After meeting Mackenna, his life is never the same as the day of their meeting continues to repeat itself.  Jason tries to change the fate he is left with, but is unsuccessful.  Will he be able to come to grips with the truth God is trying to tell him before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

EchoLight Studios and Liberty University clearly have the resources and know-how for crafting a top level production.  This is evident in the professional camera work, video quality, sets, and locations of 77 Chances.  However, there are some minor audio issues, such as an overbearing soundtrack.  Also, editing issues plague this movie as there is too much wasted time and incongruence.  But otherwise, this production is above average—we just feel that it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

At this point, it’s likely that the Groundhog Day plot concept is a little worn out.  There is little that can be done with this idea, and the story only ends up being filled with montages and copied or varied scenes.  Therein, there is too much ‘silent’ dialogue covered up with music, which stunts the development of the few characters there are.  Nevertheless, some of the ideas and psychological elements presented in 77 Chances are interesting and intriguing, albeit sometimes too mystifying and confusing.  After establishing the repeating day and subsequently playing around with it for about an hour, a unique and creative concept is introduced with about ten minutes left to go.  Due to time constraints, this idea is not fully developed or completed, thus leaving the audience with a half-hearted effort.  This is frustrating to watch because there is actually a lot of potential here.  But alas, we are left wondering what could have been.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Erin Bethea, Andrew Cheney, and Rachel Hendrix have all had their better movies, but this is not one of them.  They come off as stiff, awkward, and flat.  Scotty Curlee and Stephan Schultze are supposed to be Kendrick prodigies, yet their acting coaching comes up short here.  Though not all is bad, this is another disappointing element.

Conclusion

We know that EchoLight has the ability to create a quality film, but the Liberty University team has even more potential they are sitting on that they are not properly using.  Tracy Trost, Curlee, and Schultze all have the training and the talent necessary to take the next step into greatness, but they are stuck in mediocrity.  As a side note, we would like to see this movie have a remake, if possible.  The bottom line is that this creative team has more resources than many film makers dream of—they just need to use them properly.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points