The Stranger [2007] (Series Review)

Seriously?

Plot Summary

You never know where Jefferson Moore is going to pop up and solve all of your problems.  Whether you’re looking for hope, having trouble with a professor, need some interpersonal assistance, need a boost of faith, or any other issues, Jefferson Moore is there to fix the conflict in less than thirty minutes.  If you look close, you might be able to see his robed cameos.  In short, this is basically a series for the sake of having a series.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

For the first of The Stranger, production quality is extremely poor, so much so that it barely warrants its creation.  The typical soft light obsession is present and lighting is very poor throughout, especially in the indoor sets.  Video quality is quite grainy, and audio quality is terrible, include a loud and clunky soundtrack.  There are strange and awkward zooms throughout as well.  Though the production improves in the middle of the series, it’s far too little far too late that does nothing remedy the past offenses.  Finally, there is no editing as all content is included.  As we will see next, that’s not saying much.  But essentially, the production of this series is so bad to start with that there is no justification for its existence.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Must like its copycat series The Encounter, The Stranger follows a formulaic and predictable model for each of its episodes.  Each one is full of meandering boring conversations and is based around a shallow story concept.  Not much happens as Jefferson Moore shows up to fix stuff, so you know exactly what’s going to happen just by reading the episode description.  The characters are empty and stereotypical—the dialogue carries an annoying Christian message and is full of platitudes and trite sayings.  As expected, there are also a lot of quick fixes to problems.   It makes it all the more childish that things are fixed in less than thirty minutes apiece.  In the end, there is little to no reason to write these juvenile and disconnected stories just for the sake of having a series in which everybody already knows what happens.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Much of this cast demonstrates forceful and annoying acting.  They exhibit unrealistic emotions and lazy line delivery.  While there is some good here, it is still overshadowed by unprofessionalism.  Also, as we have mentioned before, Jefferson Moore is basically Bruce Marchiano’s predecessor, and all that that entails.  Basically, this is just another lazy effort.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

When the same thing happens over and over again in a series of episodes, there is no hope for continuity.  With such a long list of disjointed characters, there are no story arcs or character arcs present.  This type of series may be easy to replicate, but it’s certainly forgettable.

Conclusion

After The Perfect Stranger and Another Perfect Stranger, was there really a need for a series about Jefferson Moore doing the same things that are in these movies?  As if the first two films were even interesting at all, now we get bonuses.  Of all the movies that could have been made into series, this was the one that broke through and got the funding.  For heaven’s sake people, please demonstrate some originality.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 14 points

Summer Snow [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

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

Acting Quality (3 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

 

The Perfect Gift {The Perfect Christmas} [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Maxine is a spoiled girl who doesn’t like the fact that everyone always does something else on her birthday, which happens to be on Christmas Day.  Her mother is overworked and barely has time for her, so she takes Maxine help her struggling pastor neighbor at church.  At the church, Maxine meets a mysterious but kind drifter who is helping the pastor fix things up for Christmas.  As Maxine spends more time around him, she begins to change and have a new perspective in life.  As people continue to attack Christmas, she becomes a strong defender of the day, even though it’s also her birthday.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

It’s clear that not much care was given to this production.  The video quality is quite poor and many camera shorts are very tight.  Also, outside scenes are glaring and loud.  Audio quality is equally poor, including a Christmas soundtrack that is blaringly loud in some parts.  A lot of props look very cheap to the point that cast members can barely use them.  Sets and locations are nothing wowing.  As for editing, there are too many wasted uncut scenes.  Yet there are also abrupt and awkward transitions between some scenes.  Basically, this is an amateur effort that did not pay off.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The entire premise of The Perfect Gift is the typical ‘war on Christmas’ mantra, including tons of asides about characters being ‘persecuted’ for saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and such.  The giant strawman is made of the so-called ‘anti-Christmas agenda’, including terms like ‘winter tree’ and ‘winter gala’. Besides these juvenile false conflicts, nothing else really happens in this plot.  It’s very boring and does not hold the attention.  Many occurrences are unrealistic and all the characters are quite childish.  Odd and offbeat dialogue peppers the movie and makes it an unintentional comedy.  Perhaps the most perplexing part of this film is the fact that the Jesus character—who is also the creator of the film—has an impassioned speech at the end that actually raises several good points regarding the alleged conflict between atheists and Christmas.  Yet Jefferson Moore, the creator, does not seem to actually believe what he is saying, since he inserted so much red meat into the movie about people being anti-Christmas.  Overall, The Perfect Gift is both low quality and confusing, an odd combination indeed.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, the story does not get any better here.  The few cast members that there are come off as either very obnoxious or totally dead inside.  Line delivery is awkward and emotions are childish.  The makeup work is amateurish.  Basically, there is not much good to say about this film.

Conclusion

Jefferson Moore seems to have a good heart and some slightly interesting ideas.  He can probably be credited with writing the original plots that have characters encountering Jesus in everyday circumstances.  But with such low production and acting quality, The Perfect Gift will have very little of the impact that it’s intended to have.  Fixing these two areas would be a good start to improving this film.  It really seems like Moore needed some help with this film and it’s a shame to see some of his ideas go to waste.  Perhaps there will be better things in store for the future.

 

Final Rating: .5 point out of 10 points