Christmas Manger (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Jessica ran away from home as a teenager after she did something she would regret forever, but now, after living with an abusive boyfriend for several years, she finds herself running back home for help. However, when she arrives on the farm she once lived on, she finds that all is not well nor how she left it. As she struggles to begin a new life, she discovers that she will need to return to her childhood faith in order to move forward.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As should be the case for all recently-made Christian films, Christmas Manger demonstrates high production quality, as evidenced by good video quality and camera work. Though the audio can be quiet at times due to not having enough soundtrack, the sets, locations, and props are adequately used and well-constructed. Besides a few one-off lighting issues in some scenes, which may be by design, the editing is good, which rounds out a great production that we should see become more and more commonplace as we move into a new year of Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Andrea Gyertson Nasfell has always been good at writing plots that portray real and accessible characters in believable life situations. This is paired with dialogue that is mostly good at building character personality and motive, but we really needed to see a bit more from the conversations among the characters in order to develop them a bit further since this is a highly character-based plot. While there are some great character back stories, flashbacks would have been helpful to enhance them. However, this return-to-hometown for Christmas plot does a great job with avoiding most of the cliches that come with this genre, and it’s a more meaningful Christmas movie than usual, even if the story is a bit simplistic. As a whole, this is an enjoyable story with no glaring errors but nothing truly dynamic either.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

This film also has surprisingly good acting, including Andrea Logan White’s arguably best performance to date as she excels at playing herself. Other cast members are also effective and comfortable in their roles, even if a few random cast members tend to put a damper on things to keep this section from being perfect. In the end, however, this is a professional acting job to round out a professional and adequate film.

Conclusion

Films like Christmas Manger should be the norm and the baselines in Christian film (especially Christmas movies) rather than the exception. Hopefully, as we close out another year of Christian entertainment, we are beginning to see more of this, which will presumably lead to more dynamic and groundbreaking films from Christian creators. Movies like this one was a good launching pad to begin with, so it will be good to see Andrea Nasfell continue to release quality content that is memorable and culture-changing.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

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2017 Box Office Revolution Awards

Every year, movies are released and cast members show off their talents.  Writers and directors showcase their creativity.  Films are separated into roughly three groups: the truly talented, the potentially great, and the others.  At Box Office Revolution, we believe it is our prerogative to annually recognize those movie makers and players who have the ability to bring revolution to Christian entertainment.

 

Staff Choice Movie of the Year: The Case for Christ

Runners-up: Altar Egos, Because of Gracia, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

 

Reader’s Choice Movie of the Year: A Question of Faith

Runners-up: The Case for Christ, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, Let There Be Light

 

Staff Choice Actor of the Year: Robert Amaya (Altar Egos)

Runners-up: Mike Vogel (The Case for Christ), Max Morgan (Altar Egos), Brett Dalton (The Resurrection of Gavin Stone)

 

Staff Choice Actress of the Year: Moriah Peters (Because of Gracia)

Runners-up: Erika Christensen (The Cast for Christ), Anjelah Johnson-Reyes (The Resurrection of Gavin Stone), L. Scott Caldwell (The Case for Christ)

 

Staff Choice Director of the Year: Jon Gunn (The Case for Christ)

Runners-up: Dallas Jenkins (The Resurrection of Gavin Stone), Tom Simes (Because of Gracia), Sean Morgan (Altar Egos)

 

Staff Choice Writer of the Year: Andrea Gyertson Nasfell (The Resurrection of Gavin Stone)

Runners-up: Sean Morgan (Altar Egos), Brian Bird\Lee Strobel (The Case for Christ), Tom Simes (Because of Gracia)

 

Staff Choice Soundtrack of the Year: The Case for Christ

Runners-up: Because of Gracia, Altar Egos, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

 

Christmas With a Capital C (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dan Reed is just a nice Christian mayor of a small Alaskan town, but when his old high school rival\friend, Mitch Bright, comes to town, Mitch just wants to mess up Christmas for everybody.  Mitch is mad that Dan took his girl in high school, so Mitch decides to take it out on Dan by suing the town for having a manger scene on public property.  Will the war on Christmas never end?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In keeping with most PureFlix films, Christmas With a Capital C is mostly fine, including good video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is what one can expect from a Christmas film.  Some sets are limited, but there are some good outdoor locations that redeem this.  The prop choices are mostly fine, but there is a slight over-abundance of Christmas décor.  Furthermore, there is one too many montages in this film, yet the editing is mostly standard.  In the end, this production is just one of those assembly line PureFlix deals.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With so many cooks in the crowded PureFlix plot kitchen, Christmas With a Capital C has a little bit of everything in it.  For the most part, it contains every cheesy war-on-Christmas and fake persecution cliché you can possibly shove into one movie.  The film mostly takes up arms in the religion freedom battle in a small town by using propaganda about the opposing side, but there are some surprising moments of sanity when some characters wisely suggest that maybe fighting for manger scenes on public property isn’t going to save people.  However, this is quickly derailed again by cheesy and formulaic subplots, including juvenile romances, that are driven by obnoxious characters and manufactured dialogue.  Unfortunately, any good that was meant in this film is covered up with madness.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This film has another one of those crazy PureFlix casts that is memorable for the wrong reasons, even though it doesn’t contain the usual suspects.  Ted McGinley is his usual fake self, while Brad Stine takes the opportunity to adlib in over the top and unhinged ways.  For some reason, Nancy Stafford allowed herself to be dragged into this nonsense, yet she is always a standout.  Other cast members are also fine and make up for the loony moments that dominate the performances.

Conclusion

Why do we need to constantly roll out movies that ‘fight’ against ‘political correctness’ and try to ‘win back’ religious freedom?  Since when does not being able to display a manger scene on government property persecution?  What if a Muslim ideal was displayed on government property?  One character points out the futility of fighting this fight in light of trying to spread the gospel to people who are hurting, and this contribution is no doubt the sanity of Andrea Nasfell.  However, any good she wanted to accomplish in this movie is drowned out by the militant agenda of PureFlix.  As long as Christian leaders continue to prioritize fighting for political power and influence over doing the real work of Christ, culture will continue to go in the opposite direction.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Silver Bells [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Bruce Dalt is obsessed with his job as a local sports anchor.  He is also obsessed with his son getting a good basketball scholarship.  However, he lets his emotions get the best of him when he gets angry at a referee who made a call on his son, Bruce finds himself in the middle of a public relations nightmare.  His media employer determines that he needs to complete community service before he can come back to his job.  Thus, Bruce is stuck ringing a Christmas bell for the Salvation Army.  Will he be able to learn the true meaning of Christmas?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Silver Bells is a typically professional PureFlix and UP production collaboration.  As such, there are few errors to note here.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit too holiday-ish, but it’s fine.  Sets, locations, and props are also fine, albeit filled with Christmas stuff.  There are also a lot of Salvation Army ‘product placements,’ but at least this is a good ministry to promote.  Finally, there are some small editing issues to note, but on the whole, this is a model production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, despite the influence of Andrea Nasfell, this plot suffers from a bout of forced comedy and cardboard cutout characters, including a stereotypical over the top holiday-hating character that is forced to like Christmas throughout the course of the film.  Also, the holiday-hating character constantly reminds the audience of his unexplained cold attitude towards Christmas.  Thus, the Christian message is quite cheap.  There is unfortunately nothing truly creative in this plot as it seems like it was manufactured in a Christmas plot factory.  Any issues raised are too easily resolved, and even though the Salvation Army has some great causes, it’s not enough to save this story from itself.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Mostly, the lead cast members trying too hard to convince the audience of who their characters are, much like many PureFlix movies.  In doing so, they come off as very disingenuous and plastic.  However, there are plenty of good moments from the supporting cast members that help this section from being nothing.  Emotions are overall average throughout, thus rounding out a nearly-average film.

Conclusion

Films like this one can’t help but be seen as just one made on the assembly line of holiday inspirational films.  If you’re going to reuse an old plot concept, at least make it was accessible and believable characters that audiences can relate to.  As it is, Silver Bells just seems like it’s trying to check the boxes so it can be a packaged made-for-television film.  We need more creativity than this, but the good thing is that Andrea Nasfell has shown that she has the ability to do this when she is supported properly.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Gavin Stone, a washed-up child star, is trying to find his next big break when he gets himself in big trouble with the law.  As a settlement, the judge offers him a deal that includes required community service hours at a local church.  Gavin accepts the deal and returns to his hometown to stay with his father, whom he has not spoken to in years.  While working at the local church, Gavin stumbles upon a church play they are planning for Easter and decides to audition for it.  However, in order to get the part of Jesus, he has to pretend that he is a Christian.  But the longer he pretends, the more he becomes interested in what his new friends have to offer.  He will have to decide how long he’s going to keep up the charade and whether or not he wants the real thing.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

With an adequate budget, wise spending, and clear talent, the production team of The Resurrection of Gavin Stone proves that churches can make high quality productions.  There are no errors to point out here—camera work is professional and video quality is crisp.  Audio quality is flawless and the soundtrack is adequate.  The sets and locations are realistic and down to earth.  There are also no editing problems; everything flows perfectly.  In short, Vertical Church and the rest of this team set their minds to making a top-notch production, and it paid off.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Throughout her writing career, Andrea Gyertson Nasfell has always shown that she has a knack for writing real-life comedy, especially church satire—Gavin Stone is no exception.  Though this passed-around plot is formulaic and predictable, Nasfell takes it to its furthest potential, which is all we really ask of a writer.  Though this appears to be a stereotypical small town setup, it’s really not of the Hallmark brand (which actually gets a subtle jab at one point).  The characters are not plastic and cheesy, but instead are realistic and believable.  Dialogue is highly effective and drives the plot, as it must in a predictable comedy.  While the plot follows a stereotypical progression and this fact keeps it from being a higher score, this is the best anyone can do with this sort of idea.  Nasfell has always had a lot of writing talent, and Gavin Stone showcases this once again.  We can’t wait to see her break out into greatness one day.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Like the production team, the casting team went all out to make this portion quality.  One character even says “Acting is about being yourself through the character.”  This acting philosophy is reminiscent of the Kendrick\Erwin school of thought and is desperately needed in all of Christian film.  Actors and actresses do not need to be who they are not, but instead need to act naturally and professionally in their character.  Anjelah Johnson-Reyes demonstrates this extremely well in her first headlining role—she might be one of the best Christian actresses of our time.  All other cast members also demonstrate poise and professionalism in all ways, thus warranting a perfect score.

Conclusion

Dallas Jenkins, Andrea Nasfell, and the rest of the team demonstrate in this film that it really isn’t that difficult to make a quality Christian film.  With the right funding, a wise allocation of funds, a plot taken to its fullest potential, and a professional cast, anyone can make a Hall of Fame movie if they put their mind to it.  With creators like these, there is hope for the tide of Christian entertainment to continue to turn.  Now we ask Jenkins, Nasfell, Vertical Church, and everyone else involved in to use Gavin Stone as a springboard to even greater entertainment.  They are on the verge of the upper echelon and we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

 

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

Christmas Angel {Angel at Christmas} [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Olivia and Lucas have always heard rumors about a mysterious old house in their New Orleans neighborhood.  Legends say that if you throw a rock through one of the windows and make a Christmas wish, it will come true.  After witnessing several wishes come true when they ask them for other people, Olivia and Lucas decide to investigate the matter further.  They find a collection of offbeat characters hanging around the house who are not what they seem at first.  Little do they know that Christmas angels come in many forms…

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As we’ve mentioned before, PureFlix can usually put together a respectable production.  Video quality is clear as usual and camera work is professional.  The sets and locations are realistic and down to earth.  Unfortunately, the audio quality drags down this production, including a silly Christmas soundtrack and too many scenes in which lines cannot be heard due to background noise.  The editing is mostly okay and does a good job concealing the obligatory Dorsey twist until near the end.  Basically, this is an average production effort but we strongly believe it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

In keeping with their usual practices, Bradley Dorsey and Andrea Gyertson Nasfell craft a creative and thought-provoking plot that makes you think it’s going to be one thing, only to change it to something different in the end.  However, it goes without saying that Dorsey also commits his original sin of not going all the way with his creativity.  There are times when Christmas Angel is innovative and interesting, while some moments are cringe-worthy and totally off the wall.  This inconsistency makes the audience vacillate between cheering and scratching their heads.  The schizophrenia is also demonstrated in the characters—while the character arcs are great in the end, it’s a rocky road to get there.  As usual, the storyline is based off a creative concept that sports a key plot twist and demonstrates the creative genius of the team.  Elsewhere, there are just too many childish Christmas elements that hold this plot back from being as good as it could have been.  Sometimes we wonder why a creator can come so close so many times but always miss the mark by an inch.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the rest of the film, the cast of Christmas Angel is very inconsistent.  Sometimes they have awkward scenes while other times they act very professionally.  Emotions are good at times and not good at other times.  Some of the makeup work is below par.  In short, in comes to another average score.

Conclusion

Basically all of the films Bradley Dorsey is involved in need to be remade.  As we’ve said before, he has tons of potential that is untapped, probably because he throws in his lot with the PureFlix crew.  For that matter, Andrea Gyertson Nasfell has lot of untapped potential herself.  Both Dorsey and Nasfell have much to offer to Christian film and if they ever reach their full potential, then the field will be a different place.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

This is Our Time (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

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

Acting Quality (.5 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Escape [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following a tragedy in their lives, doctors Paul and Kim Jordan decide that it’s time for a change of scenery.  Therefore, they accept an opportunity to leave their American comfort behind in order to serve a struggling medical clinic on the streets of Thailand.  All seems well until Paul follows a mysterious local boy in order to help a patient unable to come to clinic, only to find himself captured by local traffickers in need of his medical expertise.  Separated from his wife, who begins to beg the local authorities for help, Paul seeks moral from his fellow captor, who brings him face to face with the God he has been running from all his life.  Together, they must not only plan to escape with their lives, but they must contend with the problem of suffering and how God works in the world.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For a modest budget, Escape boasts plenty of positive qualities.  The camera work is above average, as is the video and sound quality.  Though the sets are slightly limited, they are authentic and the crew did good with what they had.  The action scenes are well-produced and do not give the appearance of a cheap production.  The only caveat here is some indie-ish elements that are very minor and easy to pass over.  In short, there is nothing flashy here, but the production quality is solid.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Escape explores a genre that is unfortunately often unique to Christian films: suspense adventure.  It would have been easy for the plot to come off as shallow and cheesy due to reliance on action sequences, but this did not happen.  The plot is simple yet profound; the plot twists are straightforward and while it does not necessarily make waves, it does not crash and burn.  The dialogue is solid, which leads to good character development.  With the small amount of characters in a limited area, their success is key.  They pass the test.  The only issues to bring up here are the small scope of the plot and the overall simple feel of the movie.  Some parts at the beginning could have been better explored.  In the end, the plot is refreshing and the end somewhat unexpected.  The crew delivered with limited resources, which is a win.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The acting quality is overall professional, with only some minor errors.  The cast is small, but they do not commit errors that completely derail the movie.  They carry the movie well as they have obviously been coached well.  Some of them seem slightly inexperienced, but it is not a big deal.  The good thing is that real Asian actors are used rather than forcing white people to seem Asian, as some low cost productions do.  Overall, Escape is well-acted.

Conclusion

Escape receives half an x-factor point for dealing with the problem of pain in a very appropriate and poignant manner.  This philosophical issue is explored through dialogue and is not shoved down the viewers’ throats.  The bottom line is that while Escape is a very simple movie, it is also very deep.  Rather than exploring a broad scope, the writers chose quality over quantity.  The action elements make for a unique Christian movie and do not detract.  In short, Escape is an underrated Christian film that deserves applause.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

What If… [2010] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

In a moment of decision that altered his life’s course forever, Ben Walker left his chance to go into full-time ministry and marry his longtime girlfriend behind and instead entered the cutthroat business world to pursue a six-figure salary.  He achieved the salary and snagged a fiancée that looked good next to him, but he never found something to satisfy the emptiness within.  Hence, his car is hijacked by a mysterious tow truck driver who claims to be an angel and Ben is transported to an alternate timeline where he gets to live as if he had married his old girlfriend and gone into full-time ministry.  Unable to escape his alternate life, Ben is forced to play along and discover what the true meaning of life is.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

There are really no production errors to speak of in What If…  The camera work is professional and the editing is straightforward.  It is difficult to pull this type of plot without including cheesy production elements, but What If… avoids these pitfalls.  The sets are diverse and there are no video or sound quality errors.  The soundtrack is effective.  This film takes the route of not committing errors and while it does not do anything dynamic, it also does not turn off the viewer.  This is a well-done production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

While there is nothing original with this sort of parallel universe plot, this rendition is a good one.  The plot twists are minor but the dialogue is good.  The characters are believable, as are most of the events of the plot.  There are some predictable elements and while the overall plot is quite simple, there are once again few errors committed.  There is truly funny humor throughout that is not overdone.  The only caveat here is the confusing end that seems to force a certain conclusion to occur.  Otherwise, this is a very good plot.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

In keeping with the theme of this movie, the acting is good without detracting from the overall movie.  This is perhaps Kevin Sorbo’s best lead role.  John Ratzenberger is cast very well.  The only issue Box Office Revolution has with the acting in What If… is the fact that there is no excellent acting, just great acting.  But when considering many Christian films, this is truly an accomplishment.

Conclusion

What If… is a Christian film that is recommendable and may even appeal to some non-Christian audiences.  In a field of poorly production Christian films, What If… stands out.  It is created well enough to join the ranks of the best Christian movies.  Christian film makers should delve deeper into these types of psychological genres without falling into typical plot patterns.  What If… can be an example to follow.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 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