The Wager [2020] (Movie Review)

The Wager (2020) | Trailer | Cameron Arnett | Jim Gloyd | Bishop Stevens |  Ty Sheldon | John Wells - YouTube

Plot Summary

When Brucie loses some kind of supernatural wager with a spiritual being, Brucie is allowed to retrace the steps of his life to see how it happened and how things could have been different. Through mind-bending and reality-defying methods, Brucie criss-crosses through time to see his life in hindsight. Will be able to make the right choice before it’s too late?

Production Quality (2 points)

As a whole, The Wager has a fairly good production despite a lot of loud background sounds. Even still, the soundtrack is very interesting and seems too advanced for this film. Lighting is a bit inconsistent, but video quality is stable throughout. Sets, locations, and props are on par, and editing is acceptable. Thus, this rounds out an above-average section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Despite interesting character backstories, very generic dialogue consistently overstates the obvious in this narrative, thus causing the characters to be too cardboard and generic. Very expository conversations leave nothing to chance, spoon-feeding the viewer with a very pushy Christian message. Random and disconnected scenes cause the plot to lack concrete themes or purposes; silly coincidences and convenient turns also make for a frustrating experience. Large time jumps confuse the audience, as do trippy psychological sequences that lack sense and only waste time. Although this movie is full of hit-and-miss story presentations due to a meandering, stream-of-consciousness narrative, there is actually a grain of potential somewhere in this screenplay. Aside from all the clutter, several key concepts that are explored in The Wager have the ability to be great. However, the film continually gets in its own way, so only a small score can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Although there are some good performances among this cast, many of the scenes come off as very scripted and overly practiced. Emotions and lines are a bit forced and stilted at times. However, Cameron Arnette is always a standout actor, and as a whole, all the cast members improve with time. Thus, this is enough to warrant an average rating in this section.

Conclusion

In the end, The Wager is full of wasted ideas that need restructuring and repackaging. It’s clear that this creative team wanted to go in a certain direction, but they forgot to let the viewers in on where the movie was actually headed. Mind-bending psychological trips don’t exactly engage the audience or help the watcher connect with the characters. Therefore, this screenplay is an opportunity for the creators to reflect on what they want to convey in the context of film and apply these findings to future projects.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Don't Say My Name (status unknown)

Status currently unknown

Writer(s): Patricia Landolfi

Director(s): Federico Segarra

Producer(s): Marty Jean-Louis 

Cast: Brooklyn Wittmer, Cory Kays, Anita Cordell, Joel C. Hunter, Samuel Morales, Josh Morales, Luis Morales, Jenny Porrata, Rasheda Issac, Ariana Ruckle, Dominick LaBlanca, Jason Barbeck, Ariel Kelly, Melissa Pagan, Creisson Soni, Raymond Pozo, Tony Russilo, Halyn Rose, Courtney Dawn

Plot summary: This film follow Adriana, a human trafficking survivor, as she escapes her captors and begins a harrowing journey of survival as she navigates the road to recovery and healing.

3 Blind Saints (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sam, Jamal, and Frankie are usually up to no good as they wander around the country, hopping from one money-making scheme to another.  However, they end up stuck in a small town in the Midwest when they get on the wrong side of the local law enforcement.  When they are about to be sentenced by the local judge, the local powerful businessman steps in to save them—in exchange for their services as his puppet pastors of the local church.  All they have to do is please the congregation and collect enough money for a month, and then they can be on their way.  However, things never really work out that simply in forced comedy films.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Surprisingly, 3 Blind Saints has a considerably good production, especially for a film with a digit in the title.  It checks all the right boxes, including video quality, camera work, lighting, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is as goofy as can be expected, and sets, locations, and props are mostly standard.  The editing is minorly choppy, but on the whole, this is a high quality production on paper, which garners a substantial amount of points.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Talk abut checking all the boxes—3 Blind Saints fulfills basically every criterion of a cheesy and predictable comedy premise that involves a collection of troubled non-Christian characters who are forced to lead a church, even though they have no idea what they are doing.  There is nothing new or creative about this idea, and this story rushes by so quickly that it seems like the writers are trolling.  The comedy therein is very forced and zany, including off-the-wall jokes, dialogue, and displays of idiocy.  As previously mentioned, the plot progression is so steep that it sometimes makes fun of itself as it hits all of the typical plot points, including a cheesy romantic subplot, an inclusion of goofy locals, and a quick turnaround of the troubled protagonists.  This goes without mentioning the generally childish feel to the film, as well as the shallow Christianity and the bizarre portrayal of God.  Some sequences come off like Mel Gibson’s acid trips, thus warranting some negative points for this section.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast seems to be in on the trolling as they act over the top and try way too hard to be funny.  There is, however, untapped potential with some of the cast members, and there are also a handful of good moments that keep this section from being useless.  However, for the most part, emotions and behaviors are overplayed and mostly annoying.

Conclusion

3 Blind Saints feels like a cheap attempt to get some attention from the Christian audience.  It can almost be passed off as a big joke, but it bears too close of a resemblance to some Christian movies that are supposed to be serious.  Whatever the creators of this film were going for, they mostly failed—perhaps on purpose.  Either way, it’s really quite pointless.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The King’s Messengers, Season 1 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

Anwaar Osem and David Sutherland are on the run from the powerful force that has taken over the American government and has sent its enforcers to capture and kill those who resist their anti-Christian rule.  As they hide in the woods, they decide to record the truth about Christianity for all the world to see, even though the enforcement tries to stamp it out.  Will they be able to spread the truth and save people’s lives before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Despite a somewhat strong beginning and several years of production experience, this Crystal Creek series is not what it should be.  Camera work is very shaky throughout, like a camcorder is being used.  Video quality is fine, but there are way too many scenes filmed in the dark.  Audio quality is also below standard as sound effects that sound like they came from Final: The Rapture are included.  The soundtrack is also underwhelming.  Sets, locations, and props are severely limited and cheap-looking.  Finally, editing in this series is very poor a lot of unnecessary scenes and sequences are included, seemingly just to make the ‘episodes’ longer.  In short, a 2017 production should be much higher quality than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though there are plenty of potentially interesting and creative ideas at the heart of this series, they are never properly developed.  This season overall lacks focus as it relies on a very vague and unexplained dystopian premise and stock suspense dialogue.  There are far too many unrelated and empty characters that are put through unrealistic circumstances.  The subplots are overall disjointed and any ‘twists’ that are employed are actually quite cheesy.  Finally, the end of this season is very confusing and really doesn’t inspire one to want a second season.  It’s very difficult to see the justification for this so-called series.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Can someone explain to us why Daniel Knudsen consistency uses an obviously fake British accent?  It’s very off-putting and annoying.  Elsewhere, this is a typical Crystal Creek cast with a few new additions that have some talent.  However, acting coaching is still lacking as a lot of the line delivery in this series is monotone and phoned in.  Emotions are difficult to grasp.  It’s possible that this cast could do better with coaching, however.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

Each so-called ‘episode’ is basically just the same plot over and over again.  Thus, there are no character arcs or real plot twists, as previously mentioned.  The format this ‘series’ is placed in makes it more like a movie than a season, since the breaks between the episodes are totally arbitrary and unnecessary.  They all run together, thus creating zero continuity.

Conclusion

We are certain that the Crystal Creek Media team means well, so we hope they will accept constructive criticism and use it improve in the future.  They have the drive to make movies and series, which is good, and they have the means to consistently produce them, though not very well.  They definitely like to build strong messages in their stories, but they need to build strong stories to hold their message properly.  They need to pool their resources to make one good production rather than a collection of bad ones.  Finally, their acting pool is limited, but they can be worked with if better coaching is employed.  We know all of this is easier said than done, but it’s so worth it in the end.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 14 points

 

The Lamp [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After a tragedy takes their son from them, Stanley and Lisa’s marriage is on the rocks and they seemingly have no purpose in life.  As they try to sort through what’s left of their son’s possessions, Lisa is given a mysterious lamp by one of her neighbors, who tells her that it has special powers.  Though Stanley is skeptical and angry, Lisa chooses to believe that the lamp can help them.  Little do they know what is coming to them next.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, The Lamp has good funding behind it that produces a decently above average production.  All the typical elements are good, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also intriguing.  The editing is also fine as the story is presented well.  However, the sets and locations are fairly limited to a handful of neighborhood areas, houses, and a baseball field.  Also, the biggest nagging issue here is the use of odd special effects to ‘enhance’ the experience—yet they only end up coming off as cheesy.  Overall, this is a good enough production, but the cheesy special effects tend to put a damper on things.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Based on a novel by Jim Stovall, The Lamp is a very unique Christian storyline that, while it has an interesting point and purpose, it also has a slightly silly premise.  The plot is somewhat slow to develop, but the dialogue improves as it goes and helps to build the characters.  There is a good use of flashbacks, but they are sometimes too disorienting.  As previously mentioned, though there is a good point here, there are also too many goofy magical elements that are introduced and only downplayed later.  This makes for a confusing viewing experience.  Also, in the end, things are fixed too easily, although there is an interesting twist that many will find interesting.  Overall, many will enjoy the uniqueness of The Lamp and there’s certainly nothing wrong with it—we just feel it could have been better.

Acting Quality (2 points)

At first, the acting of this film is atrocious.  Emotions are very extreme at first and there is far too much yelling in the first half hour.  However, the acting does get better as it goes as the cast members settle into their roles better and deliver their lines more smoothly.  In the end, it becomes an above average performance.

Conclusion

The Lamp is a textbook average film—with good production backing, it looks good on the surface.  It’s based on a book by a popular author, so that also works in its favor.  It also has recognizable cast members.  While average is awesome in the Christian entertainment market, we want movies to take that next step into greatness.  It’s definitely difficult to do, but in the end, it’s so worth it.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

The Freedom of Silence (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In the year 2030, Christianity is effectively outlawed in America due to a series of controversial laws passed by Congress and rulings handed down from the Supreme Court.  Christians are forced to live in secret, but some of them risk their lives to share their faith with others.  Thus, Zach Thompson, his family, and his friends decide that they are going to take down the government by hacking into their system and broadcasting a message of truth to the entire country.  However, what price will they pay for this?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: if you don’t have the money to fund your big idea, please please please don’t make it until the funding is there.  There is absolutely no reason to further muddle the market with laughable Christian productions.  The Freedom of Silence is very cheap-looking, including grainy video quality and shaky camera work.  The lighting is most scenes is positively deplorable, especially the dark torture scenes.  Audio quality is also abysmal, including audible outside noises, and the generic soundtrack is often too loud.  There is also a good amount of overdubbed audio.  Sets, locations, and props are very limited in cheap—this also goes for the special effects.  Finally, the editing is quite choppy and confusing, including abrupt and awkward transitions.  For such a big idea, this production simply does not cut it.  It is too limited and short-sighted and thus completely falls flat.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While this futuristic concept is an interesting idea (this is the only redeeming quality of the film), it has been completely mishandled in The Freedom of Silence.  The dystopian premise is very thin and flimsy—it is not explained well and is very small scale compared to what the writers are trying to portray.  There is far too much off-screen content that the budget would not allow them to include, so this is really a big idea taken far too lightly.  The storyline is just a collection of information dump conversations, awkward dialogue, and over the top torture scenes.  The characters therein are very empty and robotic, except for the villains, which are total strawmen.  There is also far too much heavy-handed messaging and unexplainable content.  Essentially, if there weren’t an interesting idea somewhere in here, this film would have zero positive aspects.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This amateur cast has been given no help.  This is supposed to be a highly serious film, yet the acting is extremely stiff and awkward.  Lines are said far too quickly and there is too much yelling.  Emotions are very wooden and unrealistic.  Unfortunately, there is nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

We desperately need different genres and premises in Christian film, but this is most certainly not the way.  The cover of this film looks way better than the actual movie does.  Imagine an excited Christian’s disappointment when they begin watching this film based on what the outside looks like.  Viewers will either have to laugh or cry at this mess, so it should serve as a reminder to future film makers that if the budget is not there, do not make the film.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Providence [2016] (Movie Review)

Image result for providence movie 2016

Plot Summary

As Rachel Cartwright and Mitchell Little grew up in the small town of Providence, Tennessee, they each took different paths until finally meeting up.  Though they were together for a while, they lost touch as they grew older and went different paths again.  But even as life takes them in their different directions, they are destined to meet up again no matter what.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It’s very interesting to take a risk by creating a silent film, and as it turns out, it’s better to have no audio than bad audio.  Additionally, it was wise to fill the sound with an original soundtrack, even though it is sometimes incongruent with the time period the plot is trying to portray.  However, we would have liked to hear more instrumental tracks.  Silent films rely heavily on camera work and video quality, and both of these elements passed the test of professionalism.  There are also historically realistic sets, locations, and props throughout.  The main caveat to raise here is that some scenes tend to lag too long—we would have liked to see more content, but it’s a good start.  Regardless, Sharon Wilharm and Mainstreet Productions demonstrate the ability to engineer high quality productions, and we can’t wait to see them reach the next level.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Due to the silence, there is no audible dialogue, only implied dialogue.  This is both good and bad because it limits the mistakes and the rewards.  Nonetheless, the viewer can figure out fairly well what is going on in the story.  However, the storyline is somewhat simple and typical.  Some sequences are too long while others are too short, but there is far more plot content in Providence than in many non-silent films.  We would have liked to know these characters a little better than we do, but that’s just a limitation of silent plots.  In the end, the plot is okay, yet we feel that this plot could have been a little more complex than this.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

It is definitely difficult to act and to acting coach in silent films, yet both are pulled off well in Providence.  These cast members show better emotions than some non-silent films—for the most part, we really know what is going on, and that’s a huge accomplishment.  While there is some historically inauthentic costuming, most of it is good.  In short, this is a professional performance.

Conclusion

We were wary of silent films before seeing Providence, but it seems like having no sound makes everyone, especially the cast, try harder to improve quality.  While silent movies may not be the future, this is definitely a good place to jump start from and to use to improve into greatness.  The good news for Christian film is that after an extended wilderness of the early 2000s, movie makers are finally moving to the point of higher production quality.  Providence is an example of this trend.  Mainstreet Productions shows great promise for the future and we look forward to what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 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