The Pledge {Doughboy} [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Tory’s parents decide that they are going to move from bustling New York City to podunk West Virginia, he is angry that they are taking him away from all he knows.  Once in West Virginia, he can’t find anything to do, so he accidentally gets into trouble by vandalizing a war memorial.  As punishment, the judge sentences him to community service at a veteran’s home, even though his parents are anti-war.  Tory hates the work at first but soon finds that he can find meaning and make a different no matter what.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Much like A Christmas Tree Miracle, The Pledge has a random commitment to quality production—sometimes it has it while other times it does not.  For example, the audio quality is sometimes good but sometimes quite poor.  The soundtrack is average but camera work and video quality are fine.  Sets and locations are also on par.  However, there is too much reused footage and the editing is generally all over the place.  In the end, it all comes out as average, but we have to wonder what this team is trying for.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Also like its Christmas counterpart, The Pledge wavers between being very meaningful and being very satirical.  One moment the dialogue is dripping with obvious tongue-in-cheek sarcasm while another moment we are being shown the realities of post-combat trauma.  We have no idea what the writers were going for here, but they had a lot of good ideas that were unfavorably mixed with unusual comedy.  There is plenty of plot content to work with here, as well as a lot of interesting characters, but we don’t get to know them very well as too much dialogue is pedestrian.  There are tons of opportunities for deeper development here that are not tapped into.  In the end, we feel that this film could have been far better than this and are disappointed that it didn’t go all the way.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While too many cast members are quite dry and boring and others outright smart alec or borderline crazy, they do tend to get better throughout the film.  Emotions range from being flat to believable.  Line delivery is also inconsistent.  When all is said and done, the acting comes out as average.

Conclusion

The Route 40\Flyover Films team is extremely hard to figure.  In their two films, they demonstrated great plot potential but also showed a lot of disingenuous sarcasm.  What exactly are they going for?  We may never truly know.  All we know is that The Pledge had potential, but it was never brought out.  While there is some meaning to be gleaned here and some parts are enjoyable, we just don’t know what to make of it all.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

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A Christmas Tree Miracle {Random Acts of Christmas} (Movie Review)

How'd I get stuck with this guy?
How’d I get stuck with this guy?

Plot Summary

When well-to-do David George is laid off from his job right before Christmas, he and his wife agree not to tell their three children until after Christmas to see if he can find a new job.  But as his job search becomes more and more fruitless and the money begins to run out, the George family begins to find themselves running out of options.  Confused and frustrated, they are forced to vacate their house and seek shelter elsewhere.  Though they are at the end of the rope, little do they know that things are about to turn around for them.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Everything about A Christmas Tree Miracle is a mixed bag.  While the video quality is sometimes blurry and outside scenes are not shot very well, the camera work is mostly okay.  Audio quality is good, but the obligatory Christmas soundtrack is wearing.  There are actually quite a few sets and locations used, but some of the outside ones seem fake.  Finally, the editing is just okay yet falls short of what it could be.  There seem to be too many useless scenes and the first half of the plot is spoiled before it even begins.  In all, this is an average production effort that should have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Essentially the Christmas version of Stand Strong, A Christmas Tree Miracle sports a surprisingly complex plot, even though it has many bizarre undertones and random twists and turns.  For example, sometimes things happen just because they need to happen.  One of the main characters is a creepy and schizotypal Santa Claus figure.  Though some plot occurrences are believable, others are just too far outside of reality.  If the writers wanted this movie to be meaningful, why does it have such strange elements?  The storyline oscillates back and forth between potentially interesting and laughable.  Elsewhere, there is too much annoying narration throughout.  Though the characters have some basis of believability, they seem unfinished and at times cartoonish.  Overall, there is just a general feel to this movie that you can’t really put your finger on.  It almost makes you want to like it, but it’s just too silly to be good.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like other parts of the movie, the acting is sometimes tolerable while other times it is smart alec and over the top.  Some cast members come off as trying to make fun of the film.  Others are more professional.  Emotions are inconsistent but line delivery is mostly on par.  Basically, just another average effort.

Conclusion

A Christmas Tree Miracle is one of those odd movies that seems better than its rating.  Yet we cannot in good faith rate it any higher when it has so many goofy elements and logical inconsistencies.  The idea is interesting and might even be worth a remake.  The creators seem semi-genuine in what they are doing and produced a good amount of content to back it up.  However, this film just isn’t up to par with what it should be.  They should have spent less time on quasi-fantastical ideas and more time trying to bring this story into the real world.  But perhaps they have better things in store for the future.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

A Matter of Faith (Movie Review)

Yes, this really did happen in this movie

Plot Summary

When Rachel Whitaker heads off to a ‘secular’ university to pursue a degree in pharmacology, she is immediately met with a challenge to her Christian faith as a biology professor informs the class that human life evolved from apes.  Though she wavers in her convictions, her father quickly discovers her dilemma and confronts the professor, only to have the professor challenge him to a university debate on the issue of creationism versus evolution.  As Rachel tries to talk her father out of the debate, he finds support from an unlikely ally as he digs deeper into the intrigue surrounding the professor.  In the end, which side will triumph?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

For its many faults, at least A Matter of Faith scored one point for production quality.  This is awarded for clear video quality and pretty good camera work.  However, this is where the positivity ends.  Audio quality is okay throughout, but some scenes are louder than others.  The sets and locations are pathetic and scream low budget.  The surroundings feel very plastic, like the characters are living in a textbook suburban city with no feeling at all.  The soundtrack is glaringly amateurish.  Finally, the editing is deplorable, just splicing a bunch of random scenes together that we’re supposed to believe are related in some way.  Unfortunately, this isn’t where the negativity ends.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Haven’t we had enough of the plot where the student is singled out for their faith by an atheist professor, especially with allegations of copying flying around?  A Matter of Faith seems to go out of its way to create a false dichotomy between ‘creationism’ and ‘evolution’ and throws ‘science’ around like a Frisbee.  The subtle message in the title seems to suggest that the creators don’t care about facts, just about destroying the atheist viewpoint at all costs.  Don’t get me wrong—there’s plenty of problems with ‘evolution’ and we need a meaningful dialogue on this topic, but this film only insults people who oppose its worldview and attempts to scare those who might agree with it.  Besides the philosophical concerns, there are many other problems wrong with this plot, which is actually just a collection of disjointed and unrelated snippets and scenes, mostly infused with an out of touch portrayal of life at a ‘secular’ university.  The storyline does not flow at all as it hops from one thing to the next.  The characters therein are highly stereotypical of a fundamentalist Christian worldview, depicting a controlling father figure, a wallflower mother, a confused younger woman, a heroic younger man, ‘bad boys’, and that evil atheist professor—basically the cast of Princess Cut on a college campus.  The premise of the film is trumped up and makes a strawman of the atheist.  However, the one thing that keeps this plot from going in the tank is a slightly interesting character concept that is wasted by the overbearing ‘plot’.  But in short, A Matter of Faith is a mess that doesn’t even seem to try to be discreet or polite to those who oppose its viewpoint.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This film has accomplished a rare feat.  Whereas many independent Christian films are notorious casting actors and actresses without giving them any coaching, the cast of A Matter of Faith seems to be coached too much.  This is evident in a general sense of over-acting, such as overdone enunciation of words and overly practiced body language.  Cast members say their lines like they’re reading cue cards for a public service announcement.  In an attempt to avoid glaring errors, the Christiano crew actually did not come out any better by turning their cast members into robots.

Conclusion

Did the Christiano brothers actually expect to convert anyone to their viewpoint with this film?  Is asking someone who believes in evolution if any of their family ancestors looked like apes (yes, that’s in there) truly a productive tactic to use?  Is attacking psychology out of left field a winning strategy?  We find it hard to believe that A Matter of Faith will even grow any Christians in their faith, as many are still confused as to what the real dichotomy between Biblical creationism and Darwinism (the truly dangerous philosophy) is.  Creating a strawman out of ‘evolution’ is counter-productive and confuses people.  Real people cannot relate to the events of this film, so it is likely that it will do nothing more than further fuel the fire of contempt between fundamentalist Christians and atheists.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points