To the Ends of the Earth [2018] (Movie Review)

Watch To The Ends of the Earth | Prime Video

Plot Summary

When the Apostle Paul went to Philippi, this was the first time that the gospel of Jesus Christ had reached the continent of Europe. However, Paul faced much opposition and many trials in his mission to follow the Lord’s calling. Nonetheless, his obedience changed countless generations to come.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although video quality is fine and the soundtrack is culturally sensitive, dizzying camera work and confusing special effects hold the production back from being what it could have been. Sets, locations, and props are great, but sound effects are poor. Further, editing is inconsistent, which goes with the overall theme of this production being a mixed bag. Thus, an average scored is granted here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While it’s commendable that the writers of this narrative focused on one short aspect of Paul’s ministry, the apostle himself is too perfect of a character, which means that it’s hard to relate to him as a person. Also, demonic elements are too sensational as too much time is spent on dark spirituality. Elsewhere, the story presentation is confusing since it makes the progression of events very unclear. Most of the characters are inaccessible and hard to connect with due to procedural dialogue. Unfortunately, although this plot could have been interesting, it doesn’t offer any potential because attention is given to all the wrong things.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though the casting is sometimes culturally authentic, this is not always the case. Nonetheless, the actors and actresses make some good attempts at accents. Sometimes, the acting is believable while other times, the performances are too theatrical and stoic. Emotions and line delivery can be a bit uneven at times. Unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good in this section, which leads to a sub-par score.

Conclusion

Period pieces about well-known Bible characters are very difficult to effectively execute. There are many moving parts and small details that are easy to get wrong. As a whole, it seems like that the creators of To the Ends of the Earth had the right motives but not always the correct philosophy. Unfortunately, there are just too many pitfalls in this screenplay that kept it in the basement of Christian entertainment.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Jacob’s Ladder, Season 1 (Series Review)

Image result for jacob's ladder series

Plot Summary

Rafael is a lighthouse keeper in Wales who has an unexplained magical ability to let local kids cross back and forth between the present timeline and the historical timeline of the Bible. When the secret portals open up, the kids can interact with the biblical accounts as they appear to take place on top of the modern world but also in the past at the same time. It’s amazing what a little time travel convenience can do!

Production Quality (0 points)

This Byzantine production has some of the worst Bible props ever, coupled with cheap sets and locations. What’s more, these elements lack cultural and historical authenticity. Elsewhere, grainy video quality and wild camera work make for an unpleasant viewing experience. Audio quality is very poor, and the soundtrack is quite loud. The editing is all over the map, creating a dizzying presentation that confuses the audience. Because of these obvious problems, no points can be awarded here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Whose idea was this anyway? The very unusual time travel premise of Jacob’s Ladder makes no sense at all. How are the biblical accounts happening on top of modern-day Wales? How do the characters randomly cross back and forth in time, seemingly forming an alternate timeline? Are they just imaging that this is happening, or is it really occurring? How are they able to sometimes become characters in the historical accounts and actually influence the Bible events? This series was basically doing Assassin 33 AD before their time. In other aspects of this section, live narration is extremely annoying since it leaves nothing to chance. The stories that are chosen for this season are different from usual biblical entertainment, but they are crammed into tine timeframes that leave little room for anything interesting. Both the narration and the rapid-fire narrative presentation short-circuit character development, not to mention that the dialogue is totally bland. In the end, there is too much negative here due to the outrageous and unexplained alterations of historical events, making this section negative.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Mixing terrible homemade Bible-play-caliber costuming with modern-day dress is never a good recipe for historical entertainment success, but Jacob’s Ladder does just this. Makeup work also leaves a lot to be desired. Like many projects before it, this series lacks historical and cultural authenticity in casting and even reuses cast members for different stories. The actual performances are covered up with this nonsense, but they still aren’t very good. Emotional and line delivery are very staged and robotic. Hence, no points can be justified here.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

After enduring an annoying opening sequence, viewers are forced to see one thing happen after the next without any significant arcs or themes. There are little to no subplots that are followed throughout the season, and the characters remain static throughout the series. This project might as well have been an anthology with how little continuity there was between episodes, so once again, no points can be given here.

Conclusion

If watchers aren’t thoroughly confused about the Bible after seeing Jacob’s Ladder, they’ll be turned off to its very low-quality presentation. This absolute train wreck should have never existed and now only serves as yet another example of how not to do it. Hopefully, in our current entertainment market, we’re past seeing utter nonsense like this come out.

Final Rating: -1 out of 14 points

The God Cafe (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: the God café: Steve Brown, Joe Herrera, Jorge Diaz, Clint  Patterson

Plot Summary

When a worship pastor is facing a crisis in his marriage and his career, he feels like he’s at the end of his rope. The minister wonders if his faith is even real, which is why he’s suddenly visited by mysterious men who claim to be from history. They show the pastor what the true meaning of Christmas is, but the minister will have to decide for himself.

Production Quality (.5 point)

Starting off with odd lighting and tinted filtering, the production quality of The God Cafe is quite low. Cheap special effects and overlays clutter the viewing experience despite acceptable video quality. Sub-par audio is accompanied by a generic soundtrack. Limited sets, locations, and props are supplemented by embarrassing fake backgrounds, and some odd camera angles further contribute to this section’s problems. Additionally, the editing is marred by sudden and abrupt flashes and transitions, which disorients the audience. In the end, only a very meager score can be awarded here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Despite the fact that this plot is centered around the inherent problems with celebrity worship pastors (a pertinent discussion that needs to be had), it’s unclear why certain apostles from church history have to visit the protagonist to clear things up. What’s more, the story is frequently interrupted with random, out-of-context songs just because it’s a Christmas musical, I guess. Dialogue is basically a general regurgitation of Bible reading, making the story a long informational diatribe. As such, character development is thrown out the window in favor of a constant stream of facts and references to offscreen content. In the end, besides being a an alternate redux of The Perfect Gift, The God Cafe accomplishes next to nothing, which is the reasoning for zero points in this section.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Between forceful line delivery and manufactured emotions, this section is overall subpar. It seems the cast members are trying to be too interesting, which just comes off as annoying. As a whole, the performances are too theatrical, but there are some bright spots that keep the acting from being a total loss. The amount of positive is enough to warrant a point in this area.

Conclusion

Films like The God Cafe don’t even begin with a sound plot structure, just a vague idea that could be interesting. This isn’t sufficient for a Christian movie, so it’s long past time for collaboration to be the norm in the field. No one can make a movie on their own, and everyone has different talents to bring to the table. If God wants you to make a screenplay, He’ll supply the team and the resources that you need, so you don’t have to try to force more films to happen that will likely fail.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Provision [2017] (Movie Review)

Provision (2017) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Joel wants to serve God and dedicate his life to the Lord, but one day, he begins to lose everything he holds dear. Those who used to be on Joel’s side have now turned against him. Despite the pain and hardship, will Joel hold into his faith in Christ?

Production Quality (.5 point)

Overall, Provision has a very cheap production. Video quality is blurry, and audio quality is inconsistent, including terrible overdubs, chopped-up sound, background noises, and a soundtrack that’s sometimes too loud. While camera work is okay, the sets, locations, and props are extremely limited. The editing is also hit-and-miss, sometimes acceptable and sometimes using weird fadeouts that cut off scenes. Some sequences seem very disconnected from each other as a few are too short to adequately portray their content. In the end, despite some slight improvement as the film goes on, this section digs too deep of an early hole to warrant a higher score than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s hard to continually justify plots that are modern-day renditions of well-known biblical accounts. This aside, the least that writers can do is make it interesting, but Provision fails in this respect. Doing next to nothing to hold the audience’s attention, this narrative presents very vanilla characters and uninspiring dialogue. Some of them are total strawmen, and the protagonist is an unrealistically perfect victim. As the story presents one unrelated thing after another without any continuity, it gets worse with time, getting confusing due to large time jumps. Silly and nonsensical coincidences make things happen because they need to, and the Christian message of this movie leaves much to be desired. In the end, there’s no potential to award in this area.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Although this section is actually better than the previous ones, it still falls short. Performances are often overly practiced despite attempts to do the right thing. Lines and emotions are bit too bland, robotic, forced, and wooden. Some cast members try to unsuccessfully portray multiple age brackets. Moreover, though there’s improvement with time, it’s not enough to warrant a higher score.

Conclusion

Provision likely doesn’t fall into the category of Christian movies that are only about getting money from a certain audience. At multiple times, it felt like the creators wanted to do the right thing but didn’t know how. This shows the importance of effective collaboration, planning, and spirituality in the creative process. Without proper direction, support, and reliance on God, the screenplay always suffers.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Ruth: The Musical (Movie Review)

Ruth the Musical (2019)
Just what you always wanted…a British musical rendition of Ruth!

Plot Summary

Imagine if Ruth was a British woman who liked to sing! What kinds of songs would she sing? What would other people around her sing about? Would they choreograph their lyrics and dances as if they had practiced them beforehand? Most importantly, would they be able to solve the age-old question of musicals: when a character is singing by themselves, are they really singing out loud, or are they just singing in their head?

Production Quality (-1 points)

The production of Ruth is among the worst, including very shaky camera work and inconsistent lighting. Despite acceptable video quality, the sets, locations, and props aren’t historically accurate if that’s what the creators were going for, which is highly unclear. If it matters, the music is out of place for the historical time period of the the real Ruth account. However, other aspects of audio contribute to the negativity, such as the loud background noises in outdoor locations, the invasive out-of-place nature of the soundtrack, the obvious lip-syncing, and the painful overdubs. The songs are just terrible, getting worse and worse as the experience drags on. Flashbacks have a blurry quality to them, and editing is a nightmare. In the end, there’s so much bad here that a negative score is warranted.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

The fact that the time period that’s supposed to be portrayed here is unclear also impacts the plot, depending on whether the story is supposed to portray a modern-day version of Ruth or a historical one. If historical, why are there obviously modern objects present? If modern, why do the farms used antiquated equipment? Besides this total confusion, the songs are surprisingly and awkwardly inserted into the narrative, and the impromptu dance routines don’t fit the film’s tone. These asides waste time and gloss over actual conversations. This lack of dialogue creates empty characters who can’t be related to despite the inclusion of flashbacks. Although there are few tiny nuggets of potential in this screenplay, such as the themes of foreigners and low-income individuals being discriminated against, there are just too many unusual aspects of this section that warrant a negative rating.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Again, is the costuming intended to reflect the modern day, or is it supposed to be set in a historical time period? This lack of clarity confuses a section’s score once again. Is the movie supposed to be a British rendition of the biblical account, or is this just another in a long line of BRITISH BIBLE productions? Despite the acting beginning in a slightly acceptable fashion, it actually devolves as time goes on, mostly due to the interruptive musical sequences. Thus, this puts the lid on a terrible creation.

Conclusion

Another day, another embarrassing piece of Christian entertainment that’s based on a Scriptural narrative. What are audiences supposed to do with this utter nonsense? Can we really expect people to like this sort of thing? The days of mindlessly accepting a film just because it’s labeled Christian are long gone. There are much higher standards in the current market, which are helping to bring it back from the terrible position it was once in. Therefore, the best we can do is look forward to what future creators have in store that can help us to forget debacles like Ruth: The Musical.

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

The Bible Collection: Jesus

Film Jesus

Plot Summary

Jesus was and is the most significant figure in history. As God in the flesh, He lived among humanity for three years, establishing His earthly ministry with the least likely people. However, Jesus always knew that His ultimate purpose would be fulfilled in His sacrifice on the cross, paying the sin debt for all humanity. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t end there since He would rise again victorious.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Like over Lux Vide offerings, Jesus sports a fine production, including good sets, locations, and props. Camera work and video quality are also professional save for some wild action shots. Audio quality is okay, even if the soundtrack is a bit generic. However, generic special effects and poor editing drag this score down to the middle line. At times, cuts and transitions are very abrupt, creating a confusing experience for the viewer. Therefore, this is the best rating that can be awarded in this category.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1.5 points)

Throughout the movie, Jesus is portrayed as having a strange attitude, as if He’s unsure of what’s happening or even surprised at events. This assumption seems to rise out of an odd theological implication that Jesus only became God after His baptism. It also impacts the temptation sequence as Satan appears to know more about the future than Christ does during this experience. Because there’s too much content to cover in this narrative, expository dialogue poorly bridges the gaps as precious time is wasted on unnecessary extra-biblical asides, such as a pointless romantic suggestion between Jesus and the sister of Lazarus. These tangents are included while more pertinent points are glossed over, and most scenes are generally disjointed as they typically end in abrupt ways. Besides these obvious concerns, the sheer amount of information that’s thrown at the audience in less than two hours is overwhelming. There are simply too many subplots and characters to keep up with, which predictably leads to low quality. Overall, due to the gross alterations of historical record, a negative rating is warranted in this section.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

In keeping with many other biblical entertainment options, the acting of Jesus tends to be theatrical and dramatic. However, it’s not always bad as emotional and line delivery is inconsistently acceptable. Nonetheless, the casting isn’t always culturally authentic, which is another common misstep in films based on the Scriptures. In the end, despite its faults, this section still keeps the overall rating from being zero.

Conclusion

Why are movies about Jesus usually among the worst? What’s the point of fielding such bizarre portrayals of the Christian faith’s central figure? It’s clear that such failed attempts at capturing the true essence of a historical figure Who changed the course of history are based on faulty information. Screenplays like this one only further turn people off to Christian entertainment, but hopefully, things will continue looking up in the future.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

The Bible Collection: Solomon (Movie Review)

The Bible Collection - Solomon - FORMED

Plot Summary

Solomon was the heir to David’s throne and the chosen king to build Yahweh’s temple. He sought wisdom from God and was blessed for it. However, later in life, Solomon allowed idols to dominate his life, which were his ultimate downfall.

Production Quality (2 points)

In keeping with most Lux Vide productions, Solomon is typically fine, including good video quality and camera work. Audio is also acceptable, along with the soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props demonstrate good attention to historical detail. However, some action scenes are poorly shot, and weird special effects invade the viewing experience at times. Also, editing tends to be poor in certain circumstances as scenes suddenly cut off or fade out for no particular reason. However, this section does enough in the end to get past the average mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

For the most part, Solomon does a fairly good job with adhering to the historical source material. On paper, the story is adequately portrayed, but the characters aren’t deep enough. The dialogue is very procedural rather than emotional, like it’s a strain to be realistic. This prevents the character from being relatable and makes them more like theater actors and actresses. Large time jumps certainly don’t help matters, and things generally move too fast. At times, random things suddenly happen, including some unnecessarily edgy content. It all converges into an anti-climactic conclusion that leaves the audience empty-handed. Overall, while this narrative seems to check the right boxes, it just ends up being another typical Bible play.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

One of this section’s biggest detractors is its inconsistent use of culturally authentic cast members. Additionally, the performances are often too theatrical and dramatic, keeping with the Bible play themes. However, despite the stoicism, the actors and actresses aren’t all that bad. There are plenty of positive moments that contribute to this average score even though there are instances where the cast members seem to act in ways that are contrary to their roles. Nonetheless, this area rounds out an overall underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

Films like Solomon continually contribute to the bad image of Scripture-based entertainment. They manage to frustrate audiences by being Shakespearean, poorly presented, and inconsistent with application of Biblical concepts. Hopefully, one day soon, we can put these types of movies and series behind us and replace them with more substantial offerings.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

The Bible Collection: Genesis (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: Watch The Bible Collection: Genesis | Prime Video

Plot Summary

In the beginning, God created humans in His image, but they sinned against Him. After most of the world went against His purposes, He sent the Flood to judge them. Then, after the Deluge, humanity sought to rebuild, and they passed on the stories of the times before them by sharing the narratives with each other.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Surprisingly, Genesis boasts a respectable production. This is likely due to good funding even though it does contain a lot of stock footage. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all great, however. The soundtrack is very interesting, and the sets, locations, and props are well-used. The only minor concern is the editing, but it’s not enough to keep this section’s score from being quite high. Unfortunately, these good elements seem to go to waste.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

It’s hard to understand why Genesis isn’t some type of docu-drama or narrated Bible project as it’s almost entirely based on narration and voiceover. This experience is extremely artistic and even ethereal at times, which necessitates reading a lot into what’s being seen. There are basically no instances of dialogue or conversations, and many of the scenes are quite vague, barely representing what the narrator is talking about. Long sequences sometimes pass without any talking at all, so while it’s fine to be subtle, it’s also possible to be so discrete that there’s no point in viewing it. Such is the case in this “narrative.” Elsewhere, there are some odd inclusions of biblical accounts that hadn’t been yet written. Although it was an interesting idea to frame the first part of the Genesis story in the context of Noah, which is one of the main things keeping this section from being zero, this movie definitely does not cover the whole book. Further, this plot ends in a strangely abrupt way like they just ran out of ideas and cut it off. In the end, this is a unique yet mostly extraneous viewing experience.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Genesis strengthens its case by casting actors and actresses that are mostly culturally authentic. However, they hardly have any chance to exhibit their potential skills due to lack of opportunities to deliver actual lines. The small amount therein is passable albeit somewhat dramatic and theatrical. Overall, this section rounds out a rather mediocre effort.

Conclusion

It’s quite unclear what this “screenplay” was actually going for. If it was part of a larger plan, this is totally lost to the audience. Despite having some interesting possibilities at their fingertips, this film’s creators squandered an opportunity to do something creatively different. Unfortunately, Genesis just falls in line with lots of other un-engaging and ultimately forgettable Bible entertainment.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Mary of Nazareth [2012] (Movie Review)

Film 'Mary of Nazareth' now available for parish, school ...

Plot Summary

Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus Christ, and this calling led to many unprecedented ups and downs in her life. Her experiences with Christ didn’t stop at the Nativity as she supported Him in His earthly ministry. Even in the end, she played a key role in His work and made a difference wherever she went.

Production Quality (1 point)

Despite average video quality and acceptable camera work, this production doesn’t really meet the mark. Audio is fine, but there are some obvious overdubs. Sets, locations, and props show some attention to historical details. However, the editing is extremely choppy as some scenes cut off very abruptly. Some scenes suddenly invade without warning, and special effects are very cheap. Therefore, this section doesn’t meet the middle mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As a whole, Mary of Nazareth feels more like a play than a movie since its characters are very stiff and wooden. This is due to very unnatural dialogue and uptight conversations, and Mary and Joseph seem like they’re from another planet because of their ethereal attitudes and reactions. Besides this, the narrative rushes through every major event in Mary’s life, introducing more and more characters and unfinished subplots as it goes on. To string things together, heavy-handed narration is awkwardly inserted; it goes without saying that Jesus is portrayed as as very otherworldly and inaccessible person. Some biblical accounts are either altered or shorted in order to save time in the bulging plot, and it seems like some cultural traditions aren’t correctly captured in the story. For instance, some characters seem to live too well-off for the time period, but this is almost beside the point due to the many other screenwriting errors committed here. In the end, this is just a mess that can’t be awarded any points.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Despite acceptable cultural costuming, the acting is bit overdone in the emotional department. The cast members come off as theatrical and overly dramatic as well as too breathy at times. Actors and actresses are not always culturally accurate. Most of the scenes seem extremely scripted and controlled, which leads to very practiced and robotic line delivery. In the end, due to antiquated acting styles and other concerns, this section can’t receive any points.

Conclusion

Mary of Nazareth is another reminder of the older era of Bible-based entertainment that treated Scripture like a rigid stage play. In trying to be too careful to avoid messing anything up, the story is portrayed in a distant and untouchable manner. The treatment of Jesus is among the worst aspects of the film since He comes off as a lofty individual. Thus, all that can be gleaned from this experience is how not to do it.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

The Sin: From Adam and Eve to Cain and Abel (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: The Sin: From Adam and Eve to Cain and Abel ...

Plot Summary

After Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, sin entered the world. Afterward, their children continued the pattern of sin, including their sons Cain and Abel. However, the cycle would continue generation after generation until the ultimate redemption could come.

Production Quality (.5 point)

Sporting an abysmal production, The Sin contains very cheap and cheesy special effects and grainy video sequences. Lighting is inconsistent while sets, locations, and props are limited. Audio is somewhat acceptable, as is the soundtrack, but many lines are very obviously overdubbed. However, the editing is extremely choppy: most scenes drag on too long while others cut off. In short, this section is very low quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From the get-go, The Sin springs unnecessarily dramatic narration on the viewer before taking the audience on wild ride of jumping all over the place. This subverts any slim chance there was at developing the characters therein. To make matters worse, dialogue and conversations are horribly wooden. There’s no way to connect with any of the characters on a personal level. What’s more, the story really makes no sense even though it has source material. In the end, there’s not much to say except that this narrative falls into the same old pit of terrible Bible creations that are sure to turn people off to the real stories.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To add insult to injury, the acting is either too stiff or overly dramatic. It seems like coaching isn’t present at all as the emotions are incredibly forced. Costuming is very poor, and there’s really nothing good to say about this section, which rounds out an overall awful effort.

Conclusion

One of the only silver linings about films like The Sin is that there aren’t usually that many quite this bad. Also, things are trending in the right directions in recent years, and new film makers can learn how not to do it. Otherwise, viewers can know what movies to avoid at all costs.

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

David vs. Goliath: Battle of Faith (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: Watch David vs. Goliath: Battle of Faith | Prime Video

Plot Summary

David going up against Goliath was the ultimate underdog story, but what could have happened before this face off? David was trained by both the Lord and those around him. What could have prepared him for the great battle? When David finally faced the giant, what occurred change Israel’s history forever.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, this rendition of the famous biblical account has a fairly average production. This is due to some shaky cam despite great video and audio quality. Some scenes have poor lighting, but the sets, locations, and props are acceptable. One of the movie’s biggest detractors is its editing as some scenes are quite drawn out. Others are somewhat cut off, and this rounds out an overall middle-of-the-road effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This plot is unnecessarily hampered by narration and by a fixation on extended fight scenes that go outside the biblical narrative. These issues also crowd out important sequences of dialogue and cause conversations to be unsubstantial. As such, the characters seem like play actors rather than actual people. Some audience will find there to be too much violence, which may be realistic but is unbalanced in this context. Elsewhere, the pace of the story is quite rushed and doesn’t allow an effective conclusion to develop. This causes a very hollow experience for the viewer even though there are some interesting ideas contained within this narrative, such as the possibility that Samuel trained David for battle and the psychological elements that are ascribed to David. Unfortunately, there are definitely something here, but the idea seemed too forced and rapidly presented. Slowing the process down a bit may have helped this screenplay to gain its footing.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The costuming is actually one of the better aspects of this movie. However, the cast isn’t always culturally authentic. At times, the acting is acceptable, but other times, it’s a bit dramatic and theatrical. Emotions and line delivery are inconsistent: sometimes fine and sometimes not. Thus, this section rounds out an unfortunately underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

It seems like David vs. Goliath was made in haste just for the sake of making another Bible film that could have been popular. In doing this, a lot of corners were cut, which always shows up in the finished product. This formula of hacking together a recognizable inspirational title for a quick cash grab is very word out and has seemingly met its demise. In the future, new Christian creators will hopefully learn from the mistakes of the past and correctly apply their God-given talents to produce truly quality projects.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Barabbas, Season 1 [2012] (Series Review)

Billy Zane to Portray Barabbas, Murderer Chosen Over Jesus, in ...

Plot Summary

Barabbas led a band of rebels against the occupying Roman government, but his criminal activity led him to have close contact with Jesus at His own trial. Barabbas was set free in exchange for Jesus, but afterward, he was faced with a series of choices. What would he ultimately decide?

Production Quality (2 points)

As a well-funded production, Barabbas has fine video quality and camera work. Its sets, locations, and props demonstrate great historical authenticity. Audio quality is passable despite a generic soundtrack. The biggest issues with this section is the poor editing, which is evidenced by quick cuts and abrupt transitions. Otherwise, this is likely the season’s best element.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Even though this miniseries contains a slightly interesting premise, it’s difficult to connect with the characters as they seem to just be pawns in the plot. Barabbas has some believable aspects to his personality, but all of the characters need a lot more work with more substantial dialogue and flashbacks in order to avoid their being very blank and generic. As usual, Jesus is portrayed in a very odd way, and the narrative is full of pronounced and forceful drama. Action and fighting scenes fill time and circumvent opportunities to establish reasons why the characters do what they do besides what the storyline wants them to do. This wasted time also causes important scenes to be quickly skipped through, which causes off-screen content to be referenced rather than shown. Some scenes go by really fast for the sake of hitting certain high points while others contain some oddly suggestive content that seems very out of place. Although there are too many characters as too many things are trying to be done at once and while the main character’s motivations don’t make much sense, the ending is actually unique. However, it takes forever to get there and lacks the proper build-up, which rounds out a section with slight potential yet plenty of problems.

Acting Quality (1 point)

In keeping with other offerings from the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the acting of Barabbas is only dramatic and theatrical. Many cast members come off as robotic, and most of the actresses seem like they’ve been coached (or even forced) to sound like they’re always out of breath. Much of the makeup work is unusual, and the cast isn’t always culturally authentic. Elsewhere, the injury acting is quite poor. Nonetheless, despite these obvious concerns, there are some positive moments of acting, and it tends to improve with time.

Continuity Quality (1 point)

Throughout this fairly short miniseries, it’s hard to keep up with the different timelines. Many things just happen with no warning, lead-up, or explanation. Also, the tone is constantly changing throughout the saga, which hampers continuity. As such, there’s often no real driving focus even though it’s named after a historical character. Nonetheless, much like other elements there is some slight potential in the series’s latter third, which is enough to save this section from a null score.

Conclusion

In the end, there’s unfortunately not much to work with in Barabbas. It had a lot going for it to be a unique take on a biblical narrative, but fell short in nearly every category. It could never decide what it wanted to be and thus isolated all potential audiences. Now, it’s simply been forgotten by much of the Christian realm and only serves as an example of how not to do it.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 14 points

Joseph’s Gift (Movie Review)

Joseph's Gift (1998) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Joseph is the youngest sibling of a family who owns a successful garment business in 1970’s Los Angeles. However, his brothers are jealous of how their father favors their younger brother, so they concoct a scheme to land him in trouble and out of their hair. Nonetheless, despite Joseph’s hardships, it all comes full circle as God places him exactly where he needs to be at the right time.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In the beginning of Joseph’s Gift, there are some tight shots, a handful of odd camera angles, and instances of inconsistent lighting. However, video and audio quality are both fine even though there could be more soundtrack than there is. Elsewhere, the film’s psychological sequences have very poor special effects within them, and a few scenes are cut off very abruptly. As it is, the editing is extremely choppy due to the large amount of content trying to be covered. Nevertheless, all production aspects besides the editing improve as the screenplay goes on, which is enough to earn an average score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Whereas the premise of Joseph’s Gift, including the 1970’s setting and the psychological integration of Joseph’s visions are interesting, many of the film’s scenes are disconnected from each other due to lack of adequate continuity. The plot tends to jump all over the place with no warning, which hampers any hope of proper character development. A high number of characters confuses the viewer as it’s unclear who to focus on since there are so many different perspectives. This fact often causes dialogue to be fairly cheesy in order to move the story forward and precludes the audience from getting to know who the characters actually are. Elsewhere, there are some unnecessary instances of off-screen content and weirdly creepy experiences. Further, the ending is extremely rushed. Overall, this movie would have worked better as a series or non-linear plot that centralized on Joseph’s character so that certain intriguing concepts, such as Joseph being admitted to a mental institution, wouldn’t have been wasted.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the acting of Joseph’s Gift is mostly acceptable. Though the emotions are forced at times and could be a bit more authentic, most of the performances, including line delivery, are least passable. While some moments seem just a bit off sometimes, the cast members collectively do enough to post an average score for this section.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, offerings like Joseph’s Gift aren’t able to make a difference due to a handful of avoidable problems, such as fixable production issues and poor screenwriting. It’s one thing to have an interesting idea, but it’s enough to properly execute it. Movies are certainly complex projects to undertake, so they should never be done so in light manners. There are many forgettable films like this one that, if combined together, could make a handful of truly groundbreaking ones.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Translated [2018] (Movie Review)

Image result for translated christian movie

Plot Summary

Through an unusual turn of events, the Apostle Paul is transported through time to the present day, where he finds the modern church looking very different than the one he knew in his day. Paul is found by Tim, who takes him in and helps the Apostle acclimate to the new world. Then, Paul shares the old messages he was given by God in new ways for the future church.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a seemingly basic and essentially modern production, it’s unclear why Translated scored only average, but this rating is due to a handful of avoidable concerns. One of these is some moments of shaky camera work while other relates to invasive background sounds that are present inside of indoor sets. While the outdoor shots are better, the audio quality overall needs some balancing work, and the soundtrack is mostly average. Nonetheless, video quality is very good, and the prop usage is effective. There are some minor special effects issues, such as low quality black-and-white flashbacks, but editing is mostly in line with standards. In the end, the mixed bag quality of the production causes it to be run-of-the-mill, which is actually unacceptable given the uncomplicated nature of what was being created.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From the get-go, the entire premise of this plot seems off. Not only does time travel almost always present major logic problems for narratives, but it’s unclear why the Apostle Paul would either need to come to the present day or even would be sent to it. Attempting to alter such a cornerstone Bible story causes many issues that are not easily resolved, and besides this, even if this weren’t a problem, it’s still very difficult to discern the actual purpose of this plotline. Nothing much happens as the film meanders around and touches on some typical fish-out-of-water concepts, such as introducing the ‘different’ character to various ideas that are foreign to them. There is no driving focus to the storyline, and the dialogue is mainly used to spoon-feed the audience with obvious messaging. As such, the characters are poorly developed and are swept along in disconnected subplots that lack meaningful purpose. Essentially, once one random thing happens after another, the story suddenly concludes in an abrupt fashion and doesn’t leave the viewer with much to work with. In the end, there’s little to no potential in this idea, which is why it really never should have been made.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For a small cast, there really isn’t much dynamic in this movie’s performances. While there’s nothing obviously bad, there are also no positive standouts. Emotions and line delivery are both just pedestrian, which ultimately leads to an average rating.

Conclusion

Starting off with such a bizarre premise likely doomed Translated from the start. There’s just nothing that can be done with a story that inexplicably transports a historical character to the present day for no particular reason. There are just so many other things that could be made that would be far more worthwhile than this. We need more Christian films that present transformative meaning rather than more run-of-the-mill throwaways that will be automatically lost in the shuffle.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Joseph, Close to Jesus {Joseph of Nazareth} (Movie Review)

Image result for joseph of nazareth movie

Plot Summary

Joseph never chose to be the earthly stepfather of the Messiah, but by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, he accepted his role to take care of Mary and the Christ Child for as long as God wanted him to. Joseph was there before, during, and after the birth of Jesus, so he had a unique perspective on Yahweh’s plan to save humanity from sin.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Like many other Lux Vide\Trinity Broadcasting Network biblical presentations, the production of Joseph, Close to Jesus is typically fine. It has authentic sets, locations, and props, along with good video quality and audio quality. As a whole, it seems realistic even though the action scenes sometimes employ wild camera work and though some shots are unnecessarily close. The soundtrack is a bit generic and dramatic at times, but most aspects of this production are acceptable. The editing sometimes leaves something to be desired due to some lagging scenes and quick cuts, but on the whole, this is at least an average effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From start to finish, Joseph of Nazareth adopts a very quick and forceful plot progression as the story is forced forward at a breakneck pace that doesn’t let things naturally develop or allow time for characters to be deepened. Besides this poorly constructed premise, Joseph comes off as a basically perfect and all-knowing character even though he appears a bit crazed at times. In focusing on his inaccessible qualities, some key biblical scenes are brushed over or portrayed in extremely vague ways, which confuses the audience. Other scenes are very muted and blank, and dialogue in general leaves much to be desired. Elsewhere, there are a handful of fantastical and ethereal elements that cause spiritual themes to be painted either in a magical light or as untouchable. In summary, the combination of the speedy storyline and the general oddness of some of the characters and plot points prevents this section from having any points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While some cast members appear to be culturally authentic, many of them, especially the lead ones, are not and obviously belong to cultures other than those who lived in first century Judea. Moreover, while the costuming of all characters is fine, the acting is extremely theatrical and dramatic. It feels like many of them are putting on a play rather than trying to become the characters, which further gives this film an air of elitism and other-worldliness. Further, emotions are inadequately depicted, and some lines are very forced, which rounds out a disappointing effort.

Conclusion

Joseph, Close to Jesus had a lot going for it since it promised to provide a unique perspective on the Nativity and on Jesus’ early years. However, it committed many unforced errors and was more devoted to making the Bible seem like a Shakespearean experience rather than a Spirit-inspired historical account that still has profound application for us today. Unfortunately, this was the case for most Scriptural entertainment prior to The Passion of the Christ. Thankfully, in recent years, God has provided the market with better options for accessible biblical depictions of the First Christmas on both the big screen (The Nativity Story) and the small screen (The Chosen). These offerings are much more interesting for your family to enjoy this holiday season.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

The Two Thieves {Once We Were Slaves} (Movie Review)

Image result for the two thieves movie jonathan roumie

Plot Summary

On the day of Jesus’ death, two thieves were crucified with Him–one on His left and one on his right. They were paying for their earthly crimes while Christ was atoning for the sins of all humanity. However, each of them had one last chance to accept redemption from the very Savior Who wanted to save them from their sin.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It’s clear that the budget of The Two Thieves was quite limited, which is evidenced by some shaky camera work and some limited sets, props, and locations. However, the props therein are very culturally authentic and demonstrate good attention to historical detail. Elsewhere, video quality, audio quality, lighting, and the soundtrack are all good and are enough to keep this section average. Though editing is a bit limited as well, this production shows a good start to even greater things in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

As The Two Thieves is basically the conceptual predecessor to The Chosen, it showcases the God-given talents of Dallas Jenkins, Tyler Thompson, and the rest of their creative team. This is evidenced by this storyline’s good adherence to Jewish cultural traditions and historical accuracy, which is seamlessly interwoven with deep characters who are developed through motive-revealing flashbacks and well-constructed conversations. The continuity between scenes is also great, and this is all done with a limited time frame. Elsewhere, the story feels very authentic and gritty as the writers are not afraid to be realistic about the hard times of first century Judea. Further, the non-linear plot style is a nice touch. In the end, this storyline is good enough to be nearly perfect, and the only thing holding it back is the time constraint.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Due to restricted funding, The Two Thieves was unable to assemble a fully authentic cast, but thankfully, the accents of the characters are realistic and well-done. Moreover, the lack of complete cultural realism is really the only main concern with this cast as they consistently portray believable emotions and mostly deliver their lines in professional manners. There are a few tiny concerns with line delivery, but in the end, this section demonstrates another reason why God called this creative team to make The Chosen.

Conclusion

As a whole, The Two Thieves proves that, when things are in order, a movie maker and their team can craft a deep story using a small budget. This offering is a perfect example of how short films can be used as a springboard to future greatness. Although this one didn’t quite make it all the way, it still provides a template for future creative teams to replicate.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

The Chosen, Season 1.2 (Series Review)

Image result for the chosen season 1 jesus
The Critically Acclaimed Hit Series Completes Its First Season

Plot Summary

After Jesus chose a majority of His followers, He began to slowly but surely reveal His nature to the world through public miracles and teachings. Though He mostly ministered in obscurity, His work drew the attention of multiple different spheres of influence: common people, powerful politicians, and power-hungry religious leaders. However, Christ never discriminated in who He chose to follow Him as He broke down social and cultural barriers in order to proclaim His love for all humanity.

Production Quality (2.5 points)
Much like the first half of Season 1, this season’s second half boasts a very high-quality production that both lives within its means and makes the most of what it has. Though camera work can be a bit shaky at times, much like the former half, there are virtually no other production flaws to note here. Video quality and audio quality are both flawless as the camera captures poignant scenes that feel like real life. Sets, locations, and props are incredibly authentic and demonstrate extreme care for historical accuracy and attention to detail. Perhaps the most impactful element of the production is the exquisite soundtrack that is creatively and artistically placed to enhance key moments and to draw the audience into the story’s emotional experiences. Further, editing is seamless and presents a well-crafted plot in a professional manner. In the end, Dallas Jenkins and his very talented creative team have once again showcased their God-given talents in a very responsible manner that has revolutionized Christian entertainment at a time when it was desperately needed.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)
However, there’s still more to say. It’s undeniable that the extreme humanity of The Chosen’s characters are what make the series more than a run-of-the-mill Bible drama. Tyler Thompson and the other writers clearly went great lengths, as prompted by the Holy Spirit, to not only ensure the accurate cultural profiles of the characters but to also make them very flawed and relatable to all audiences, which is something other Biblical productions have been allergic to. The Chosen doesn’t just show the viewers a collection of well-known miracles and stories: the lead-up and fallout of each important event is carefully crafted and woven together with other intriguing subplots. All of this is good enough without even mentioning the way some scenes are presented in artistic manners that are nearly flawless in their presentation. Dialogue and conversations between characters are very deep, meaningful, and even philosophical at times, which is something we rarely see in Christian entertainment. Basically, there are more positive qualities in this section than can be named, which has warranted a separate discussion on how the subplots interlock and interact. In the end, The Chosen creative team has transformed the development of series and characters in Christian entertainment, and there’s no going back from here.

Acting Quality (3 points)
With virtually the same cast from episodes one through four plus others who add more life than there already was, the acting of episodes five through eight does not waver from its previously perfect score. In fact, many of the cast members build off of their roles and become even more comfortable in their characters. Emotions are right on target such that they can be felt by the viewers, and line delivery is basically perfect. This cast is so heavily talented that it’s posing a good problem for Box Office Revolution’s upcoming Actor and Actress of the Year Awards, which is a type of dilemma we have unfortunately never been faced with in our reviewing experience.

Continuity Quality (3 points)
Continuity is where many Christian series completely drop the proverbial ball because the episode are often disconnected and self-contained. However, every episode of The Chosen that has been released so far are somehow able to be both self-consistent as well as connected to the bigger picture, which is an important component of a great series. One way the continuity is best demonstrated in through the use of flashbacks to cover both previously overlooked New Testament stories along with relevant Old Testament accounts, and this latter inclusion is one of the added bonuses of episodes five through eight. Finally, the ending of each episode is epic and demonstrates how much this creative knows what they’re doing and how much they have relied on God to get this project right.

Conclusion

The second half of The Chosen’s first season also receives two x-factor points for presenting the greatest stories of history in the ways they should have been portrayed all along as well as for being re-watchable and binge-able. There’s hardly anything we would want changed about The Chosen at this point except for an even bigger budget to do better things with since Jenkins and the rest have demonstrated an ability to responsibly steward the resources God’s given them. As a side note, we receive no compensation or reward for our reviews and advertising of this series, but we wholeheartedly support its full release and strongly encourage you to both watch Season 1 during this year’s holidays and to share it with as many people as you can. This is first time a season of a Christian series has been critically acclaimed and placed on the Box Office Revolution Hall of Fame. We believe The Chosen has a rare, God-given opportunity to change not only the Christian entertainment world but also Christian culture as a whole because it’s a fresh, high-quality look at well-known stories that are timelessly relevant for all people.

Final Rating: 13.5 out of 14 points

Thomas, Close to Jesus {The Friends of Jesus – Thomas} (Movie Review)

Image result for thomas close to jesus movie

Plot Summary

Thomas followed Jesus for the three years of the Lord’s earthly ministry, yet Thomas always struggled with belief. His doubt was only compounded when he witnessed the brutal arrest of his Savior and heard how he was violently flogged and executed at the hands of the Romans. At the darkest hour of history, Thomas’ small faith would be tested like never before.

Production Quality (2 points)

As an early 2000’s production, Thomas, Close to Jesus is mostly respectable, including historically authentic sets, locations, and props. Video quality is passable, and audio quality is fine except that the soundtrack is somewhat generic. The camera work tends to be shaky at first but gets better as it goes. To round things off, the editing is fairly pedestrian yet isn’t bad. In the end, this is basically an above-average production that doesn’t make many positive or negative impact.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Lux Vide and TBN had interesting ideas in this early era of Christian entertainment to make a series of films focusing on different disciples, so a film centered around the less-emphasized character of Thomas is refreshing. However, like other Biblical films from this creative team (Mary Magdalene and Judas), the characters cannot be easily accessed due to stiff and pedestrian dialogue that feels like a Bible play. There are too many boring asides and vanilla conversations that waste time and focus on vague concepts without developing accessible characters. While there were good attempts to connect the films of the series together, there were some unnecessary alterations to the historical account. Further, the portrayal of Jesus is once again too ethereal and otherworldly, and too many scenes either contain forced drama or lag on. In the end, there was probably not enough actual content to sustain full-length movie without slid dialogue and flashbacks.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, the cast of Thomas isn’t entirely culturally authentic, but some attempts are made. Moreover, there are a lot of dramatic and theatrical performances as if this is a stage play. This brings overdone and unnatural emotions with it. Even still, the costuming is mostly historically accurate, and there are some good moments in acting, which is enough to keep this section average.

Conclusion

On a number of levels, creating Biblical fiction entertainment is extremely difficult to pull off, which is why it should never be done lightly. Since TBN’s early attempts at depicting the lives of Jesus and His disciples, Christian movies and series have definitely improved in how they portray these historical characters. They were real people, so when they are properly cast in this light, audiences everywhere can relate to them, which makes the message more powerful and meaningful.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Christ Slayer (Movie Review)

Image result for the christ slayer

Plot Summary

Longinus was raised by the Magi, but he never fully believed the stories they told of the Messiah as he rose through the ranks of the Roman army. he was at the pinnacle of his career, but an injury led to blindness, forcing him out of service. As he languished in darkness with a servant to guide his daily activities, he never dreamed that his life would be forever changed when he helped end a seemingly meaningless crucifixion of the One they called the King of the Jews.

Production Quality (2 points)

Over time, DJ Perry and his creative have definitely improved their production skills as The Christ Slayer demonstrates good camera work, effective camera angles, and professional video quality. The audio quality is also fine for the more part, and the soundtrack is culturally authentic. While the sets, locations, and props are great, the outdoor scenes are better since some of the indoor shots are a bit too dark and disorienting. Some of the editing could have been more consistent and understandable, but on the whole, this production is adequate and shows commitment to improving.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The Quest Trilogy has taken many different turns, and at this point, the ending is better than the beginning. At its inception, some parts were hard to grasp and a bit too abstract, but the unique turn in The Christ Slayer definitely helped things. This is a unique extra-Biblical plot that gives a fresh perspective on the events surrounding the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, and it sports the typical abstractly creative concepts of the CDI team. The spiritual elements from Forty Nights and Chasing the Star are included in this third installment, but they are presented in more accessible fashions. Similarly, the psychological themes of The Christ Slayer are fairly well-utilized, and integration of Biblical accounts is creatively woven together with the main plot. There are a few drawbacks, however, that keep this plot from being all that it could be. For instance, there are quite a few slow scenes that tend to be too artistic such that the audience has trouble understanding them, and some of the characters’ dialogue is a bit archaic and drawn-out. There are some expository conversations that replace better character development, and sometimes, the Jesus character is a bit too ethereal and inaccessible, but as a whole, this is a fine Easter plot that demonstrates unique storytelling.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Probably the brightest spot of this film’s cast is the awesome idea to cast a special needs cast member in a role that doesn’t over-emphasize his condition. Treating him as a regular actor is a huge step forward for disability rights, so this creative team’s decision to do this shows a deeper care for inclusion in the arts. Elsewhere in this cast, some of the main cast members are good while some could use more efficient coaching to avoid being too theatrical and dramatic. As a whole, the acting is average, but it could have been better if emotions were more accessible. In the end, The Christ Slayer is a good end to the Quest Trilogy.

Conclusion

DJ Perry and company have a lot going for them, so it will be interesting to see how they will be able to collaborate with other talent in the future. Throughout their careers, they have only gotten better as they have adapted and changed, which is encouraging to see. Sometimes trilogies end worse than they begin, so since the Quest Trilogy has ended on a good note, this will hopefully be a springboard to better things in the future for CDI entertainment.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

40: The Temptation of Christ (Movie Review)

Related image

Plot Summary

After Jesus’ baptism and before his earthly ministry officially began, he went into the desert for forty days, where He was tempted by the devil to forfeit His work before it even began. Satan used many tactics to convince Jesus to fall, yet Christ remained without sin in the trials. As Jesus endured the hardship, He experienced human pain and suffering that prepared Him to relate to those who needed His power the most.

Production Quality (2 points)

While this film’s budget was somewhat limited due to its independent nature, resources were clearly allocated responsibly. Although there are some cheap special effects and sound effects, mostly toward the beginning of the film, there is plenty of positive to note here. The first thirty minutes of the movie are the hardest because these contain some poor editing and lagging scenes, but once the film progresses past this point, things begin to look up. There are some elements of shaky camera work throughout, but the outdoor locations used are very engaging and professionally shot. The perspective filming is effective, and the soundtrack is highly engaging in many parts as it adds to the viewing experience. Further, video quality is crisp throughout, and even though it takes a bit, the production slowly becomes a great one, which is a testament to what this team could pull off with more resources under their belt.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Like the production, the plot is a bit shaky at first, mostly due to immediate and unnecessary narration. Jesus is also a bit too theatrical and inaccessible as a character at first, but He definitely gets better as the story goes on. It’s somewhat difficult to get through the first thirty minutes of the film because of these issues and because of some lagging scenes, so it’s possible that this idea may have worked better as a short film. However, once the thirty-minute mark has been passed, things change for the better since a really good idea is revealed. The use of flashbacks and flash-forwards is very effective to bridge time and to reinforce the psychological elements that the temptations are based on, which are very well-constructed. The core of the plot is based on a collection of very engaging and creative conversations that clearly show what the film was made for. Old Testament prophecies are integrated very well into the dialogue, which is something we don’t see enough of in Bible films. As a whole, this creative team’s take on the temptations of Jesus is very interesting and innovative, mostly due to well-executed psychological sequences that go hand-in-hand extremely well with the flashbacks, mostly because the viewer doesn’t always see the temptation coming. In the end, the use of symbolism and artistic elements are effective in presenting a familiar Bible story in a new, creative way, and the horror elements are handled well without being too sensational. Thus, there is a lot of potential for this creative team through future collaborations.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While the cast is not entirely culturally authentic, this can be forgiven due to the limited budget of the project. At first, the line delivery and emotions come off as too forced and theatrical, but they moderate as the film progresses and show concerted improvement. Due the small cast, they carry the whole film on their shoulders, and for the most part, they post good performances by the movie’s conclusion. This rounds out an overall refreshing independent effort, which plants promising seeds for the future.

Conclusion

It’s difficult to portray the temptations of Jesus properly without a good understanding of human psychology. As a whole, this creative team appears to have such an understanding. The Temptation of Christ is everything a first-time, self-funded project should be: as good of a production as possible, a well-written plot that demonstrates talent that can be developed in the future, and a good enough acting performance to carry the day. Thus, we can’t wait to see what these film makers have to offer once they are given better funding opportunities.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Mary Magdalene: Close to Jesus (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Mary Magdalene lived a dark life before she encountered Jesus of Nazareth, and her bondage and past mistakes always tried to call her back. However, her experience with Jesus forever changed her life. She sought to serve Him and follow Him whenever she could, and her influence that came as a result of her time with Jesus had a positive effect on those around her.

Production Quality (2 points)

The early 2000s Bible films produced by the collaboration between the Trinity Broadcasting Network and Lux Vide were certainly well-funded, which translated to great attention to historical detail. Other production elements were also professional, including video quality and camera work. The sets, locations, and props reflected attempts at authenticity, and the editing was streamlined. However, there were a few issues with audio in Mary Magdalene. For one, there are a lot of very obvious overdubs that seem unnecessary. On paper, the audio seems fine, but the soundtrack is sometimes archaic and incongruous, and any presence of overdubbing speaks to sound problems. Nevertheless, this film has an above-average production that is good enough but not dynamic.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The story of Mary Magdalene is definitely an interesting Biblical account this isn’t focused on enough; however, this rendition gives an odd take on the story since there isn’t enough exploration as to how she became originally possessed. This is a central point in the story, so focusing on tangential content instead of this core concept is unusual at best. Lacking a coherent bondage storyline makes it hard for the viewer to appreciate Mary’s redemption arc. Elsewhere in the story, time seems to move too quickly, and there are some unnecessary alterations to the historical account. All of this hampers proper character development due to stunted dialogue and little continuity. While the portrayal of Herod is fine, John the Baptist is too nutty, and Jesus is too inaccessible and ethereal. There is also some unnecessary suggestive content that could have been shown more tastefully. In the end, while the movie’s plot had a lot of potential, it falls flat for a number of reasons and shows that unskilled screen writing can hurt any good idea.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, the cast of Mary Magdalene is not completely culturally authentic, which is manifest in unrealistic accents. However, the historical costuming is one of the stronger points of the film. Nonetheless, emotions among the cast members are often too forceful, dramatic, and theatrical. Line delivery is too robotic at times, but there are some positive elements that keep the acting from level zero. In the end, this section is still below average, and this movie is another not-good-enough Bible film.

Conclusion

The TBN\Lux Vide combo definitely tried to blaze some trails in the early 2000s with regard to Bible films, but they too often missed the mark. It wasn’t for lack of budget; rather, inadequate screenwriting held their Biblical accounts back from being all they could have been. Having the characters cross back and forth between the different films was a great universe-connecting idea, but it was in vain since they didn’t have wide appeal. For future learning, current film makers can take notes from these films on how to go about crafting Biblical epics without repeating the old mistakes.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

A High School Story (Movie Review)

 

Plot Summary

Faith High is a seemingly ordinary private Christian high school with all the typical high school issues, but one student is intent on forcing the daily events she sees unfold around her into some kind of Biblical parallel so that she can have an interesting end-of-the-semester school project to talk about.  A new kid comes to town as the backup quarterback and falls in love with a mostly silent ballet dancer, so this is naturally the stories of David and Esther mashed together.  The vain and self-impressed starting quarterback is obviously Saul, and you can see how this keeps going.  With this movie in the works for so long, you would think some better content was created.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Ever since 2nd Greatest, Kingdom Sight Studios has been committed to crafting more professional productions than A Perfect Chord.  Thus, A High School Story has a mostly average production that’s fueled mainly by good video quality, find audio quality, and professional sets, locations, and props.  However, the soundtrack is sometimes too loud, and there are some odd camera angles and wild camera work, especially in the poorly filmed sports action scenes that feel like nothing is really happening even though you’re supposed to think there’s an actual game going on.  Scenes like these show the true genius of Facing the Giants in the independent film world (A High School Story even has a discount version of Bobby Lee Duke).  Elsewhere in A High School Story, there are too many stupid slow-motion scenes, as well as self-serving product placements and unwarranted self-love for A Perfect Chord.  In the end, this is a mostly average production that could have done better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From start to finish, annoying narration decides to explain things to us that we should be about to figure out on our own if the dialogue was any good at all.  We apparently have to be told who the characters are instead of letting them develop on their own through actual conversations.  There are also plenty of weird attempts at cringe-worthy bad comedy as ‘bad’ characters are over the top bad while ‘good’ characters are too perfect.  As is commonplace in cheap sports films, training montages displace opportunities for plot and character growth, as do ridiculous high school nonsense and predictable love triangle stupidity.  There are too many cheesy attempts at ‘young people’ dialogue, and we mention the beyond-cheesy attempts to force Bible stories into this modern-day plot?  This seriously needs to stop.  In the end, this plot contributes nothing to the film’s score.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With mainstay Kingdom Sight cast members, this acting job is another average one as there are some fine moments that are cancelled out by other moments of awkward and forced acting.  When some cast members attempt their own brand of comedy, it’s quite bad.  It goes without saying that some cast members seem desperate to advertise their horrid local comedy act throughout the film.  Essentially, while these often-used Kingdom Sight cast members are definitely gaining experience with each film, there’s just not enough coaching present here to sustain a higher score.

Conclusion

There’s one thing Kingdom Sight is getting right: releasing films directly to PureFlix On Demand and Amazon Prime in order to get them out there rather than to waste time and money on limited screenings no one will go see and DVD’s that will end up in the $5 Walmart bin.  However, 3 points is basically the ‘best of the worst’ score according to our review scale.  After 2nd Greatest, Kingdom Sight likely hit their ceiling of potential with their current model, so it’s time for them to take the next step in movie making.  They seem committed to trying different things, and their production model is mostly fine.  Thus, with their next film, they need to take a bigger step towards greatness by employing a better screen writer and a better acting coach (plus maybe some new cast members).

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Paul, Apostle of Christ (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Paul had completed many full years of missionary work across the continents of Asia and Europe and after carrying the Gospel of Jesus Christ to thousands of people, both Jews and Gentiles, he appealed to stand trial in Rome before Caesar, but this decision only caused him to suffer further for the cause of Christ at the hands of cruel Romans.  With the church in Rome on the brink of total annihilation, Priscilla and Aquila house many wanted Christians in their home, and Luke is sent to tend to Paul in prison.  As many Christians begin to question the words of Christ, Luke begs Paul for a fresh word to strengthen the church in her dark times, yet Paul is plagued by his thorn in the flesh–namely the lives of all he killed while he was a religious zealot.  With darkness seeming to close in on Christ’s people, the story of Paul’s life carries the same message that saved all followers of the Way: where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Gone are the days when ‘Bible plays’ like The Book of Esther are socially acceptable as Christian films.  We are in a new era of Christian productions, and Paul, Apostle of Christ is another hallmark of this era.  Similar to recent Biblical depictions, such as Risen, this new look at Paul’s life is gritty and authentic and has no fear of being painfully realistic.  This is evident in the excellent and historically authentic sets, locations, and props.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are also what a professional production should be.  The soundtrack is very engaging and thought-provoking, and the editing is quite creative and effective in presenting the story.  The only drawback to this production is a collection of very dark scenes that may be realistic but do not make for great viewing.  Nevertheless, this is a top-notch production that we should see over and over again in Christian films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

While most standard Biblical plot fare is very flat, face-value, and vanilla, Paul, Apostle of Christ rejects this mold and upends the Biblical genre once and for all.  By inserting extremely creative and well-crafted psychological elements into the core of this storyline, Andrew Hyatt and his team have created a point of no return for films based on Biblical events.  Much like their work in Full of Grace, which showed the potential they have always had, their portrayal of Paul’s thorn in the flesh and the trauma he went through in his life is revolutionary in this genre.  This is exactly what needs to be done to show the humanness of Biblical characters through the exquisite use of effective flashbacks and through processes that demonstrate real motive.  Elsewhere, dialogue is rich and meaningful, and the other subplots are intertwined very well as each character is very well-developed.  Care is given to demonstrate great historical accuracy, and while there are some slightly slow scenes and areas that could have been fleshed out with further dialogue and flashbacks, this storyline is a breath of fresh air in a world of very poor Biblical screenwriting.  To top things off, the ending sequence completes the film excellently and is well worth the wait.  In short, this film is a job well done in nearly every area.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

While there were a few missteps with cast members that are not entirely culturally authentic, they are trained to appear culturally authentic, which is leagues better than having a fully BRITISH cast.  Elsewhere, there is plenty of culturally authentic casting to make this section great, and there is clearly a presence of professional acting coaching.  There are very few errors to point out here, and costuming and makeup are also extremely realistic.  In summary, there are many positive elements to point out in this breakout effort.

Conclusion

This film receives a full x-factor point for its effective use of poignant psychological elements as Paul, Apostle of Christ takes its rightful place among the greatest Christian films of our time.  Andrew Hyatt and his team are clearly going places, and even though their sophomore effort was somewhat muted by the blockbuster release of I Can Only ImaginePaul is a signal that a new force to be reckoned has finally arrived in Biblical films.  It will be exciting to see what this team puts together next, but for now, we can enjoy this great movie.

 

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

 

Samson [2018] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Samson was chosen to be a judge of Israel by Yahweh, but he did not always do as he was supposed to do.  He was anointed by God with superhuman strength when the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, but when he disobeyed, there were serious consequences.  God used Samson to deliver His people from the oppressive Philistines, and He used an imperfect man to accomplish His will in the most extraordinary ways.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

PureFlix has clearly come a long way since the abysmal production days of The Book of Esther and the half-hearted production of movies like Apostle Peter and the Last Supper.  This newer rendition of Samson boasts a surprisingly high production quality, which is manifested in gritty and realistic elements that are not afraid to make the characters get dirty.  Action scenes are filmed very well with good camera work.  Video quality is crisp, and sets, locations, and props are very well-constructed and culturally authentic.  The editing is also good, but this production is held back from being all that it could be by weird cuts and dramatic zooms that are reminiscent of Revelation Road and by very obvious CGI architectural shots.  However, on the whole, Samson is a huge step forward for PureFlix Bible productions.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Right off the bat, the plot of Samson is hamstrung by immediate and unwanted narration.  Accompanying this story crutch is a typically PureFlix ‘creative license’ that they give themselves to do whatever they want with historical narrative.  As this film was shamelessly pushed as a ‘Christian superhero’ flick, it is full of mostly mindless action scenes and is actually quite violent for a Bible film–even rivaling The Bible miniseries for gory content.  With so many battle scenes and bodies flying around, there is no room for character development as dialogue is instead used to fill time, dump information, and force the story along in the direction the writers wanted it to go in.  In molding the story however they wanted, the PureFlix collective whitewashed the obvious mistakes of Samson the historical figure and made this movie into some kind of romance-revenge plot.  However, in some ways, they made some interesting connections between the true events of Samson’s life, which keeps this section from being zero, but they took too much ‘creative license’ with historical fact to be acceptable.  Regardless, we have no idea who Samson is as a character due to massive time jumps, and the recurring villain character is beyond cheesy.  In the end, plot was basically tossed by the wayside in the making of this pandering film.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Somewhere out there, there is a Christian movie consultant who constantly advises film makers to cast BRITISH people as Middle Eastern characters.  Sure, Middle Eastern cast members can be somewhat difficult to find, but what is the idea behind casting people with such obviously culturally inauthentic accents?  I’m sure with this budget PureFlix could have found some authentic cast members.  This consistent problem aside, the acting of this film is mostly fine except for the overly dramatic moments and forced emotions that are apparent here.  Also, it goes without saying that PureFlix consulted with Timothy Chey on how to give PhilistIne characters the worst possible makeup jobs.  On the whole, this section is average.

Conclusion

What to do with another Bible film?  Samson fulfills the gritty category, and the production is fine, but the other categories are greatly lacking in what is needed.  With a budget this big, better cast members could have been employed and better screenwriters could have been retained.  Then again, it’s doubtful that PureFlix actually cares about making a truly quality film.  Samson was just another attempt at a cash grab–PureFlix adapts with the times as needed to do the bare minimum to get enough audiences to pay for a ticket.  Now most people have forgotten this film even happened.  Oh well.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Visual Bible: Acts (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Jesus Resurrected from the dead, He charged His disciples to go out and complete the work He had begun by making new disciples and building His kingdom on earth.  Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to give His followers power, and they spread His Gospel to ends of their known world.  God also raised up an unlikely champion of the faith in Paul of Tarsus, who formerly persecuted the very people he joined forced with.  Through the power of God, the followers of Jesus turned the world upside down.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Much like the other installments of The Visual Bible saga, Acts demonstrates superb production quality, including in the areas of video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is a bit generic, but the sets, props, and locations are excellent in historical and cultural authenticity.  There are virtually no errors to point out here—except for the fact that there is no editing, which is by design.  In the end, however, this is a top-notch production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Acts demonstrates the same ambition as other Visual Bible films, which cover entire books of the Bible in one film.  Unfortunately, while there are many excellent stories in the book of Acts, this rendition is simply too long to have full impact.  Once again, designed narration hurts character development and thus makes this more of an informational resource than a drama film.  However, it still has its place, even though this film tends to have a strange portrayal of angels.  In the end, the historical accounts therein are very enjoyable and worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Unfortunately, Acts still contains the Visual Bible struggle for cultural authenticity as not many of the cast members are culturally appropriate.  While there are some moments that are too theatrical, this cast is mostly professional even still, with good emotions and line delivery.  Also, costuming is a major plus.  This rounds out another generally average effort.

Conclusion

At least this depiction of Acts is not cheesy, but one has to wonder what it would have been like if this was a series.  It seems like it would have had great impact.  Actually, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey already tried that.  However, I think we are still due a good series based on the book of Acts.  Any takers?

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

The Visual Bible: The Gospel of John (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Apostle John wrote his Gospel to show that Jesus came to change the world, but He was also a man Who could relate to each person He came into contact with.  He performed miracles unlike the world has ever seen and changed many lives, all in route to laying down his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.  The religious leaders nearly always opposed Jesus’ work, but His work is still alive and well today.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The Gospel of John follows in the footsteps of the other Visual Bible films by having a high-quality production, but it’s possible that John is the best production of the group.  This is evident through great video quality, camera work, and audio quality, including a culturally authentic soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are excellent in demonstrating authenticity and realism.  The only minor issues therein pertain to some odd and sometimes cheap special effects, such black and white flashbacks and unnecessary ‘flashy’ elements.  However, this aside, this is a top-notch production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Where the production succeeded, unfortunately, the plot did not.  Where other portrayals of Jesus in The Visual Bible saga are fair and interesting, the portrayal of Jesus in this version of The Gospel of John is not very inviting.  Instead, the Jesus in this film is a throwback to the 70s and 80s ‘zen’ portrayals of Christ.  Sometimes, he comes off as lofty and even a bit crazy at times.  Other characters come off as too dramatic, and some sequences are too sensational.  Like the other Visual Bible films, John has narration by design, which does not give us many good opportunities to get to know the characters very well.  However, there are a handful of positive elements here that keep this section from being zero, such as the opportunity to see some less-focused on portions of the gospel.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While other Visual Bible casts tried to include more culturally authentic cast members and less British ones, John does not always succeed on this front.  There are too many obviously non-authentic cast members, besides the fact that there are a lot of dramatic and theatrical performances.  In situations like this, where narration is built-in, acting is very important since there are limited opportunities for lines.  However, though there are some moments of overplaying, there are plenty of good sequences throughout this film that are enough to make this section average.

Conclusion

While The Visual Bible projects are commendable and ambitious, John does not seem like as helpful of a resource as the others, especially since it tends to take a turn for the dramatic and sensational.  Portrayals of Jesus are hard to pull off, but there’s no need to make them more difficult with ethereal loftiness.  Still, there are plenty of good parts to The Gospel of John, and many audiences will enjoy it.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Road to Emmaus [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After the death of Jesus, two men were on the road to Emmaus when they were suddenly met by a (perfect?) stranger Who appeared both know little about recent events and yet know so much about the Jewish Law and Prophets.  As the (perfect) stranger talked with them, they became hopeful over what He had to say, but they had no idea that their encounter (lol) with Him would change their lives forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Beginning with recycled footage from The Visual Bible: Matthew, Road to Emmaus is essentially an add-on to The Visual Bible saga.  As such, the production is relatively the same, except the constantly moving camera work that gets dizzying at times.  Otherwise, video quality, audio quality, and soundtrack are all fairly standard.  Sets, locations, and props demonstrate the usual attempts at authenticity.  There are some abrupt cuts that keep the editing from being all that it could be, but Road to Emmaus is generally another above-average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

While this is an interesting idea for a short film since this is a Biblical story that often receives little attention, it is still just a short film, unfortunately.  As such, it employs unnecessary narration that is not in the typical word-for-word model, as well as information-heavy dialogue that doesn’t help to build the characters and mostly tries to force the plot along.  The conversations therein are too obvious and push an obvious message rather than letting the characters try to naturally develop as real people.  It would have been more interesting, in my opinion, to frame the entire Gospel story into this one story through the use of flashbacks, but that would have required a feature length film.  For the most part, this rendition of Road to Emmaus is fine, even if it has a below average plot.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Like The Visual Bible: Matthew, Road to Emmaus has mostly fine acting, even though the cast is not completely culturally authentic.  However, emotions and line delivery are good, even though they tend to be slightly over-practiced at times.  There are some slightly theatrics, and Marchiano is not in his better role in this film, but costuming to good, and there are enough positive elements to make this section above average.

Conclusion

As previously mentioned, the story of the road to Emmaus could have been more effectively utilized as a present-day anchor for flashbacks to other aspects of the Gospel as Jesus explains the Law and the Prophets to the two travelers.  However, as this rendition is, it mainly just feels like a tack-on where it could have been the main thing.  Perhaps another film maker will remake it in the future.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Come Follow Me [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jesus called Peter to follow Him, Peter never thought he would experience what he experienced.  Jesus called Peter to follow Him no matter what, but Peter faltered at the darkest hour of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Peter could not understand why Jesus was allowing Himself to be overpowered by evil, so he took matters into his own hands and found himself fallen away was Jesus was taken captive.  However, Jesus gave Peter a second chance after His Resurrection and led Peter to change the world for the sake of Christ.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a short film with a loose association to The Visual Bible, Come Follow Me is almost an afterthought, even though the production is mostly good.  Video quality, camera work, and audio are all on par with what they should be, even if the soundtrack is a bit odd a times.  There are some random bouts of odd lighting, but the sets, locations, and props demonstrate a lot of attempts at authenticity.  There are also some intermittent sequences of slow motion, and the editing is somewhat choppy, but on the whole, this production is good enough to be above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Although Come Follow Me is not a word-for-word rendition of the story, there is still unnecessary narration presented.  However, not being tied to the word-for-word model helps to develop the characters better, even though they could still use some deepening through more substantial dialogue.  It is good to see a portrayal of different aspects of familiar stories, even if some parts are overly dramatic.  As previously mentioned, this short version of the story of Peter is a bit rushed as it comes off as choppy and even flat at times.  It tends to only hit the high points, even though this could have been a feature length film, as there is plenty of Peter content to work with in the historical accounts.  Thus, this section can’t warrant very many points.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Unlike his original performances in The Visual Bible, Bruce Marchiano shows his darkly dramatic side in Come Follow Me, which is off-putting.  Other cast members also tend to be too dramatic and theatrical in their performances.  On the bright side, costuming is fine, and there are some attempts at cultural authenticity, even though this is not consistent throughout.  In the end, however, this film comes off a mediocre and forgettable.

Conclusion

There was a lot of untapped potential left at the table when it came to this film.  There are plenty of Peter movies on the market, but we could use one that truly captures Peter as a real person who can be related to by many.  The Bible and other historical accounts have plenty of content on Peter to use, so it’s up to a responsible film maker to use them well.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Visual Bible: Matthew (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In the Gospel of Matthew, the story of Jesus Christ is told, from birth to earthly ministry to death to Resurrection.  Jesus was not only fully God, but he was the Messiah, the Savior of the Jews and of the whole world.  He was a historical figure Who not only impacted everyone He came into contact with but also completely altered human history with His coming.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The Visual Bible was an ambitious film project to create movies that contained entire books of the Bible within them.  Obviously, with this sort of undertaking, the films produced are going to be very long and are going to lack substantial editing.  Moreover, the Matthew installment has good production overall, including good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  There are a few oddly-lit scenes, but there was lots of effort put into the historical authenticity of this film, especially when it came to sets, locations, and props.  Though there are a lot of slow parts to this film, this is to be expected, and this production is overall above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Naturally, a movie based entirely on one whole book of the Bible, word-for-word, is going to have built-in narration.  Once again, this is a great take on the entire Gospel of Matthew from start to finish, but there are a handful of issues that come with this territory, such as a high number of scenes that lack dialogue and a hampering of character development due to limited dialogue options.  Nonetheless, this project is well-meaning and has its place as an informational resource rather than as a work of historical fiction.  It’s not possible to watch in one sitting, but it is definitely good and insightful to use in certain situations.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The Visual Bible: Matthew marked the beginning of Bruce Marchiano’s career, and after seeing this version of him, one can understand why he was cast so often as the Messiah.  He stood out in a world of drab, lofty, and ethereal ‘zen’ portrayals of Jesus from the 70s and 80s, thus making The Visual Bible an enjoyable experience with a positive, natural portrayal of Christ.  However, there are other inconsistencies with this cast, such as random cultural authenticity mixed with British and American cast members.  Moreover, most of the acting is fine, even if there are some slow moments, thus making for an overall positive film.

Conclusion

The Visual Bible project is a resource that can be used for various occasions and purposes, even if it is not truly a historical epic.  It played a key role in bringing Bible movies back to the correct basis of Biblical accuracy, which was a contrast from 70s and 80s attempts at using creative license with the Bible.  The Visual Bible is a good example to build off of regarding how to keep Biblical films rooted in historical fact.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Joshua [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a mysterious young man named Joshua suddenly appears in the small town of Auburn, the entire town is astir, especially when he begins rebuilding the Baptist church.  The local Catholic priests are disturbed at his coming, however, especially after he spends time with the ‘sinners’ and even performs a few miracles.  However, those who are impacted by the work of Joshua are changed forever, even those who least expected it.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Although this production looks slightly old at times, it is still a good production.  It checks all the right boxes, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The original soundtrack is fine.  Sets, locations, and props are all what they should be.  However, this production is held back from perfection by some avoidable continuity errors, as well as some cheesy transitions and awkward cuts.  However, on the whole, this is a fine production with no obvious errors.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Based on a novel, the plot of Joshua has some obvious issues that come with the territory of stories that attempt to transpose Biblical events on top of modern day settings.  Using these conventions is almost always mind-bending and problematic for a number of reasons.  In Joshua, it is impossible to know whether or not this is supposed to be a retelling of the original historical account of Jesus, or if this is supposed to be some kind of modern day reappearance before the Second Coming.  The story tries to convince you it’s the latter, but why include all of the repeat miracles in this case?  Even so, there is very little conflict in this tale as useless narration tries to spoon feed the plot to you.  There are also too many characters that are under-developed and one-dimensional due to the narration and the shallow dialogue.  The story jumps from one thing after the next with no real continuity.  Unfortunately, this section is a disappointment.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

However, the acting is the best part of this film, as there are only minor errors to contend with.  For the most part, this cast is professional and on-point in their line delivery and emotional delivery.  Costuming and makeup are also appropriate.  Overall, this section punctuates a mostly average film.

Conclusion

We definitely need more Christian novels made in movie form, as we have said before.  However, this really isn’t the sort of thing we’re looking for.  There’s nothing truly dynamic about this movie.  While it is fine and pedestrian with no obvious goofs, is it really going to make a difference?  Making more cute little Christian films isn’t good enough anymore.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Noah’s Ark [1999] (Series Review)

Plot Summary

If Hallmark is to be believed, Noah lived in Sodom with Lot and constantly tried to stop people around him from fighting wars.  Then a strange version of God decided to scare Noah into building an ark to save him and his white family.  Once on the ark, the storm comes, and Noah and her family are all stuck there.  Thus, they begin acting crazy and absurd until it’s finally all over with.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Who knew Hallmark dabbled into Bible series in the 1990s?  For the most part, the production of Noah’s Ark is fine, especially when it comes to video quality and camera work.  However, there are some random lapses of audio quality throughout, along with a loud soundtrack.  Sets and locations are also somewhat limited considering the intended scope of this film, but props are fine.  There are also some very cheap special effects and obviously fake backgrounds, but the editing is surprisingly fine, and other elements show some improvement throughout.  In the end, this is just an average production, but there are a lot of other issues to point out in this series.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1.5 points)

When a Bible movie or series begins with a disclaimer telling you that they took creative license with a historical account, they are basically telling you to get ready for a whole lot of crazy.  What is the actual point of altering historical accounts for fun?  What if somebody altered more recent historical accounts for personal enjoyment?  Trying to squeeze Lot, Sodom, and Gomorrah into the story of Noah is just all wrong and cripples this series before it even begins.  Besides these obvious problems, the portrayal of God in this series is downright strange and bizarre, but this is only a part of this series’ overall weirdness.  There are other bizarre characters and insinuations, fueled by strange dialogue and useless asides that waste time.  Along with this comes several off-the-wall attempts at comedy and some totally head-scratching drug-trip moments that come close to making this debacle a parody.  In short, there really isn’t much good to say about this section.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like many attempts at bringing Bible stories to life, Noah’s Ark gives no care to cultural authenticity in casting, mixing American and BRITISH cast members of recognizable names to sell this show.  Besides this, the cast is overall too dramatic, even though they do have plenty of good moments.  The costuming is also fine, but it’s not enough to make this section any more than average.

Continuity Quality (1.5 points)

Though this ‘series’ only has two episodes, the continuity is mostly fine.  There are some interesting character arcs and story arcs, but the many blatant content errors are complete inexcusable.  Thus, this mishandling of historical fact brings this whole series down in flames.

Conclusion

Too often, Bible movies and series become about Hollywood trying to make some quick bucks on a Christian audience.  But don’t get too high and mighty, Christian film makers—you do it too.  Even Christians sometimes take great ‘creative’ license with historical accounts (see The Book of Esther).  The bottom line is that there are so few good Bible movies and series on the market, and this is an absolute travesty.  Biblical films and series should be the best of the best, not a laughingstock.  We’re still waiting for this day to come.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 14 points

 

Stephen’s Test of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Stephen doesn’t like to be picked on by bullies at school because of his Christian faith.  When he complains about it to his father, his dad decides to tell him three stories of Christian martyrs in history, including the stoning of Stephen from the book of Acts.  Thus, when Stephen falls asleep that night, he has three dreams about the three stories, in which he is also a character.  Will his visions teach him how to not be afraid of the atheist bullies at his school???

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though Voice of the Martrys has crafted quality productions in the past, Stephen’s Test of Faith is not one of these.  This film contains somewhat cheap and limited sets, props, and locations, which doesn’t bode well for the historical parts.  There is also some poor lighting throughout.  Further, this production has some odd camera angles and slightly shaky camera work, although the video quality is fine.  Audio quality is also fine, even though the editing is somewhat poor.  Overall, the low quality of this production, combined with the shortness of its duration, makes its creation slightly unjustified.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This is combined with the fact that its premise is very unusual and almost insulting.  Equating real martyrdom and persecution with getting made fun of by immature kids at school is very odd and off-putting.  Did Voice of the Martyrs mean to tell kids they don’t have it as bad as people who are killed for their faith?  That’s almost worse.  Either way, it’s a mishandling of first-world problems.  Besides this, the story of this film has a disorienting progression and sequencing, which is helped by its short time frame.  Even so, the plot jumps from one thing to the next as it tries to cover far too much content in a small amount of time.  It seems like it is unable to focus on any one thing, and this makes the characters too one-dimensional and swept along by the plot’s circumstances.  Unfortunately, though Voice of the Martyrs might have meant well with this film, it’s a swing and a miss.

Acting Quality (1 point)

For the most part, this cast tends to be dominated by child actors that have an annoying delivery style.  Other cast members tend to be too forceful and dramatic, while others are unsure of themselves.  However, not all is bad in this cast as there are some good moments, yet this is not enough to save this film from itself.

Conclusion

With films like Bamboo in Winter, Behind the Sun, The Eastern Bride, and Closure, Voice of the Martyrs is usually able to capture the real struggles of persecuted Christians around the world, but trying to transpose these struggles onto the first world problems in modern America is just wrong.  This may have not been intentional, but it came off that way in Stephen’s Test of Faith.  We have to be careful not to demean the actual persecution Christians experience outside of the Western world by trying to make our minor issues into persecution.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Joseph and Mary (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Joseph was tasked with being the earthly father of Jesus, the Messiah, while Mary was chosen to be the biological mother of the Savior.  However, they were just ordinary people who wanted to follow what the Lord wanted for them.  They watched as Jesus grew up before their eyes, and they were also apparently preoccupied with the life of a random rabbi who was their friend.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a new Bible production, Joseph and Mary is mostly respectable.  It’s clear that care was given to the authenticity of the production, even though the sets are somewhat limited and reused a lot.  Nevertheless, props are appropriate, and the outdoor locations are great.  This film checks all the typical boxes of good video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is adequate.  The only other problem to raise is the choppy editing that poorly handles the large amount of content in this movie.  But in the end, John Patus and the others at Leif Films are definitely improving over the years.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

So you want to make a movie about Joseph and Mary, yet you decide to use at least half of the runtime depicting an otherwise interesting story about a fictional rabbi who shadowed Jesus in the Lord’s early years.  This is a fine idea, but why not make the movie primarily about the rabbi?  Joseph and Mary are almost supporting characters in this story.  There is also unnecessary narration that hurts character development.  The healthy construction of the characters is also hindered by the rapid passage of time that follows the same characters as they keep meeting in the same places over several time periods.  There is also a tendency to hit the high points of the story rather than to settle down and let us get to know them as people.  The stoic and overly formal dialogue certainly does not help.  However, this film is an interesting perspective on the early years of Jesus through the eyes of a flawed and accessible character that is not Joseph or Mary.  Yet this good idea is somewhat soured by the strange ending sequence that leaves the audience wandering what this movie is supposed to teach us.  In the end, the Leif Films team is usually closed to good things, as evidenced in The Apostle Peter: Redemption, but they can’t seem to get there.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, there is not much good to say about the acting of this film.  For one thing, it is very poorly cast and lacks authentic cultural cast members.  Kevin Sorbo, a generic white guy, really has no business playing Joseph, besides the fact that he is awkward in this film.  Rather than being too BRITISH, this cast is too American.  The costuming is also somewhat cheesy, yet there are a handful of good moments that keep this section from being nothing.

Conclusion

Bible films are almost always problematic.  If the production isn’t a problem, it’s the casting.  If not that, then the plot suffers.  There are so many variables that have to be aligned in a Biblical film; after all, they are historical accounts.  Thus, they needed to be treated with more care.  We can’t have any more of these Bible plays coming out because even Christian audiences are getting tired of that.  We need dynamic authenticity, but perhaps the Leif Films team will keep trying and find the mark one day.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Judas: Close to Jesus (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Judas Iscariot did not always intend to betray Jesus Christ, but he was always hungry for Jesus to begin a revolution to overthrow the Roman Empire.  Inspired by radicals and shunned by his well-to-do Jewish family, Judas felt he had no other options except for Jesus to fulfill his biggest dreams.  Yet when this does not happen, Judas allowed Satan to take control of his life and thus became the betrayer of the Savior of the world.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Lux Vide and the Trinity Broadcasting Network have always been committed to good production quality, especially when it comes to historical authenticity.  Video quality and camera work are good, and audio quality is also fine except for a sometimes loud soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are as usual the strongest point as they reflect at least some degree of historical authenticity.  There are really no glaring errors here except for the usual editing concerns, but other than that, this is a respectable production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Lux Vide and the Trinity Broadcasting Network did push new frontiers with their Bible movie ambitions, but Judas commits the same errors others did in the past, such as Jeremiah, Esther, Paul the Apostle and The Apocalypse.  While this installment is an interesting and unique look at a different Bible character than usual, for the most part, the characters are still too lofty and inaccessible.  This is especially true of the Jesus character.  It’s like they took cues from the 1970s Bible movies again.  There is also a cheesy romantic subplot to boot.  However, not all is bad here as there is an interesting Judas character arc and there are some realistic happenings in this story that keep it alive.  Yet this overall too-dramatic presentation keeps this story from being all that it could be.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Like the other Bible films from these creative teams, the cast is also too dramatic and theatrical.  Line delivery is sometimes too breathy and even archaic.  The cultural authenticity of the cast is random and inconsistent, even including some BRITISH people.  Yet at least not all is bad here, even though this film overall does not live up to its full potential.

Conclusion

It was certainly good of TBN and Lux Vide to try to bring different Biblical accounts to the big screen, but audiences want and need Biblical characters that can be related to, not more lofty play actors.  It’s unfortunate that a lot of these otherwise well-funded efforts went to waste, because there was so much that could have been done with these films.  But perhaps someone can use these as a blueprint of what to do and what not to do in the future.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Come Unto Me [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Samuel and Mary make their living stealing from others because as young orphans, they have no one to turn to.  However, while on the run from the Romans one day, they are sheltered by a woman they have never seen before.  After talking with her and her carpenter son, Samuel and Mary are intrigued by them and want to know more about them.  Yet little do they know that the woman’s son, Jesus, is about to embark on the ministry work of His Father in order to change the world.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Come Unto Me is the best production yet in this short film series, including high video quality and audio quality, along with great camera work and soundtrack work.  There is still a concerted commitment in this series to use realistic and high quality outdoor locations and props, which is a huge plus.  This is mainly what sets these films apart from your average Bible play movie.  There are really no concerns to point out here except for some small editing concerns pertaining to scenes that overstay their welcome.  Yet on the whole, this is another great production effort that continually shows needed improvement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the plot takes a small step back in this film as the cumbersome dialogue returns and Jesus is still portrayed as a lofty and inaccessible individual.  There is also too much talk about off-screen events without showing them.  Indeed, a majority of this film is sitting around talking without developing the characters well enough.  Nevertheless, despite the someone boring progression of the film, there are a lot of interesting ideas here that need further development.  It’s possible that this could only be done in a series format, because the short film series has likely run its course at this point.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The acting remains relatively stable in this third installment as the same positives and negatives as before are present.  Costuming is good, and the cast members are still not completely culturally authentic.  Though there are still some moments of unnecessary drama, this cast is less theatrical than the others, which shows coaching improvements.  Thus, in the end, Come Unto Me rounds out another average film.

Conclusion

The good thing about John Lyde and his team is that they are focused on quality Bible films rather than churning out a bunch of cheap Bible plays.  Thus, they are definitely on the right track here.  Yet it still seems like No Ordinary Shepherd, He Knows My Name, and Come Unto Me are already set up to be a miniseries.  There are already three episodes made—now others just need to be filled in to create continuity.  Series’ and miniseries’ are likely the future of Christian entertainment, so we’re still waiting for someone to step up and show what they can do.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

He Knows My Name (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ever since Rebekah’s father died tragically, Rebekah’s mother has not let her do much of anything.  Rebekah wants to go with her neighbor Isaac to see the miracle-working man named Jesus, but Rebekah’s mother doesn’t trust anyone.  Rebekah is only left to listen to her blind grandfather’s stories about being an innkeeper with no room for a young pregnant couple from Bethlehem.  One day, Rebekah finally gets her chance to meet Jesus and her life is changed forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

He Knows My Name demonstrates production improvement over No Ordinary Shepherd.  There is still some odd lighting in some scenes, the sets, locations, and props are all very high quality, especially the realistic locations.  Likewise, video quality and camera work also demonstrate high quality, along with the audio quality and soundtrack.  There are really only some minor production errors to address here which typically pertain to some editing concerns.  The presence of one too many lagging scenes raises some small issues, but it’s not enough to derail this production.  Improvement is what we look for across time, and this film shows it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Again, we wonder if the plots of No Ordinary Shepherd and He Knows My Name could have been combined somehow, yet this film clearly has a good message and effort behind it.  This second installment is more well-thought-out than the first as the characters are slightly more accessible and less lofty than before.  However, the portrayal of Jesus has still not improved as he seems like a character on another plain of thought from the others.  The dialogue, especially Jesus’, still tends to be a bit archaic and isolating, but there are better attempts here.  Overall, this seems like a more true-to-life story than the first, and it shows a continued effort to improve, which is all we can ask for.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The acting also shows improvement, even though the cast members are still completely culturally authentic.  Yet the realistic costuming is still present and the cast members appear to be more well-coached than before.  There are some small trip ups pertaining to theatrics, but on the whole, this upward trend is encouraging to see.

Conclusion

In many ways, this unofficial short film series plays out more like a miniseries should.  This why I have to wonder if it would do better in a miniseries format rather than a short film format.  Miniseries’ certainly receive more attention than short films.  Besides, we really don’t have a notable Bible miniseries on the market.  With the advent of more streaming service options, there is really no reason why we don’t have more series’ like this.  Perhaps one day we will.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

No Ordinary Shepherd (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Saul is a crippled shepherd boy who longs to meet the mysterious, miracle-working man all of Judea talks about.  Saul remembers the stories his father told him about being a shepherd and witnessing the heavenly host of angels tell him and his friends about the coming of the Messiah.  Saul’s father saw the baby Who was called the Messiah, and wondering if he could be the same miracle-working man everyone talks about.  Little does Saul know that he will be given an opportunity to see Him face to face.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though a lot of good effort was put into this short film, most notably the historically realistic props and locations, there are still some issues that keep it from being all that it could be.  There is too much soft light throughout, as well as one too many dark scenes.  The sets are also somewhat limited.  However, video and audio quality are fine, as well as the camera work and the soundtrack.  Also, the editing is surprisingly good, even though this is almost too short of a film.  In the end, this production shows good effort and is at least average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Sometimes it is better to just make one short idea to get started with film making.  An extended and protracted film can waste a lot of time and resources.  However, since this is such a focused movie with limited time, the characters need to be given a lot more intense attention.  They need to be more accessible rather than a collection of lofty Bible figures that use too much archaic dialogue.  Also, the use of narration should never be used as a crutch in a short film.  In the end, it is clear that this film means well and carries a good message, so the effort is definitely applaudable.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast starts out tending to be too theatrical in their delivery and not natural enough in their emotions.  However, there is some improvement throughout, even though the case members are not culturally authentic.  But perhaps this was all they had to work with.  The good thing is that the costuming is realistic and avoids looking like a Bible play.  Thus, this rounds out another average section that demonstrates good effort.

Conclusion

With three installments in this short film series, it seems like they could have been synthesized into one film.  Yet one can understand why a responsible film maker would begin their work with a short film—indeed, there are many films that should also be in the short film category.  Therefore, in the end, this is a commendable film that shows great potential for the future.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Jeremiah [1998] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeremiah grew up in the reign of Josiah, the last golden era for Judah as a nation.  As a young boy, God called him to be a prophet; however, he did not always accept this call.  As he grew, he knew he was destined to be a Levitical priest, but God gave him a message to tell the people that no one wanted to hear.  Jeremiah was persecuted for what he had to share and suffered terribly as Jerusalem’s days were numbered by the Babylonian siege.  Yet through it all, God was with him as he carried out the Word of the Lord.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a late 1990s production, Jeremiah has plenty of good elements.  Affirm Films’ older Bible movies were certainly not perfect, but they definitely showed good effort.  The biggest plus to this production pertains to the excellent sets, locations, and props, which all demonstrate historical authenticity and great attention to detail.  Video quality and audio quality are also what they should be, including an effective soundtrack.  However, there are some drawbacks to point out, such as weird lighting in some scenes for dramatic effect, quick and rapid time jumps, fast cuts and transitions.  Thus, this production is overall average, but this is very good considering the time period.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Like too many other Bible movies like it, such as Affirm’s rendition of Esther, Jeremiah tends to portray Biblical characters in a too lofty fashion through the use of odd and cumbersome dialogue styles.  It would be nice if Biblical characters were not so inaccessible and theater-like.  But nevertheless, this is an interesting and noteworthy portrayal of a different Biblical account that often goes unnoticed.  It’s refreshing to see a different story, but at the same time, it is frustrating to watch because it had such potential that was wasted.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Much like the cumbersome dialogue, too often in this film, the cast members use weird, archaic annunciation, like this is a 1970s or older Bible film.  In a similar vein, a lot of the acting is too dramatic and theatrical at times, and too much of the line delivery is breathy.  While some cast members are culturally authentic, others are not, including several British people.  Yet there are plenty of good moments here and some cast members tend to improve throughout.  In the end, this rounds out a nearly average film.

Conclusion

It would be great to see this idea remade because it is a very interesting story that deserves to be portrayed.  Yet this movie can also serve as an example of how not to portray Biblical characters.  Audiences want to see people they can relate to, not lofty characters in a play.  The Bible needs to be brought to life in authentic and even gritty ways because it’s real life and deserves to be portrayed that way.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 pointsj

 

Saint John: The Apocalypse [2000] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a Roman soldier is exiled to the island of Patmos for insurrection, he does not expect to meet the infamous and fabled Theophilus, who happens to be the aging Apostle John.  A group of Christians whom the Roman solider knows also comes to the island in search of the mysterious Theophilus, all the while John is experiencing the visions from God that later became the Book of Revelation.  All of their lives intersect in a way they could not have previously believed.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

There is a lot going on this early 2000s production from Trinity Broadcasting Network and others.  Though there are plenty of attempts to create historically and culturally authentic sets, locations, and props, there are some other issues here that hamper the production.  These include some randomly poor lighting and wild zooms for dramatic effect, as well as some unnecessarily overdubbed audio.  The voice of God that echoes throughout the film is also a bit annoying.  A lot of the special effects used are very obvious and poorly done—if you are making a production about the Book of Revelation, you’d better have some well-funded special effects.  Yet on top of this, there are plenty of realistic gritty elements throughout, as well as good video quality and average editing.  Essentially, this is a very unique production and is a mixed bag at that, thus warranting the average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the plot writers decided to consult The Robe and the old Ben-Hur for how to make a first century Roman\Jewish story and cast of characters most like a soap opera.  This includes a cheesy romantic subplot and a lot of overly dramatic dialogue.  All of the characters are impossible to access due to their lofty and inhuman demeanors.  However, there is a very realistic historical context portrayed here, as well as a lot of good plot ideas that are basically wasted.  Yet these elements save the plot from being a total loss.  There is a lot of content here, and in the right hands it could have made a great two-part movie or miniseries.  They needed a better writer to be able to handle the complex content from the Book of Revelation properly.  But unfortunately, anything that involves TBN is guaranteed to be overly dramatic.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The same can be said for the casting and acting, as nearly every cast member uses a breathy line delivery reminiscent of Nicholas Cage and the actresses from the old Ben-Hur and The Robe.  Thus, line deliver is too measured and drawn out, like a Bible soap opera.  However, though the cast is not entirely culturally authentic, the costuming is at least historically accurate.  There are also some good acting moments that save this section from being a total loss.

Conclusion

One thing can be said for this film: it’s not your run-of-the-mill cute\boring Christian film.  It’s ambitious, but perhaps too ambitious for the resources the creators had at their disposal.  It’s very difficult to depict the visions of Revelation properly—this requires state-of-the-art special effects, which usually do not exist in Christian films, unfortunately.  Yet there is no excuse for having acting this bad, even though it’s not BRITISH.  This plot needed a total rewrite, but the idea definitely needs to be retained for future reworking and improvement.  Maybe one day it will be remade.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Paul the Emissary: A Biblical Epic (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Paul was called out by God to become a world-shaking Apostle for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  God took him from being Saul the persecutor of Christians to becoming Paul the Emissary.  He took the Gospel to the furthest reaches of the Roman world and literally turned the world upside down.  His work for God still has a lasting impact on Christianity today.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a 1997 production, Paul the Emissary is fairly good, but it still comes out at average.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine, as they should be.  The soundtrack is also okay, but it is somewhat generic.  Sets, locations, and props are surprisingly well-constructed and realistic, but most of the good elements in this production are marred by the most ridiculous special effects you can imagine.  If you don’t have the funding for professional special effects, just don’t do them at all.  Furthermore, the editing of this film is horrific, as tons of content was shoved into a short runtime, as will be discussed next.  Basically, this is another run-of-the-mill Bible production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s simply not possible to condense the entire life of Paul in fifty minutes.  Paul the Apostle couldn’t even do it properly with nearly two hours under their belt.  There is little to no point in trying to accomplish this impossible task.  Why not focus on one element of Paul’s life, like in Saul: The Journey to DamascusPaul the Emissary is way too condensed, which causes the story to jump from one high point to the next with no continuity or flow.  It’s basically a collection of random scenes about characters that are lofty and inaccessible.  There’s no way to get to know them as the dialogue is too theatrical.  Essentially, there’s no way you can call this movie an epic when it’s less than an hour.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this isn’t an overly BRITISH cast, most of the cast members sport weird fake accents that off-putting.  Besides this, most line delivery and emotional delivery are overly dramatic and theatrical.  However, the performances are not all bad and there is some authentic costuming to save this section from the abyss.

Conclusion

If you only have fifty minutes to make a film, do not try to make an entire life epic about a Biblical character with a lot of known content.  Either focus on one aspect of their life, or choose a different character.  Also, don’t use any special effects if you can’t use them properly.  In the end, while there were some good elements in this film, it simply wasn’t enough.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Resurrection [1999] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When the mysteriously provocative carpenter named Jesus of Nazareth was executed by crucifixion, it was no skin of Claudius’ nose.  That is, until he was forced to be a part of a political conspiracy with the goal of covering up claims of the same carpenter’s alleged rise from the dead.  But as he is drawn deeper into the conspiracy, Claudius finds himself interested in Jesus and His followers and wonders what they have that he does not.  What will he end up believing in the end?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though this was a 1999 production, the creators were definitely trying in this film.  Video quality is fine, as is the camera work, although there is some randomly poor lighting in the indoor sets.  Most of the sets and props are somewhat cheaply constructed, though the outdoor locations are fine.  Audio quality is what it should be, but the soundtrack is extremely generic.  Further, though this film is less than sixty minutes long, the editing is not exactly great as it is slightly choppy.  In the end, this production comes out as average and demonstrates good enough effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this Roman-soldier-becomes-involved-in-the-Resurrection-cover-up is nothing new, Resurrection and the Max Lucado book it is based on actually predates the other attempts at this, such as The Final Inquiry and Risen.  Nonetheless, it is still an interesting idea.  However, this rendition does not contain very much content as a majority of the fifty-minute runtime is bland characters standing around and talking about offscreen content.  Even then, the dialogue that is used is uninspiring, which in turn creates the bland characters.  At times, it is difficult to follow the train of thought this plot is trying to make, and some of the characters are easily confused with each other due to their lack of originality.  In the end, this is really just an extremely pedestrian Christian film that could have been way better, which is the story for a lot of Christian films.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Although this cast is not entirely culturally authentic, at least it’s not full of obviously BRITISH white guys.  These cast members mostly post good performances, including good line delivery.  Their emotions are a bit too theatrical at times, but this is a passable effort overall.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, Resurrection was stuck in an era when Christian movies were so self-segregating and only tried to appeal to very small audiences.  Were this made today, one would think that it would have wider appeal, but nothing is guaranteed.  At the very least, perhaps this film can be a blueprint to build off of to know how to improve a bland film.  In the future, hopefully we will see more engaging Biblical movies come out.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

The Sword [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Marcus Fidelius is converted to Christianity one night in a Roman jail due to an earthquake and the testimony of Paul and Silas, he and his entire family are transformed forever.  He passes down his newfound faith to his children and grandchild, and with it, an ancient sword that becomes a family heirloom.  As each generation faces their own challenges, the sword reminds them of the faith they have been given that will protect them in times of trouble.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

With a very low budget, The Sword has an understandably cheap-looking production.  In some ways, this is justified.  Lighting is quite poor at first, yet it does improve later.  Indoor sets are fairly limited, yet props and outside locations are pretty good.  Video quality is unfortunately blurry throughout, yet different parts of the film seem to have better quality than others, as if funding was better spent later in the production process.  Camera work and audio quality are okay throughout, although there are some odd camera angles at first.  Overall, this is a very good effort based on what was available to them and is very reminiscent of Pendragon.  It would be interesting to see what this group could do with better funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This plot is based on a very interesting Biblical-historical idea that needs more development.  The writers clearly mean well as they try to present realistic characters and interesting dialogue, although these things need more development as well.  This fairly complex plot is ambitious and shows a lot of initiative, but the expositional dialogue needs to be kept to a minimum.  The story tends to skip through time too rapidly, thus leaving a lot of loose ends.  However, this writing shows a lot of potential for the future and should be built upon for a future project.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast is made of amateurs and likely volunteers, so grace is extended here.  They mean well, but they tend to be robotic and overly practiced.  They should some good potential.  Though some of the makeup is odd, the costuming is fairly good considering the funding.  Overall, The Sword is a great effort that needs to be followed up.

Conclusion

It’s good to go ahead and try to make a movie to show off your skills, but sometimes waiting for more funding is prudent.  Nonetheless, The Sword demonstrates what this creative team can do and how much more they could do with better funding.  They likely did the best they could do with what they had.  We greatly encourage this collective to try their hand at another film that is better funded, if at all possible, because they definitely have something to offer.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Chasing the Star (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Prompted by the celestial sign of the star, three Magi set out from their homeland to the land of Israel to discover the promised Messiah.  Each of them had their own backstory and struggles and they faced many trials and roadblocks along the way, mostly the attempted sabotage of the evil King Herod.  They also experienced spiritual warfare and spiritual awakening as a result of their journey across the desert, and they were never the same again.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though there are a lot of attempts in Chasing the Star to be a professional production, there are also some issues that hold it back from being all that it could be.  Video quality and outdoor lighting are great, but there is some random shaky cam for dramatic effect that puts a damper on things.  However, audio quality is fine and the soundtrack is intriguing.  Outdoor locations are very well constructed and utilized, yet indoor sets and props are cheap-looking and limited.  Finally, the editing makes the film very disorienting and confusing as the plot jumps all around.  In the end, this is a good effort, but it seems like more could have been done.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously mentioned, this story tends to jump all over the place in a very confusing fashion that leaves the audiences isolated.  There is also a lot of cryptic, archaic, and even cumbersome dialogue that causes the characters to come off as stuffy and Shakespearean.  A lot of content is also very vague and hard to understand, although there are some interesting psychological elements.  This story tends to be overly artistic, but the use of spiritual elements is better than that of Forty Nights, even if they are still portrayed as too dramatic and sensational.  It’s great to explore spiritual warfare, but not enough time is spent on real and meaningful content, although there are some good attempts to develop the Magi through flashbacks.  Yet it’s still hard to access them as people due to their dialogue.  However, the last ten minutes of this film improve a lot and almost make the experience worthwhile.  Nonetheless, there are still a lot of improvements to be made here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Similar to Forty Nights, some of these cast members act downright creepy, while others are simply too dramatic or too stuffy in their delivery.  There are too many reminders of a Bible play in this film, yet there is sometimes okay acting, especially from Garry Nation.  The costuming is a bit unusual at times, but it tends to work.  Overall, much of this movie is a mixed bag.

Conclusion

Chasing the Star is another unfortunate waste of an interesting idea.  We desperately need creative Bible stories that are focused on spiritual and psychological elements, but not like this.  They need to have slightly improved production and deeper character development in order to be worthwhile.  Yet DJ Perry and his team appear to be improving with each film they make, so it’s possible that they are on the verge of something great.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Samson [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Samson was a troubled man who God used to punish the Philistines.  Samson was supposed to be set apart from his people, but he did not always obey the guidelines God laid out for him.  He became involved with women who dragged him down and eventually met his destruction at the hands of his enemies, but not before God gave him one last chance to deal a blow to the evil Philistine people.

 

Production Quality (-3 points)

This rendition of Samson is among the worst productions we have ever witnessed, rivaled only by Final: The Rapture, David and Goliath, and My Refuge.  It utilizes the worst possible sets, locations, and props that look like they are in somebody’s backyard using everyday items from Walmart.  The scenes are full of shadows and the worst lighting imaginable, a rare production fail we have only witnessed in this film.  The filters are randomly black and white, but then again, it could just be the medieval lighting.  Besides these blatantly obvious missteps, there are a myriad of other issues that time does not permit full discussion on, such as the blurry video quality and the extremely overdriven audio quality, which includes stupid sound effects.  It goes without saying that the editing is notorious as well.  In short, it’s unbelievable that this movie even exists in this form.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Since this ‘plot’ is framed as a children’s bedtime story, it’s very unusual to choose the story of Samson for this venue.  Parts of it obviously have to be whitewashed, but this story sometimes doesn’t care that it’s twisting or adding things to the historical account, while other times it makes a big deal about not doing this.  Regardless, the portrayal of Samson is bizarre, even though he was likely an eccentric person.  Yet nothing makes any sense in this film, and there are no attempts to make the characters seem even the least bit realistic.  The story jumps all over the place and pauses for important interludes such as power outages in the present-day storyline.  But in the end, this plot really has nothing to offer.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

As if the rest of this movie wasn’t bad enough, this is one of the worst casts we have ever witnessed, and is right on the level of Fathers, if not worse.  These cast members don’t appear to have any idea what they are doing and some of them seem like they are being taken advantage of.  There is nothing whatsoever positive to even mention about this entire film.

Conclusion

This film is so bad that even the reviewers at Christian Film Database, who rarely criticize anything, frown upon this version of the story of Samson.  It’s presented in the worst possible packaging you can ever imagine; you seriously have to try hard to make a production this bad.  Thus, this entire experience is either a total joke or an example of sheer incompetence.  There’s really nothing else to say.

 

Final Rating: -4 out of 10 points

 

An Encounter With the Messiah (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

What if Jesus came in the modern day and ministered to everyday people and the circumstances they dealt with?  This is a different take on the story of Jesus that follows the lives of recast Biblical characters in a modern setting to show that Jesus can touch anyone and reach anyone, regardless of background or era.  He is still affecting people’s lives today.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

It’s really hard to understand how and why these sorts of productions are made.  When the budget is low, is it worth making a feature length film?  While video quality is mostly fine and the soundtrack is creative in this film, there are plenty of errors here.  Lighting and camera work are inconsistent and cheap, and the audio is sometimes too loud and disproportionate.  Flashbacks are black and white for no reason and sets, locations, and props are relatively cheap.  Finally, as usual, the editing is poor and allows the storyline to jump all over the place with no real continuity.  In the end, first-time productions are somewhat forgivable, but they’re still frustrating to watch.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Creating modern takes on Bible stories is always a problematic idea because parallels and paraphrases are usually forced to fit and cause awkwardness, which is also the case in An Encounter with the Messiah.  It’s a commendable and understandable idea that has a lot of potential, but it’s not executed correctly and is too hard to follow.  There are too many confusing transitions and disconnected subplots as the story speeds along to hit the high points.  There are also too many characters and tons of wasted time; thus, it’s difficult for the story to hold the attention as it is very flat and isolating.  The one redeeming quality is the interesting ending but it’s hard to get to and doesn’t do enough to redeem the other issues.  In the end, this is a nice idea, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this cast sometimes puts in effort, they are often half-hearted or overly dramatic.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are all over the place.  There is some good here, but not enough to make a difference in this film.

Conclusion

Films like An Encounter with the Messiah so easily slip through the cracks of Christian film, and it’s a shame when the creators seem to mean well.  But when potentially interesting ideas are not packaged properly, it sends the film down a completely different trajectory.  It’s hard to make your film stand apart when so many typical issues plague it.  But perhaps there will be second chances for film makers that have trouble getting started.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

My Son, My Savior (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah, who would save Israel and the world from their sins.  Though Jesus was Mary’s son, He also came to be her Savior, and she believed in Him and what He had been sent to earth to do.  Though it was not easy at times for her to watch her Son work and suffer, she knew it was all part of God’s greater plan for humanity.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though attempts are made in this film to be realistic, they are clearly limited by a low budget.  Video quality is fine, yet there is weird soft lighting throughout that casts an odd effect on everything.  This is mostly in the indoor sets, which have a cheap feel to them, as do the props inside of them.  However, the outdoor scenes are much more professionally constructed and executed.  Camera work is relatively stable throughout and audio quality is acceptable.  There is an attempt to make the soundtrack culturally authentic, even if it is a little loud at times.  Finally, the editing is sometimes good and other times not, especially since there is a lot of content shoved into this movie.  In the end, this is an average production that needed some more funding in order to be adequate.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously mentioned, this film makes a lot of honest attempts to be realistic and authentic, especially when it comes to staying true to the original historical account.  However, this adherence also comes off as very strict and stiff, which paints the characters as inaccessible and somewhat lofty ‘Bible heroes’ that we can’t relate to today.  While the creators of this film probably mean well, it’s too reminiscent of a Bible play as the story speeds through the Gospel accounts very rapidly in less than sixty minutes.  In the end, while the writers can be applauded for an authentic effort, there is simply too much content crammed into fifty minutes and not enough care given to character development.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The costuming work done here is okay, but it borderlines on Bible play status.  The casting is not culturally authentic, likely due to budget constraints.  This film was made back when Bruce Marchiano posted good performances as Jesus, and he is the standout cast member in this movie.  Other cast members are too dramatic and pronounced in their line delivery.  Though there are some good moments, emotions are not very believable.  In the end, this is an average performance.

Conclusion

Biblical films are difficult feats to accomplish.  The limited budgets of independent films make this even hard to do.  Film makers need to consider whether or not they really need to make another cheap Bible film if they don’t have the resources to make it well.  Though this film is intended to be an evangelistic tool, it’s unclear whether or not this would be that effective due to the low budget.  Perhaps this money should have been saved for a more worthwhile film, or at least saved until enough was available to make this a professional production.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

My Name is Paul [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

What if the story of the Apostle Paul took place in the near future, when the government cracks down on religious freedom and forces the true Christians underground?  Paul seeks out Christians to bring into custody to further his status among the government, but a profound experience causes him to turn around and change his ways by joined the very people he once tried to stamp out.  Now he is on the run from his former employers and the Christians are wary about trusting him.  Will the Way be able to prevail in the face of grave opposition?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It is clear that many attempts were made in this film to craft a very professional action-based production, which is something we rarely see in Christian film these days.  Video quality is what it should be and camera work is great, especially in the action scenes.  Audio quality is mostly good and the soundtrack is intriguing.  However, sometimes there are some oddly lit scenes, as if the producers are trying to be too artistic, and the indoor sets sometimes suffer from lack of creativity.  Yet the outdoor locations are very well-constructed.  The editing sometimes leaves something to be desired, as some scenes lag too long while others are cut short.  But in the end, this is a commendable effort and one that will hopefully yield even better fruit in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

It’s definitely not easy to take on such a large Bible-story-set-in-the-future concept, especially with all of the characters that are involved.  Sometimes it’s too awkward for the writers to try to force parallels; it might have been better to keep the associations looser.  However, there is still lots of good plot content—perhaps too much content for a film less than two hours long.  This is a highly complex story that sometimes gets lost in itself and may have been better suited for a miniseries, since there are a lot of ideas crammed into such a short time frame.  This is a good problem to have, yet it leaves too many disjointed subplots in its wake.  The characters are pretty good, even if they are limited in scope.  The biggest red flag to raise here is the very confusing and isolating ending that is hard to explain or understand.  In the end, this story desperately needed to be a series in order to be truly effective.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The casting and acting is clearly the strongest point of this film, as there are no errors to speak of.  This is a very large cast, yet they are all very talented and cast very appropriately.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is on target.  The cast members make this film as good as it is.

Conclusion

We realize it’s hard to make an independent series or miniseries, but with the PureFlix on Demand platform, things have been made easier.  More budding film makers need to take advantage of this resource to boost their brand so that we can see some actually worthwhile Christian series come to light.  Regardless, with some production tweaks, more funding, and continued casting success, this creative team is going to go big places.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

The Ten Commandments [2006] (Series Review)

Another crazy young, white, British Moses

Plot Summary

Moses, a Hebrew, grew up in Egypt, raised by the royal family, but after being driven from the land for committing a crime, he was forced to live in the desert among the Midianites.  He though his lot in life was to live among the Midianites forever, but God had other plans as He called Moses to go back to Egypt to free His chosen people, the Hebrews, from slavery.  Reluctantly, Moses went back to be the deliverer of his people and to witness God’s wonders.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It’s clear that a lot of time and money was put into this made-for-television miniseries.  Video quality and camera work are professional, as are audio quality and soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and historically authentic.  However, there are some cheap special effects throughout that put a damper on things.  Also, although this miniseries is nearly three hours long, the editing is still poor as some content is cut off while other content is given too much time.  However, overall, this is a respectable and well-funded effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, that’s where the complements end.  It seems like anytime a mainstream company, even when they are joined by a Christian company, tries to make a Bible production, it fails miserable.  There are obviously exceptions to this (The Passion of the Christ and Nativity Story), it happens a lot.  This rendition of The Ten Commandments is filled with incessant heavy-handed narration that tries to force the audience to get to know the characters too quickly.  Narration also serves as a bridge for the plot, which speeds by at breakneck pace, while at the same time committing unnecessary historical and Biblical inaccuracies.  Though it’s ambitious to take on so much content in a miniseries, it’s almost too much content to handle, especially when time is spent on strange and seemingly useless portions of this story, in addition to all the unnecessary extra-Biblical content.  Besides these issues, there is a lot of cheesy sensationalism through this series, including a strange portrayal of God.  Thus, historical truth is freely edited and added to as the writers see fit.  Basically, where this could have been an interesting series, it fails.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Once again, this series is another instance of culturally inauthentic casting, including blatant BRITISH cast members and actors with ages that do not match the historical character they are plating.  Besides these issues, line delivery is quite poor, even though these are supposed to be professional actors and actresses.  Sometimes they are too dramatic and forceful with their emotions.  Makeup is also a huge problem as it is mostly overdone.  In the end, this is another disappointing section.

Continuity Quality (1 points)

Though there are some interesting character buildups throughout this series, their age progression is not historically correct.  Some success is found here in using the series format to create character arcs, even as the story arcs are already written for them.  Time transitions are also intriguing, but as previously mentioned, they usually move way too fast to try to cover too much time.  In the end, this miniseries leaves a lot of potential behind.

Conclusion

There is little to no point in trying to rewrite history in order to sell entertainment, whether it’s on the big screen or the TV screen.  When you already have the story laid out for you in a historical document, what’s the point of altering it?  What would someone think if a creator altered a different historical account that’s not in the Bible?  The Bible is not something to play with and change for convenience.  But don’t get too cocky, Christian film makers—you’ve done it too.  Perhaps one day we will have a high quality Biblical series or miniseries that will be worth celebrating.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 14 points

 

Esther [1999] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When King Xerxes banished his wife, Queen Vashti, for refusing to obey him, he called all the young women of the Persian kingdom to come and audition to be his new queen.  Among them was Esther, a Jewess, whose cousin Mordecai instructed her to hide her ethnic identity from the royal leaders.  Little did either of them know that she had been raised up by God for such a time to save His people from certain destruction.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though this film was made before the 2000s, Affirm Films demonstrated even in 1999 that they were committed to professional production quality.  Video quality and camera work are good in this film, even if lighting is sometimes inconsistent.  Audio quality is average, and the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  The biggest win for this production is the professional and historically authentic sets, locations, and props which demonstrate care for accuracy.  The editing is fine but it could use a little improvement.  Overall, this is a respectable production and shows why Affirm is where they are today.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This rendition of the story of Esther was likely the first of its kind in the modern era, later to be follow by For Such a Time As This, One Night With the King, and the deplorable Book of Esther.  In this 1999 version, care is also given to an accurate retelling of the story, even if it is a little too literal.  This is the only film we’ve seen that portrays Xerxes very well and likely accurate to the historical figure.  At least this story shies away from the silly ‘love story’ trope that modern film writers try to force into the account.  However, the characters in this version still don’t seem like real people as they are too dramatic and boring at the same time.  There are a lot of dead sequences and not enough substantial dialogue.  Overall, this was a nice try, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast, though semi-professional, is overly theatrical and too practiced.  Though costuming is culturally authentic, the casting is not always this way.  Emotions are also forced and feel manufactured, like this is some sort of Bible play.  Yet not all is bad here and this rounds out an acceptable effort.

Conclusion

A lot of time and money was likely spent on sets and costumes in this film, much like its later relation, One Night With the King.  However, what both of these films forget is substance.  Though Esther is better at adhering to the true historical account, it is still not presented in an interesting way that will engage audiences.  Biblical film makers can learn from this to not abandon accuracy but still develop the characters like they’re real people, not lofty ‘heroes’ that have no connection to us today.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Exodus: Gods and Kings (Movie Review)

British Moses the Madman

Plot Summary

Moses, the son of Hebrew parents, was raised an Egyptian in a golden age of Egyptian culture.  But this culture was built on the backs of Moses’ people, who were enslaved by cruel Pharaohs.  Moses was always torn between two cultures, but he was forced to choose when he killed a fellow Egyptian and was driven out into the desert, on the run for his life.  After discovering and immersing himself in the Midianite culture, God called him back to Egypt to free His people, the Hebrews.  Though reluctant, Moses assumed his role as God’s deliverer.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Since this is a highly-funded Hollywood production, of course it’s going to be highly quality.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all highly professional, especially in the action scenes.  The soundtrack is also quite interesting and creative.  Sets, locations, and props are excellent and clearly had a lot of money spent on them, even though there are some obvious special effects.  The only other error to point out is the very poor editing that causes the story to jump all over the place, but that’s not only a production issue.  Overall, it would be nice if a Christian film maker had this much money and spent it this well (coughcouchTimothyCheycoughcough).

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Like many Hollywood forays into the Biblical market, Exodus: Gods and Kings is an epic failure.  Far too much time is spent on extra-Biblical content for no reason, as well as the dumbest head-scratching asides.  Historical truth is bent very freely as Moses is transformed into a sword-wielding maniac (with a British accent) and God is turned into a creepy, angry, and manipulative pre-adolescent boy who pours tea and stacks little metal blocks.  As time speeds by for the convenience of the runtime, characters are left in the wake and are made lifeless.  There’s no way to know what’s happening next as the audience is thrust through time without warning.  Iconic and historical sequences are framed in very odd and dark ways, thus making for a very strange and altered account of the story.  Many Christians complained about the cavaliered nature of this film, and they were actually justified.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Although some attempts were made to make this cast culturally authentic, this rule mostly only pertains to the supporting cast and the extras.  The white guys of Egypt get to take over the lead roles of this cast.  However, a lot of money was put into historically authentic costuming, so that’s a plus.  However, too many lines from these ‘professional’ actors and actresses are mumbled, thus giving off the impression that they are phoning in their lines and were rather be somewhere else.  For authenticity’s sake, I wish they were.

Conclusion

I’ll take singing and disproportionately-shaped cartoon priests played by Steve Martin and Martin Short over this madness any day (nothing beats the Plagues sequence in that film either).  DreamWorks may not have nailed historical accuracy either (Moses was 80 when he went back to Egypt guys), but who can beat that soundtrack?  Maybe one day I’ll post a review of that animated film, but for now, Exodus: Gods and Kings is a total wreck and waste of Hollywood’s money and your time, KTHNXBYE.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points