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

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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

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The Christ Slayer (Movie Review)

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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)

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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

 

Saul: The Journey to Damascus (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After the Resurrection of Jesus, the Jewish religious leaders sought to stamp out all remaining traces of those who followed Him.  However, they were largely unsuccessful at stopping the spread of the Gospel right under their noses, so they employed a radical in their midst named Saul to lead the charge of ending the teachings of Jesus once and for all.  Though he had success at first, Saul slowly changed until he was shocked by his Damascus road experience and his life was completely turned upside down.  Then he proceeded to turn his world upside down, even as his former employers tried to kill him.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

John Patus, along with the Leif Films team, has had an up and down career mostly marked by apocalyptic failures (literally).  Yet he and the Leif Films team seem to work relatively well together in Biblical productions.  Although there is some randomly shaky camera work in this film, video quality is great and audio quality is professional, including an interesting soundtrack.  However, there are some odd and unnecessary special effects that put a damper on things.  The outdoor locations are quite good, even if the indoor sets and props need some work.  Finally, the editing of this film is inconsistent, although it’s not all bad.  In the end, this is an average production that definitely has room for improvement, yet it is a good effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Though there is unnecessary narration at first, it subsides and allows the story to unfold naturally.  Saul: The Journey to Damascus is actually an honest and accurate depiction of historical events that does not allow the extra-Biblical content to clutter things.  The Biblical characters are relatively well-developed and are real people that can be related to.  The main things that hold this plot back from being perfect are one too many slow and seemingly unnecessary scenes that put a drag on things.  Sometimes dialogue is good, but other time it just seems to fill time.  The ending is very effective and appropriate.  In the end, this is a very refreshing plot in a market that usually produces such poor storylines.  It gives great hope for the future of Biblical film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Acting is a mixed bag as the costuming is historically authentic, yet not many of the cast members are culturally accurate.  Some are British, while others are American or Canadian, but we know how difficult it is to cast Biblical films properly.  However, though this cast has plenty of talent and potential, some members need to coached a little better.  But overall, this is a mostly a job well done.

Conclusion

It’s refreshing to have a film that’s not across the board terrible, especially a Bible film.  It’s rare to have a film that has as many bright spots as this one, yet does not go all the way and reach Hall of Fame status.  Yet nonetheless, this is a film to be proud of and one to build off of.  It offers a Biblical film model that can be replicated and improved in the future.  Thus, it’s definitely worth a watch.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Last Days in the Desert (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jesus was in the desert for forty days and forty nights, he supposedly helped out a random family who lived there.  He was also tempted by the devil in various ways to see if He would fall before beginning His earthly ministry.  Though the battle was difficult, He prevailed and was ultimately prepared to do His Father’s work on earth.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s very clear that this film was mainstream produced, as its high production quality unfortunately sets it apart from most independent Christian films, especially other Biblical films.  This production is virtually flawless—it boasts professional video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also creative and intriguing.  Sets and locations are highly realistic and appropriate for the story.  Props are also historically authentic.  The only nitpick to raise here is some slightly odd editing, but it’s not enough to keep this production from being great.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Despite its high amount of funding, this story is a total wash.  The first half of the movie is extremely empty and boring, with hardly any dialogue to speak of.  Hardly anything happens except for the introduction of bizarre spiritual elements and the development of a very unusual take on the Biblical account of Jesus’ tempting in the desert.  There is little justification for altering the historical account in this way, as the alterations seem utterly pointless and just for the sake of altering it.  As what little conversations there are meander on and on, they never go anyway and thus serve little purpose.  But without dialogue, what is a plot?  From start the finish, this story is useless and serves no purpose whatsoever, except to further muddy the waters of Biblical films.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though the costuming is very authentic and well-constructed, there is little else good to point out here.  Though this is a professional cast, and though they certainly have their good moments, they are all overly dramatic and too serious.  Also, it goes without saying that it’s ridiculous to cast Jesus and Satan with the same actor, regardless of who the actor is, just saying.  There are also shades of British accents among this cast, but what do you expect at this point?

Conclusion

Hollywood certainly knows how to fund a production, unlike a lot of independent and struggling Christian film makers, but their plots are just as bad or worse as independent plots.  Biblical films like this are so stupid because they alter historical accounts for fun, it seems like.  What if someone altered another historical account?  There would be an outcry.  Nonetheless, until Christians start making better Biblical films, there’s really not much else to say.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Ben-Hur [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Judah Ben-Hur was a prince of the Jews, and he was close with Messala, his adopted brother.  However, after Messala leaves to make a name for himself in the Roman army, their friendship was strained.  But disaster struck the Ben-Hur family when they were falsely accused of an assassination attempt against a Roman leader.  Messala refuses to acquit them and thus allows Judah Ben-Hur and his family to be taken captive by cruel Rome.  Years later, when given a second chance a life, Judah must decide how he is going to respond.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The one thing you can say for Mark Burnett and Roma Downey is that they know what it takes to fund and create a top-notch production.  In this controversial remake, there are at least good on-set locations and realistic props.  Camera work is usually good in action and non-action scenes, but sometimes there is some dizzying and wild camera work.  Video quality is obviously clear and lighting is professional.  There are no audio errors, but the soundtrack sometimes does not fit the historical period.  Finally, the editing is quite poor as this previously three-and-a-half-hour film is shoved into a two-hour runtime.  But otherwise, this is the sort of production we need more of in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

When an original film is so iconic, there is little point in trying to remake it except to make money off of the name.  The original Ben-Hur was a ground-breaking classic for its time, which makes even more ridiculous the fact that this modern take on the story completely alters the original plot for no reason.  As Morgan Freeman tells you everything you need to know through narration, time rushes by at breakneck pace in an attempt to hit all the carbon-copy high point scenes of the original film.  Thus, as the film speeds along, there is no time to get to know the characters or connect with their struggles.  One minute they’re here, and the next minute they are there.  The presentation is so lazy and pandering that it’s laughable.  The writers do just enough to remind you of the old movie while at the same time turning the plot inside out for little reason.  The whole experience is overly dramatic and off-putting, thus making for a disappointing film.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As if changing the story wasn’t enough, Burnett and Downey had to drag a whole slew of BRITISH people to play Jewish and Roman characters again.  What would people have said if Morgan Freeman’s African character had been cast as a white British dude?  Besides cultural inconsistencies, the acting is simply too dramatic.  Though the costuming is historically realistic, it’s not enough to make up for the mistakes of this section.  This is another bust.

Conclusion

Burnett and Downey have perfected the model of lazily ripping off and ruining Biblical and historical plots in order to make money.  What they have not perfected is actually using the rare money and resources they are able to somehow acquire for their films for something good and effective.  They are one of the rare production teams that have the ability to actually make a respectable, well-marketed, and recognizable Christian movie, but they fail at it every time, even drawing criticism from mainstream outlets.  The question is, where do they go from here?

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Full of Grace [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Mary the mother of Jesus was one of the most important characters in the Biblical narrative.  She was given the privilege of bringing the Messiah into the world and raising Him as a child.  But as she grew older, she became a follower of her Son, the Savior of the world.  Some believe she had a major impact on the early church and her whole life was a testament to the grace of God.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

In attempts to be artistic, there are some unusual production elements in this film.  For one, camera work is very shaky in parts.  Video quality is strange and there is a lot of poor lighting throughout.  Audio quality is fairly inconsistent, but the soundtrack, though it is sometimes too loud, is at least intriguing and creative.  Furthermore, there are a lot of long and wasted sequences that are overly artistic.  There is also too much recycled footage.  In the end, where this could have been an interesting production, it is just not.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there are some interesting psychological elements in Full of Grace, like the production, the plot tends to get lost in artistry.  A lot of the story is extremely low-key and almost purposely understated for no particular reason.  There are a lot of scenes of characters sitting around talking about off-screen Biblical and historical events, but Full of Grace commits a common Biblical movie sin by focusing more on extra-Biblical and extra-historical content then on the actual content we have available to us in the Bible and in other historical documents.  Besides this, the characters cannot be connected with because they seem like ethereal, otherworldly figures rather than regular people.  Also, it is very difficult for this film to hold the attention as there is hardly enough content to sustain a feature length film.  This movie seems like it was written for one good scene that has a good message, but this occurs near the end, so it is unlikely many viewers will make it this far.  Unfortunately, Full of Grace is just another Biblical film disappointment.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The one thing this movie got right was culturally authentic casting without BRITISH people.  This is an amazing concept that most never get right.  Thus, though there are some overly dramatic performances, the professional and responsible acting and casting is the standout in this film.

Conclusion

There is so much in the Bible that needs to be made into movies.  The Bible is a historical document filled with real people who encountered God in one way or another, just like we do every day.  It’s time for film makers to dispense with the practice of crafting Biblical characters that we can’t even relate to and start treating Biblical narratives like real events that actually happened.  If this happens on a consistent basis, things will finally begin to change.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

David and Goliath [2015] (Movie Review)

I AM GOD YOU ARE NOTHING!!!!!!!!

Plot Summary

Travel back to that historical moment when the British Jews in construction hats were hanging around in the desert waiting to fight the eye-shadow-challenged PhilistInes until they saw the guttural wonder known as Goliath and became too afraid to fight.  So they reverted back to standing around talking, wandering around in circles, and riding their horses around camp.  Then along came the pastiest white British man ever—Michelangelo’s David—who decided that he was going to fight the giant action figure across the valley.  After much deliberation, arguing, and talking, the pasty white man ventures forth to fight the giant.  If you made it this far into the film and haven’t been paid off by Timothy Chey, you know how bad it is.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

With millions of dollars flushed down the toilet for this disaster, you would think that Timothy Chey and crew would be able figure out how to put together a professional production.  But apparently they wasted too much of their funding on the ‘dangerous’ international location to care about how to keep audio quality from constantly screeching and overdriving.  Despite the international endeavor, the sets are terrible and childish.  The soundtrack is very generic and loud, like much of the other audio.  Video quality is low for no reason and camera work is average at best.  A lot of the outside scenes are poorly filmed, with constant extras and horses walking around in front of the camera.  There are also a lot of poor special effects used, along with obvious animation to cover up production shortcuts.  In the end, the world of Timothy Chey defies reality in many ways, especially when he is somehow raising tens of millions of dollars to fund these outright calamities.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In a terrible attempt to portray the Biblical story of David and Goliath, this plot is really just about delaying the inevitable.  As the whitest and most British man alive plays David, all the British characters waste time standing around (with horses and people constantly going round and round them) talking and arguing about what they are going to do and debriefing about what’s going to happen next.  It feels like the same conversations repeat over and over again, and the sayings of Goliath most definitely and literally repeat over and over again, like he’s a giant action figure.  Once it finally gets to the so-called climax, it really wasn’t worth waiting for.  Besides this, there are tons of the typical Timothy Chey bizarre elements, such as likening the PhilistInes to a Satanic cult and having Goliath literally drink blood from a cow head.  There is just so much here that cannot even be covered or explained, but needless to say, only watch this film if you don’t pay for it and if you need a good laugh.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Besides this cast being extremely BRITISH, the costuming is among the worst.  They blew millions of dollars on international travel but couldn’t even put together a decent historical costume that doesn’t look like it was a repurposed construction uniform.  The makeup is also among the worst we have ever witnessed, with coal spilled all over the PhilistInes’ faces.  The cast members therein (especially Goliath) make all kinds of weird guttural sounds and mumbled lines, not to mention the constant yelling and screaming.  Basically, we could just go on and on about the twilight zone of Timothy Chey.

Conclusion

One only has to look to the International Movie Database user reviews of Chey’s films to see just how far his insanity extends.  He clearly has a following of paid reviewers that constantly extol his works in an attempt to ‘correct the record’ (lol) about how the only reason anybody doesn’t like his movies is because they are carnal Christians who stole the movie off of the internet and live in their parents’ basements.  Go ahead and check them out—you’ll see where a good portion of Chey’s budget goes.  But this notwithstanding, what was someone thinking when they enabled this train wreck to happen?  Needless to say, Chey hopefully will not be handed this much funding again any time soon, but stranger things have happened…

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

 

Real [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When He was struggling in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus looked down through time and saw all of us and the struggles we would endure.  He saw the sins we would commit and still went to the Cross because He knew that we desperately needed Him.  Even with so many broken stories stretching out into the future, Jesus knew them all and gave Himself up for every one of us.  This is truly the best reason in the world to make a movie.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

It pains us to be so hard on this film because it carries such a powerful message.  However, even the most powerful message is covered up by poor packaging.  This is a very cheap production, including grainy video quality, poor lighting, and an overuse of soft lighting that rivals Jefferson Moore.  However, audio quality is acceptable, including a creative soundtrack.  Yet sets and locations are quite limited, as some are reused several times in different stories.  Finally, as multiple different unrelated storylines are employed, the editing is quite choppy and discontinuous.  This is truly a sad half point to award because we want it to be better and believe it can be—just not this time, unfortunately.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Real is based on a highly creative idea, perhaps one of the best in the loosely associated genre of ‘spiritual warfare’ plots on the market.  To depict Jesus and Satan in the Garden of Gethsemane looking forward to random stories in the future is an excellent idea, but attempting to connect a bunch of shallow subplots together in the span of ninety minutes is not a good idea.  This creates very shallow characters that spout dialogue that is designed to force the plot along.  As such, things happen far too fast as too many important issues are forced into one plot.  However, Real has one of the best portrayals of Jesus, Satan, and other spiritual elements to date.  The prologue and the epilogue, though they make the entire movie work, are worth watching and make this plot what it is.  In the end, we desperately wish this movie could have been better because it has such a great story and message that needs to be shown everywhere.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With a limited and amateurish cast, some cast members were reused in these subplots.  They could also use some better coaching, although they demonstrate great potential.  Sometimes they are a little too unsure of themselves, which shows that they would have benefitted from more coaching.  Though they are ahead of the game than some ‘big name’ cast members are, this section once again demonstrates what this group can do if they have the resources to do it.

Conclusion

Real receives half of an x-factor point for the creative idea behind this story.  As previously mentioned, with a better budget and more refining, Stephen Krist and his team can go great places and take Christian film to new frontiers.  We long to see a remake of Real that focuses more on the central concept without so many loosely connected stories.  We wish we could rate this film higher, but it is easily the best 3-point film out there.  In the end, we know the Krist team has good hearts and can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Part 5 (MTASBTNEWOT 5)

In our vast Christian entertainment viewing experience, we sometimes come upon films that we can hardly justify writing a full review for.  Therefore, for your convenience, so you don’t have to go watch those free films that invade your suggested watch list in on-demand video services, we’ve provided a quick overview here.  Someday we might post more, if we’re fortunate enough to find more.

 

Strange….

For Such a Time

Why do we need so many Esther films?  This one looks like it was recorded with a handheld camera for a church play.  They obviously purchased all of their costumes and props at Walmart and decided to film a historical story in a modern house full of white people with too much makeup.  Production is terrible in all aspects and nothing these people are doing resembles acting.  This is so low quality that it doesn’t even warrant creation.

 

Just taking some pictures of flowers

The Bouquet

One of the wonders produced by Nasser Film Group, this one portrays Kristy Swanson and a whole bunch of other awkward cast members in a knockoff Hallmark movie about a group of people all hanging around the same property together trying to rehabilitate a dying flower business.  With laughable references to the internet and technology and the most juvenile forced romances ever, only watch this one if you need a good laugh.

 

Enough said

Midnight Stallion

In another face-palmer from Nasser, Kris Kristofferson attempts to portray a fifty-year-old man with a teenage daughter, although he was close to eighty years old at the time of this movie’s filming.  Hardly anything can be focused on at all in this formulaic, stereotypical, and predictable horse-saves-the-farm story except for Kristofferson’s terrible plastic surgery, constant grunting, and scenes of him pretending to ride a horse.  Whoever keeps casting old coots like Kristofferson needs to quit film making.

 

Well that’s all for now!  Maybe we’ll post another one someday…maybe not…

Paul the Apostle {St. Paul} [2000] (Movie Review)

Creepy Paul…….

Plot Summary

Saul of Tarsus was a ruthless man bent on destroying the church of Jesus Christ, until he had an unforgettable encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.  From there, his life was never the same as he became Paul and effectively switched sides and became zealous for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Though many were still skeptical of him, God was with him all of his life and used him to turn the world upside down.  His work as an Apostle of Jesus Christ is still affecting the world today.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

It’s clear that there was money behind this film—you don’t get the opportunity to make a more than two hour film every day.  For the most part, this production is average, with okay camera work and historically authentic sets and locations.  However, some of the video quality is blurry and some of the lighting in outside scenes is poor.  There is also an unusual use of weird special effects throughout, including an annoying use of negative video quality in an attempt to be dramatic.  We also are provided with unnecessary location subtitles as a crutch for bad editing.  With a such a large idea, editing is key, as it is in any epic.  Yet the editing of this film is totally off and allows the plot to focus on all the wrong things.  In short, a lot of wasted money was thrown at this production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Paul the Apostle gets caught up in the all-too-common trap of Bible films: using a movie named after a well-known Biblical character to focus on all kinds of useless side issues and peripheral characters.  It’s fine to make a movie about a character or group of characters who shadowed a well-known Biblical figure, but don’t pretend like the movie is actually about that figure.  Though there is a substantial amount of content in this film about Paul, this movie is not about Paul’s life, but about things that happened around Paul during random parts of his life.  It’s not like Paul has a small story—there is tons of content about him that would make an awesome movie.  Yet we are left with half-measures and allusions to what could have been.  As extra-Biblical events take up the time of this story, pointless time jumps are taken and tons of off-screen content is alluded to.  Dialogue is designed to move the plot along and only crafts characters who seem lofty and inaccessible rather than like real people.  Alas, what could have been with this very important and engaging historical account.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Once again, another Bible movie commits the cardinal sin of casting: British people trying to portray Middle Eastern people.  Thus, there is a lack of cultural authenticity that is not helped by the partially unrealistic costuming, the creepy makeup jobs, and the obviously fake beards.  This is not to mention the overly theatrical, dramatic, and breathy delivery of lines and emotions.  Unfortunately, there is not much good to mention here.

Conclusion

So you have over two hours of runtime and virtually only a third of your content actually pertains to the Biblical historical account of the Apostle Paul.  Very few film makers have the luxury of having this much time on their hands to craft a movie, yet this team decided to waste it on tons of non-Biblical and quasi-historical content, complete with large time jumps and completely unnecessary characters.  Besides this, the characters don’t even feel like realistic or authentic Jewish people, which is not helped by the fact that they are played by British people.  It’s no wonder so many people are weary of films that have the “Bible” stamp on them.  We eagerly await the day when Biblical movies are honest about what they are depicting and create historically realistic and culturally authentic portrayals of people in the Scriptures.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Apostle Peter: Redemption (Movie Review)

A creeper

Plot Summary

The Apostle Peter followed Jesus zealously once he was called, but when faced with the darkest hour in history, Peter fell away and denied that he even knew his Lord.  Yet after His Resurrection, Jesus forgave Peter and made him the head of His church.  All his life, Peter sought to never forsake Christ again, so when faced with martyrdom, he only wanted to please his Lord and witness to those around him—even a skeptical Roman soldier who was seeking the truth.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Productions PureFlix has had a hand in are usually average or above, as is the case with The Apostle Peter: Redemption.  However, we can’t help but feel that there could have been more here.  While all the typical elements—camera work, video quality, audio quality, and soundtrack—are okay for the most part, it feels like this production isn’t going the extra mile.  This is mostly demonstrated by fake looking sets and locations that are actually quite limited.  Some historical authenticity is present, but it seems too plastic.  The editing is fine, but leaves sometime to be desired.  In short, this is just a standard production that seems slapped together; it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

With themes similar to Apostle Peter and the Last Supper, this plot is very slow to develop and hard to follow.  Not much happens as unfeeling characters have boring and stiff conversations filled with stilted theatrical dialogue and discourses on obscure Roman politics.  We can’t feel like these characters are real or relatable people since they act like they stepped out of one of those horrid 1980s Bible movies.  They don’t really do anything except ramble on and pretend like things are happening.  The only redeeming qualities here are the okay use of flashbacks and the interesting end that is slightly meaningful if you make it that far.  Otherwise, this story is a big disappointment.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This film is poorly cast, and even though it stays away from the BRITISH errors, the cast members are still not historically authentic.  The costuming also seems fake and cheaply made.  The actors and actresses are stoic and robotic in their line delivery and unfeeling in their emotions.  John Rhys-Davies is the only exception here, as he is always the same in every movie he’s in.  As a side note, Stephen Baldwin seems like he’s in his natural habitat, since he’s as creepy as ever and exhibits random unwanted outbursts.  But basically, this is a mess.

Conclusion

It’s commendable to create Biblical films, but once again, this is not the way to do it.  This is an interesting look at the latter life of a Bible character, but the storyline simply does not hold the attention and seems disingenuous.  It’s hard to believe that this wasn’t just a movie thrown together for the sake of having a Bible movie.  We implore film makers to put effort into their work and to not create half-measures.  It is simply not worth it.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Forty Nights [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Before Jesus began His earthly ministry, He was baptized by His cousin John and then set out to fast in the desert wilderness for forty days and forty nights.  As He sought His Father’s will in the desert, Satan tempted Him in every way imaginable to try to derail His ministry before it started.  As Jesus grew weaker and weaker and the devil became more and more relentless, the fate of humanity hung in the balance.  Choices had to be made to bring the world back from the brink.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It’s undeniable that time and money were spent to make Forty Nights a quality production.  Camera work and video quality are professional.  The audio quality is also on point, including an effective soundtrack.  Shooting on location is excellently executed as the sets and locations are realistic.  All of this is great, but it is detracted from by the glaring presence of cheap special effects, obvious CGI, and weird sound effects throughout.  Sometimes these conventions are used to be ‘dramatic’ or something, but it really gives the film a cheesy feel.  Overall, this is a fine production, but it would have been much better without the bizarre effects.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

What started out as an applaudable effort to create a unique Bible plot quickly became a trainwreck, unfortunately.  The story rushes through Biblical events and alters some of them for convenience sake so that sensational extra-Biblical content can be focused on.  Though the entire plot is based on dialogue, as it should be, it is too isolating and meandering.  Often, the dialogue is extremely formal and Shakespearean to the point of not feeling like these are real people talking.  Though there are some interesting philosophical conversations and ideas, they are not enough to outweigh the stoic and robotic nature of this plot.  Also, this story commits the unforced error of implying that Jesus doesn’t know certain things and that Satan knows more than Him, probably in an attempt to make things more climactic or something.  But it is unwise and irresponsible to insinuate such things and undermines the entire message.  Finally, though the ending is fine and there is an overall good point somewhere in this film, it’s not enough to overshadow the glaring errors present here.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

However, the acting is perhaps the biggest element that drags this movie down.  The only remotely good thing to say here is that the costuming is mostly realistic.  Otherwise, this acting is far too theatrical and practiced.  Line delivery is measured, stilted, and robotic.  Emotions are flat and lifeless.  Though the dialogue is a problem to begin with, we can’t even feel like these cast members are real people.  This in and of itself makes this film basically unwatchable.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, Forty Nights basically boils down to The Book of Ruth with more money behind it.  This was a really good idea that has been sadly wasted due to annoying acting and a thin plotline.  Yet there are also other issues to discuss.  These days, there seems to be an overdone effort to ‘humanize’ Jesus in film to the point that He is no longer omniscient.  While I am not one to nitpick over theology, I believe this is a dangerous position to take.  We know that Jesus certainly had physical limitations while on earth, but to believe that Satan ever knew more than He did is very dangerous.  While Jesus was absolutely tempted in every way and while this is great to portray in a film, this was unfortunately not the way to do it.  We realize that films need conflict and climax to be successful, but there is no human conflict within the person of Jesus Christ.  There is never a good excuse to create a new gospel for the sake of drama.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

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

The Book of Genesis [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As Jochebed and her children hide from the Egyptian soldiers, she recounts the story of her people so far and the struggles they have gone through.  She remembers Adam, Eve, Abel, Cain, Noah, Abram, Sarai, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel and how they went wrong and how God took care of them.  Jochebed wrestles with the truth that God will take care of her and her family too, no matter what odds are facing her.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s obvious that a good amount of time and resources were spent on this production.  Cinematography is clearly professional and well-thought-out, including great camera work and crisp video quality.  Sets and locations are also highly professional and enhance the film.  Audio quality is good and the soundtrack is respectable and intriguing.  The only minor issue to raise here is some small editing issues, including random cuts and transitions that confuse the audience.  However, this is a very high quality production and we can’t wait to see what else Austin Ridge Bible Church produces in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, this is where the positivity ends.  As Jochebed constantly narrates through cryptic monologues, the plot skips all over Genesis without settling down on a coherent thought.  To be titled after to first book of the Bible, there is actually very little true Biblical content and easily a fourth of the film relates to the book of Exodus.  While the psychological elements are somewhat creative, there is no continuity and the overall feel of the storyline is overly artistic and embellished.  Taking on such a large amount of content is ambitious but misguided.  There is no way to understand the characters presented as they are largely silent; everything relies too much on Jochebed’s riddles and musings.  Overall, this is a disappointingly wasted idea can could have gone somewhere but never found the path home.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The casting job falls into the trap many Biblical films fall into.  Not only are there some issues with cultural authenticity (though not full British), but the cast members seem to be purposely acting mysterious.  Their emotions are ethereal and abstract and line delivery is sometimes off.  It’s difficult to put your finger on, but there are not many positive qualities to highlight here.  A stronger cast would have made a difference for this film.

Conclusion

When you’re first starting out with movies, it’s essential to have quality production, which is what The Book of Genesis has.  However, it’s not clear that Austin Ridge Bible Church knew what they were doing with this plot idea.  There is an element of creativity here that could be drawn out by the right team, but this movie just doesn’t make the mark.  When first writing a plot, it’s best to start out small and grow from there, not start out with a big idea that might not pan out.  Maybe next time Austin Ridge Bible Church will find their way to the promised land, because they certainly have the potential to do so.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Young Messiah (Movie Review)

I’m British!

Plot Summary

According to some fake historical accounts written down in pseudepigraphical infancy gospels, while the British boy Jesus lived in British Egypt, he supposedly had no idea that He was God in the flesh as His family ‘concealed’ His true identity from Him.  Stalked by Satan, British Jesus accidentally raised people from the dead and healed them.  But when British Herod sent a British Centurion to kill the little British Messiah, young British Jesus must discover who He is before it’s too late.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Despite its glaring flaws, The Young Messiah does have good production merits, which is becoming the new baseline of Christian film.  Camera work and video quality are obviously professional, except for a few strange moments of weird camera angles.  The audio quality is fine but the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  The sets and locations are mostly realistic.  However, there are some editing issues pertaining to useless scenes and generally confusing plot development.  Overall, this is a respectable effort and lends to the new normal of Christian film, which is quality productions.  However, it gets worse from here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

I don’t care what your theology is—if you believe that Jesus was fully God and fully man from birth, then there’s no way you can believe that the young Jesus had zero clue what He was supposed to do on earth or that Mary could conceal anything from Him.  What is the actual point of constructing an entire plot around keeping a ‘secret’ from God Himself?  Even without this issue, this plot is meandering, useless, and without focus as it jumps from one sensational scene to the next.  With tons of extra-Biblical, questionable, and even borderline explicit content, The Young Messiah has an overall dark feel to it and an unhealthy addiction to sadistic violence.  Bizarre spiritual elements are also present as this film has a typical obsession with Satan, who is mostly portrayed as smarter than Jesus.  Perhaps the entire motivation for making this mess should be reexamined.  With no truly redemptive qualities to speak of and an offensive portrayal of Christ, this plot warrants negative points.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Obviously the standard for slapping together a Bible film is to put out a casting call for people who sound like they stepped out of a Charles Dickens novel.  There’s nothing wrong with cockney British accents, mind you, as long as they are kept in their proper place, like Jane Austen movies and such.  But why, can anyone tell me, do movie creators feel the need to endlessly cast Roman and Middle Eastern figures as WHITE BRITISH PEOPLE?!  It effects everything—not just the accents—but even the out-of-place culture-specific references like ‘hubbub’.  Besides this, costuming and makeup is generally weird and line delivery is overly dramatic.  Any good hidden here is totally overshadowed by all things BRITISH.

Conclusion

If you’re going to make a Biblical movie, first why do you feel the need to cast an entirely and extremely BRITISH cast?  Second, why not portray a clearly written story from Scripture rather than some made up garbage from a false historical source (see pseudepigrapha and Infancy Gospels)?  It’s not like we’re running out of Bible stories to choose from for movies.  And we’re certainly not at an international shortage for Middle Eastern cast members as some have shown.  Even if you’re not going to cast totally Middle Eastern people, can’t you at least have them learn different accents?  Some actors conceal their accents for some roles because that’s their job.  Can’t we respect the Bible enough, at least as a historical document, and attempt some authenticity?  Finally, if you don’t care to portray Jesus and Satan properly, don’t make a movie about them, KTHXBYE.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

The Nativity Story [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The timeless tale of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Savior of the world, has been told time and again, but rarely told from the correct historical perspective.  Mary, Joseph, and their families were real people with real struggles as they lived as poor people under the cruel dictatorship of Rome.  Elizabeth and Zechariah were a real couple who struggled with a real problem of not being able to have children.  The shepherds were also real people, living on the outskirts of society and shunned by the importantly religious.  Herod Agrippa was paranoid power mongrel who held his small locus of control in a firm grasp.  Yet his perceived power was no match for the divine plan of Yahweh.  The Magi were real truth-seekers who wanted to know the true meaning of the celestial anomaly they followed.  The lives of these characters all intersected in an epic moment in history when God stepped into the world He created in the form of an infant at the unlikeliest time and revealed Himself to the unlikeliest of people.  This story is not just for the holidays, but for every day, to remind us not only of God’s redemptive plan for humanity, but also to remind us that God works in ways we cannot even comprehend.

Production Quality (3 points)

Just as Jesus was born into obscurity, this film was created in obscurity and unfortunately still remains largely obscure in Christian circles.  But there is no reason for this.  Starting off, the camera work is superb in Nativity Story, as is the video quality.  The sound quality is above par, and the musical score enhances the viewing experience.  There is CGI used, but it is used properly.  The editing is excellent.  The surroundings and locations are authentic to first-century Judea, making for a realistically gritty experience.  This film joins an elite group of Biblical films as the only ones to capture the gritty reality of ‘Bible times’.  In short, there is nothing negative about this film’s production—it has every element needed to be perfect.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

As previously mentioned, this is not your children’s Bible nativity story.  Life was hard for Joseph and Mary, and the political climate was tumultuous.  Violence was a weekly occurrence and finances were very scarce.  Nativity Story correctly depicts all of these historical elements.  Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, Elizabeth, their families, Herod, the Magi, the shepherds, and everyone else are all very authentic characters that are accessible.  Too many times, Biblical films depict characters as lofty and otherworldly, but this group of characters is your everyday working poor or political elite.  The dialogue is outside the norm of Bible movies, but it pays off.  There are unique psychological\spiritual elements throughout that make this movie stand apart from other Christmas stories.  The one tiny complaint that keeps this film from being perfect is the fact that it slightly bends historical fact to make certain plot elements fit together.  However, this is still a masterful piece of screenwriting.  It captures the epic feel that this story needs to have and translates it in a way that all audiences will enjoy.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Nativity Story, in keeping with its usual themes, also schools Bible filmmakers in how to cast a film that is supposed to depict Middle Eastern characters.  Not a single British accent is heard among this cast, as each actor and actress is exquisitely placed into a superbly appropriate role.  The costuming is extremely realistic, thankfully forsaking those horrid church play robes.  Emotions are felt and lines are delivered excellently.  We really cannot stop saying good things about every part of this film: it is a force to be reckoned with.

Conclusion

Nativity Story earns an x-factor point for being generally awesome and for portraying an important concept in a great way.  It stands apart in a dismal holiday genre and owns the Biblical genre like a boss.  It shows not only what a Bible film should look like but also what the world Jesus was born into looked like.  It brings the real historical nature of the Nativity into your living room and presents it in a way that makes you want more rather than to reach for the remote.  Instead of watching those ridiculous ‘traditional’ films every holiday season, watch this one.

Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

The Nativity [2010] (Movie Review)

Which way to Great Britain?
Which way to Great Britain?

Plot Summary

In some alternate universe long long ago, first century Judea looked like Europe and the Jews lived in European-style houses with glass windows.  All the Jews were of European descent and sported cockney accents.  The families of Joseph and Mary had enough money to throw parties and to eat fine food.  Everybody wore those ridiculous outfits you see in cheesy church plays and even had some makeup.  The only non-white people in their sphere were Hispanic shepherds (is this a subtle message for modern race relations?) and those Asian and African guys known as Magi.  Mary had creepy conversations with British angel guys and she and Joseph sometimes acted like a dysfunctional American couple.  The BBC historian’s personal favourite (haha) was that psychic gypsy that served as Mary’s midwife.  If you think all of this is a complete joke, you’re wrong and need to be educated by BBC, who knows far more about what really happened in the Bible than you do.  Or you can just watch this horrid viewing experience for yourself and see that I am not making any of this up.  Like seriously, this got approved.  And no, this is a not a plot summary.  This is a rant because I wanted it to be, kthxbye.

 

Production Quality (-2 points)

Did we mention that nothing about this miniseries-turned-movie is even remotely accurate to history?  Those BBC guys weren’t even trying when they put Mary in a house with glass windows.  With glass!  In first century Judea!  In fact, all of the sets are totally inaccurate to history.  The camera work and stuff like that aren’t even really that good, but they are so overshadowed by the complete and utter nonsense spewed by the remainder of this film that it doesn’t really matter.  I hate this film so bad that I gave it negative points, mostly for total disregard of reality.  So sue me if you think this isn’t a real review.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)

Since when were Mary’s parents rich enough to throw even a moderate dinner party?  Since when did first century Jews have dinner parties that resembled the semi-modern Western world?  There is an infinite list of pertinent questions I could ask about this film.  What’s with the grinding planets?  Why does the Magi subplot seem like a cross between Lord of the Rings, Aladdin, and the Magi subplot from that better Nativity movie with a similar title?  Why does Mary constantly talk about being ‘bathed in light’?  What is the purpose of the Hispanic shepherd subplot?  Why do Mary and Joseph have emotionally unstable fights like a dysfunctional American couple?  Why does Mary’s invented midwife resemble a psychic?  And finally, why did BBC even make this movie?  From histrionic dialogue to historically inaccurate storylines, there are no redeeming qualities to this film and it is downright offensive.

Acting Quality (-2 points)

Screaming matches, British voices, useless conversations, oh my!  There are too many actors and actresses in this movie that I recognize from way better BBC movies, like ones that are based on those books that depict the fictional yet realistic lives of actual British characters in the 19th and 20th centuries.  We don’t have to sit here and take this garbage.  First-century Romans and Judeans were not remotely European.  The Europeans actually were the ‘bad guys’ back then, or something like that.  You’re welcome for the history lesson.

Conclusion

Some may criticize me for being so hard on this film, but seriously, if anyone else besides BBC tried to make a historical film and made it so grossly inaccurate as this one did, they would be out of a filmmaking job forever.  They would be discredited and ridiculed, kind of like what I’m doing in this review.  It’s downright offensive to totally alter historical accounts for the sake of convenience, thus a negative score is warranted.  So if you’re looking for that perfect holiday film for the whole family to enjoy, unless you like out-of-touch unrealistic portrayals of historical figures, steer clear from this one.

 

Final Rating: -6 out of 10 points

 

One Night With the King {The Call of Destiny} (Movie Review)

 

This costume is awfully heavy
This costume is awfully heavy

Quick! I need more eyeliner!
Quick! I need more eyeliner!

Plot Summary

The story of Esther is a Cinderella story of the ancient world.  Ordered by the king to audition to be his new queen, the young Hadassah, a devout Jewess, is reluctant to go.  Her uncle Mordecai encourages her to go in the Lord’s strength, but to conceal her Jewish identity for her safety.  Forced to undergo a year of beauty treatments before seeing the king, Esther forms a bond with the eunuch in charge of the process, who quickly discovers that she is different from the other girls.  But little does Esther know that she is about to be swept up into a bigger plan to save her people—a plan that only Yahweh could orchestrate.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

In the era of Fox Faith, money was certainly spent on some aspects of production, such as camera work and video quality.  The audio quality is also passable, and the soundtrack is slightly intriguing.  However, there are many other negative production elements that detract from this, such as weird special effects.  While time is obviously spent on the sets, locations, and props, there is an air of great extravagance in every part of this production.  Everything is taken to an ornate extreme; over-decoration clutters the sets.  This is a unique problem as they spent their money in the wrong ways.  As for the editing, it is also overdone in an attempt to be very dramatic.  Some scenes are replayed over and over again from different angles, just for dramatic flair.  Many scenes drag on too long, trying to drive a theatrical point home.  As will be covered next, time is spent in all the wrong ways.  While the funds were obviously present to make this a great production, they were grossly misappropriated.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

For starters, narration is used far too much to fill the gaps of this plot that the writers did not feel like filling with substantial content.  As previously mentioned, some portions of the storyline are rushed while others have too much time spent on them.  The historical account of Esther is altered in some ways for the convenience of the plot, even though the two-hour runtime proves they have no time constraints.  Instead, the writers crowd out real content with embellishment and the frivolous pursuit of meaningless subplots.  Trivial asides that have nothing to do with the original story are given far too much screen time.  Though there is some positive to find here in the complexity of the storyline, it is far too complex to the point that it cannot be easily understood.  Petty and unimportant events are portrayed as extremely dramatic as the writers squeeze forced drama out of everything.  The dialogue is empty and confusing, thus creating bland and mindless characters.  This is such a disappointment because the resources were here to make a truly great movie, but they were greatly squandered.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

We are all for casting unknowns, but with the money this team had to spend, couldn’t they have found a more professional cast?  The acting is very empty and it seems like no coaching is present.  Some lines are over-pronounced and over-enunciated, while others are mumbled.  Emotions are not believable but instead are over-dramatized.  But the money was spent on other things, of course, such as over-the-top makeup jobs.  Most of the main characters have a different extravagant costume for every scene.  The one positive to note here is that at least the cast is mixed-race rather than all British, but that’s about it.

Conclusion

Branded as a Biblical epic, One Night With the King had the tools available to it to be truly great.  Had the money been spent properly, we could be placing this film on the Hall of Fame.  Had the complex plot been honed better and the historical elements been properly handled and portrayed, we would be applauding this effort rather than denouncing it.  The lesson that can be learned from this experience is that it’s not the money you have, it’s how you spend it.  Just throwing money at a production doesn’t cut it.  It takes true talent to spend money wisely and know when to stop.  Yet frugality was not a word in this creative team’s vocabulary.  Next time, stop trying to impress us with shining objects and focus on substance.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Apostle Peter and the Last Supper (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Captured by the Romans, the Apostle Peter is held for questioning and possible execution.  As he awaits his earthly fate, his mind wanders back to the early days, when he followed Jesus on earth.  As he is interrogated by a young and inquisitive soldier, Peter recounts his experiences with Jesus, including the painful moment when he disowned his Lord.  Tormented by evil spirits, Peter wrestles with his past as he tries to convert the man in front of him.  In the end, each man has his own battle to fight and they must decide which side they will choose.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

If you endeavor to create a Bible film, please, please, please invest in good sets and props.  Apostle Peter and the Last Supper suffers from the affliction of having only three or four sets, so it fills in everything else with very obviously cheap CGI.  They’re not even good sets at that.  The one good thing here is that at least the video quality is clear and the audio quality is find most of the time.  The camera work is commendable, but the soundtrack is not.  There are too many bizarre special effects that seem out of place and isolate the viewer.  Finally, the editing is blasé and seems to only focus on the sensational parts, as will be discussed next.  In all, Bible productions seem to always fall into a poor category all to themselves, and this one is no exception.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While it is commendable to include spiritual themes in a Biblical film, the ones included in this one are only sensational and sometimes downright creepy.  The smallest things are overly dramatized—as usual with anything David A. R. White touches, nothing can be subtle, all must be obvious.  Dialogue is very pedestrian and theologically scripted; it doesn’t feel like real people are talking.  When dealing with the Biblical narrative, it is obviously out of order for some reason, probably for convenience.  Jesus is portrayed in a very odd way, like He’s constantly obsessed with reading everybody’s minds.  The plot being split between the past and the present does not allow for good character development in any form.  Basically, the only positive aspect of this plot is the interesting idea of incorporating the spiritual battle, even though it is pulled off very poorly.  Essentially, this plot is The Encounter with Peter—some slight potential but too much sensationalism and mediocrity.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Time and again, we have seen Biblical movie casts with an inordinate number of British actors and actresses and Apostle Peter is no exception.  What is it about Bible films that cause creators to believe that Biblical characters are very white and British?  Accents aside, the acting is mostly dramatic and sensational, like the rest of the film.  Bruce Marchiano, in his typical role, seems creepier than usual.  Line delivery is very theatrical rather than conversational.  Emotions are not believable.  However, the acting is not bad enough to warrant zero points.  Overall, everything about this film is just a mess.

Conclusion

Oh, what we would pay somebody for a worthwhile Bible film.  Stories from Scripture need to be properly and accurately portrayed and presented on the big screen.  Such films should have a historical bent rather than an otherworldly feel.  Spiritual elements are great to include, but do them correctly, not in a way that turns people off.  Unfortunately, the majority of Biblical films on the market misconstrues the historical truths and spiritual realities of the Word of God, thus contributing only negative content to the field.  Who will stand up and turn the tide?

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

A.D.: The Bible Continues (Series Review)

Plot Summary

After the death of Christ, His followers were lost and confused.  But following His miraculous Resurrection from the dead, He appeared to them and gave them new strength to carry out a new task: taking His gospel to all people.  After receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, His apostles and other followers stopped at nothing to tell everyone of what they had witnessed in and through Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah.  Though opposition came at them from every side, the cause of Christ did not fail but only gained more followers.  Even as Christian persecution became a global event, even the ‘worst’ of sinners came to follow the Resurrected Savior.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Following closely on the heels of mixed results of The Bible Epic Miniseries, A.D.: The Bible Continues uses similar production elements, yet improves upon them.  The surroundings are still gritty and realistic, allowing the audience to see that the events after the crucifixion of Christ were very real.  The camera work is exquisite—many things indicate that money was well spent in A.D.  The musical score is engaging and the special effects are used responsibly.  Really the only production complaint to raise is some slightly inconsistent editing—were more unnecessary parts cut and more essential parts amplified, production would have been perfect.  But there is still much to be proud of here; Mark Burnett and company definitely learned from past production mistakes and proved that they can do better in A.D.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

In contrast to the breakneck pace of The Bible, A.D. elects to follow a slower pace.  Since this is not an exclusively Biblical series, historical context is responsibly explored—it actually aids and enhances the Biblical narrative.  The political elements are intriguing—some of these characters are better than others—yet this portion of the series tends to eat up too much of the runtime.  Some screen time should have been taken away from certain political characters, such as Caiaphas’ unrealistic wife, and given to Biblical characters with more potential.  Yet there is still much to enjoy in the Biblical plot lines.  The events of Acts are portrayed very well; A.D. actually accomplishes the goal of bringing a part of the Bible to life.  Historical truths are introduced in slightly unexpected ways without compromising authenticity.  While the early Christians could have been developed better, they are pretty good as they are.  There are also peripheral characters that are intriguing, yet tend to get squeezed out of the picture.  Were it not for a good deal of wasted time, the overall plot of A.D. would probably have been perfect.  It is a pretty good example of what a Biblical-historical series should be and can serve as a blueprint for the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While British actors and actresses are still employed, A.D. does something revolutionary: cast diversity in first century Judea.  Some may consider African characters in this narrative to be inaccurate, and while there should still be more Middle Eastern characters, there is really no historical precedence to deny this.  In other areas, emotional expression and line delivery is fairly believable, allowing the audience to connect with the Biblical and historical characters as real people.  Overall, were it not for overuse of British actors and actresses, this portion could also have been perfect.

Continuity Quality (3 points)

The arc of A.D. is particularly epic.  The driving purpose behind the series is very clear.  There are multiple exciting character arcs that were just coming to full completion right before the series was cancelled.  But cancellation is not necessarily the fault of the writers, since we sincerely believe they were doing the best they could do.  Overall, the short time we were able to enjoy A.D. was well spent when it came to continuity, arcs, and driving purpose.

Conclusion

It’s a real shame that A.D. was cancelled, because it had nowhere to go but up.  It was progressing at an epic pace, had so many positive elements, adapted a historical approach to the days after Christ’s earthly ministry, and was ten times better than The Bible Epic Miniseries.  It had so much explosive potential, but it was cut off at the knees.  One factor that potentially led to the cancellation was trying to please too many people.  Perhaps if fewer edgy elements were employed and more family-engaging elements were used, then the show might have survived on Christian audiences.  But that may not have been enough.  Even still, A.D. was a key step in engaging even the Christian population in being more interested in the historical nature of the Bible.  There needs to be more of a bubble-up approach to these types of series, and independent means, such as on-demand series, may need to be used in order to make series like A.D. successful, since national broadcast ratings are often too fickle to sustain new concepts.  Future ideas for Bible series need to build off of the positive elements and the strong points of A.D. and to improve on its mistakes.  Such a series would be a thing to behold and something worth getting behind.

 

Final Rating: 9.5 out of 14 points