Fearless Faith (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Colton is a police officer who’s haunted by the trauma of witnessing his former partner get gunned down in a crossfire. Now, Colton avoids all things relating to God even though his wife wants him to come back to the faith. However, circumstances begin to change Colton’s heart as he’s forced to face the past that he’s been running from.

Production Quality (2 points)

Although this production is mostly above-average, it still has some unnecessary pitfalls, such as odd zooms in the camera work and some strangely blurry video quality in certain parts. Action camera work is inconsistent, and the soundtrack is a bit loud at times. Also, flashbacks tend to be disorienting, and the editing has a lot of quick cuts and transitions, but all aspects of the production generally improve with time. This include better video quality, audio quality, and camera work in the second half of the film. Sets, locations, and props are relatively stable throughout. In the end, this mixed-bag section does enough to warrant this score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Fearless Faith is based on a very valid and worthy idea that needs to be explored in entertainment: law enforcement trauma. However, this concept is presented with stream-of-consciousness storytelling that lacks focus or overarching themes. Average conversations don’t do enough to develop the generic characters although there is a lot of missed potential to have better dialogue. The perfect Christian characters and racial stereotypes don’t do much to help the cause of the narrative. Religious platitudes and lack of continuity are only compounded by wasted time and plot jumps. Despite dry humor and sarcasm that could have made for interesting experience, unrealistic coincidences happen just because the writers need them to. Even though the ending does a somewhat good job of bringing everything together, characters are fixed way too easily, and the conclusion isn’t properly set up. There are no meaningful payoffs because a majority of the storyline is just kicking the can down the road to get to an unearned high point. The climax falls flat where it could have soared because it lacks effective build-up, and personal tragedies aren’t exactly treated in a serious fashion. All of this is to say that Fearless Faith had the potential to be a truly interesting movie, but this section’s low score holds it back.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the acting in this screenplay is average. Surprisingly, Jason Burkey may have found his niche in this film as he demonstrates pretty good performances with dry humor and sarcasm. This role doesn’t require him to go too far beyond his abilities, which actually works. Elsewhere, there are no obviously glaring errors in this section except for some annoying yelling and screaming. In certain pivotal scenes, the acting can tend to be unnecessarily blank and not present. In the end, this aspect of them movie rounds out an okay effort.

Conclusion

Fearless Faith had a lot going for it since it was written by real law enforcement officers who know what it’s like in the real world. This creative team put forth a pretty good project in Beautifully Broken, but Fearless Faith seems to lose some of this progress. A disorganized narrative derailed most of the potential in this screenplay, and a handful of concerns in production and acting didn’t help either. Next time, however, this team can hopefully learn from their mistakes and seek better counsel in their plot development.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

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My Brother’s Keeper [2021] (Movie Review)

My Brother's Keeper - IMDb

Plot Summary

When Travis Fox returns from war, the trauma of combat still haunts him, especially the death of his Christian friend.  Nonetheless, Travis has sworn off Christianity altogether, wanting to move on with his life.  However, the past won’t leave him alone, and new complications with Travis’ family don’t help matters.  Will he ever be able to find peace?

Production Quality (2 points)

In keeping with most Christian productions that have come out since 2018, My Brother’s Keeper is mostly professional.  Video quality, camera work, and audio are all in line with industry standards.  For the most part, sets, locations, and props are acceptable although they sometimes don’t adequately represent what they’re supposed to portray.  The biggest concern in this section is the choppy editing as some scenes cut and transition in awkward ways.  Thus, this portion of the film receive a slightly above-average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Throughout this narrative, the conversations and scenes come off as overly staged and unnatural, such as the forceful dialogue and messaging (including overt sermonizing) that leaves nothing to chance.  These problems are only complicated by the many subplots that are juggled, which causes the story to lack focus.  As a result, every character is a one-dimensional representation of an issue rather than an actual person.  Despite potentially good PTSD flashbacks, these experiences are a bit overwrought instead of providing opportunities for the audience to connect with the character.  Elsewhere, events in the narrative happen just because the writers want them to, and this extreme level of convenience causes the plot of aimlessly meander through a sea of empty platitudes and disorganized ideas.  It goes without saying that there are also some very questionable portrayals of dual relationships and counseling ethics.  In the end, there’s unfortunately no potential in this story, leading to zero points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Despite acceptable line delivery, the emotions in this movie’s performances are very over-the-top.  This is evidenced by lots of yelling and screaming, and it’s generally hard to believe that the cast members care about what they’re doing.  Many of their performances are robotic and practiced although there are some bright spots.  In the end, due to the errors, only a small score is warranted here.

Conclusion

My Brother’s Keeper is essentially another Christian issue screenplay, this time focusing on PTSD.  Normally, this would be a good idea, but adequate research and firsthand accounts are needed to keep mental health portrayals realistic.  There are many complex factors to consider, so crowding out this concept with subpar content isn’t the way to go.  Unfortunately, this film is unable to connect with the audience, which likely means that it will be forgotten in a few weeks.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

My Brother’s Keeper (March 2021)

Coming to theaters March 19, 2021 from Manns/Mackie studios

Writer(s): Ty Manns

Director(s): Kevan Otto

Producer(s): Robert C. Bigelow, Troy Duhon, Joel M. Gonzales, Robert Katz, Bishop Charles Mackie, Ty Manns, Pat Mathews, Brandon Riley

Starring: Joey Lawrence, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Robert Ri’chard, Gregory Alan Williams, T. C. Stallings, Shannen Fields, Blue Kimble, Karen Valero, Jeff Rose, Ty Manns, Derrick Gilliam, Stephanie Katz, Delone Manns, Nate Jones, Justin Clark, Roz Williams, Amberiell Hudson, Jermal Martin

Plot Synopsis: Travis Fox is a returning veteran struggling with PTSD and his faith in God.

Pardoned by Grace (Summer 2021)

Movie about the life of a Michigan City priest films in the Region, Porter County Jail

Expected Summer 2021

Writer(s): Mark E. McCann, Melissa Stamper

Director(s): Kevan Otto

Producer(s): Ben Graham, Scott Highberger, Kevan Otto, Brandon Riley, Tim Warren, Ron Wolff

Starring: Joey Lawrence, Michael W. Smith, Jossie Thacker, Danny Farder, Ben Graham, Chandra Michaels, Tom McElroy, Chad Moseley, Daniel Ball, Roger Welp, Katie Mancuso, Steve Flanigan, Dave Honigman, Ron Wolff, Obi Obisoulstar Uwakwe, Tim Hubbard, Sarah Joanou, Brenda Reiser, Ezra Fontanez, Lindsay Whisler, Elyse Collier, Joe Goehl

Plot Synopsis: This biopic film tells the true story of Scott Highberger, a man who was in and out of jail for a big part of his life. Based on his memoir, the film will cover his 35 arrests, eight felony convictions, five prison sentences, and his path to drug addiction and personal turmoil. The film will end with his new life as an outreach pastor at Road to Life Church’s Michigan City campus who ministers to inmates at Westville Correctional Center.

Redeemed (status unknown)

Redeemed

Status currently unknown

Writer: Ty Manns, Monice Mitchell, Jacqueline D. Moore

Director: Ty Manns

Producer: Vickie Adams, Joel M. Gonzales, Bishop Charles Mackie, Ty Manns, Jackie Moore, Kevan Otto, Pejman Partiyeli, Brandon Riley, Tim Warren

Starring: Keshia Knight Pulliam, Jeff Rose, T.C. Stallings, Eaddy Mays, Roshawn Franklin, Shannen Fields, Karen Valero, Cameron Arnett, Ty Manns, Nereida Velazquez, Johann Mikaiel, Shari Dyon Perry, Deetta West, Joel M. Gonzales, Thom Scott II, Jef Holbrook, Mayra Nuñez, Ole Goode, Bishop Charles Mackie, N’dia-Marrie Farr-Cannon, Sara Lynn Herman, Will Oliver, Sam Beman

Plot Summary: After becoming the youngest female, minority judge elevated to the bench in her state, Angela Sylvester quickly finds herself trapped into a ‘Kids for Pay’ prison scam orchestrated by her boss, Judge Cynthia Paulino. Fearing her legal career and dream of becoming a federal judge is over, she struggles and her career spirals out of control. Afraid, she takes the advice of a close friend and turns to her faith to find the strength needed to redeem herself of the crimes committed.

Chasing Grace [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The wounds between two brothers are only deepened on one tragic day when the daughter of one of them is tragically killed in an avoidable accident.  The brothers and their families are immediately divided by hate and grief, which sends all of the family members spiraling and searching for answers in all the wrong places.  Secrets are kept and vices are sought, and the only way out is through confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  Will they return to the faith their profess with these actions?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It is clear that a lot of time went into making this production, as most elements are fairly professional.  Camera work is mostly good except for some inconsistently shaky moments.  Video quality is on standard, but sometimes there is some randomly poorly-lit scenes.  Audio quality is fine and the soundtrack is intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props are all realistic and appropriate.  The editing is okay, but there are some confusing cuts and transitions and isolate the story.  But overall, these are all minor errors and the production as a whole meets industry standards.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Chasing Grace depicts a very interesting story, even if it is too slow to develop.  It contains many realistic circumstances and accessible struggles, but it also has a lot of dead sequences that don’t hold the attention.  There are a lot of long and drawn out conversations, but the characters are fairly well-developed.  Yet there are too many under-developed and vague subplots due to a confusing and disorienting presentation of events that includes unnecessarily missing gaps of time.  Family problems are given a fair look, but many of the problems presented are fixed far too easily and in ways that would never work in real life.  The Christian message is good, though there are some moments of melodrama.  Overall, this is a really good plot effort, especially in developing the characters, but as usual, we strongly feel like it could have been more.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

This is a highly professional casting job and lends the best elements to this film, as each actor and actress is cast appropriately and coaching well.  Even Rusty Martin Jr. posts a good performance.  There are only some minor errors among this cast, mostly of slightly overdone emotions.  Otherwise, this is a job well done.

Conclusion

Chasing Grace joins the ranks of middle-ground Christian films that stand out in the market due to their successful attempts at creating quality films.  However, it has a handful of small issues that hold it back from being all that it could be.  A character-driven story needs deep characters and a seamless plot that flows without confusion.  This is certainly difficult to pull off, especially when you have a lot of other elements to think about, but it is definitely possible and worth it in the end.  Films like this one are something to build off of for the future, so it will be interesting to see what the Catalyst team has planned next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Slamma Jamma (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Michael Diggs was a college basketball star before he was dragged into a crime and framed for the murder.  After spending six years in prison, he has come back home to find his brother wayward and his mother in poor health.  His former girlfriend has also moved on.  Thus, Michael sets out to make an honest living and try to put his family back together, but he meets a group of street basketball players who convince him to try out for a slam dunk competition.  Michael decides to go for it, especially when a crisis hits home that forces him to rely on his faith to make it through.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In a shocking break from Timothy Chey’s past production disasters, Slamma Jamma, though less funded that train wrecks like Final: The Rapture or David and Goliath, is on par with industry standards.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all professional.  The soundtrack is effective, though it is sometimes too in-your-face.  Sets, locations, and props are highly realistic.  The only real issue holding this production back is the terrible editing.  There are too many disconnected scenes and sequences that make for a very choppy viewing experience.  Sometimes scenes abruptly and unnecessarily transition to another, even if it seems unfinished.  Needless to say, some editing kinks still need to be worked out, but this is a huge improvement for Chey and makes us wonder how this even happened, given his history.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Slamma Jamma is a typical marketable true story sports plot where all of the characters fit into perfect molds and follow predictable trajectories.  While this is a pedestrian idea for the market, it is an extreme departure for Chey, which suggests a need for funding.  Gone are constant bizarre and manic references to Chey’s wacky worldview as they are replaced with stereotypical inspirational sports constructs.  However, it is an interesting and engaging true story, even though its large amount of content is crammed into a confining runtime that likely does not do the original story justice.  While the characters are somewhat accessible, they are not developed enough as time speeds by.  The whole storyline is too neat and pre-planned, which is completely uncharacteristic of Chey.  But hey, everybody’s gotta start somewhere.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Unlike past psychotic casts (see Suing the Devil), this cast is actually semi-professional and seems to know what they are doing.  Some acting coaching is present, even though there are still a handful of very over-acted sequences.  But on the whole, emotional and line delivery are very respectable.  One thing is for sure: you never know what’s going to happen next with Chey.

Conclusion

When compared to past Chey works, Slamma Jamma is a major improvement, which shows just how bad it was for him at one point.  Now he needs to move away from market predictability and flex those creative muscles he claims to have.  It’s time to do something different, only the right way, and without blowing millions of dollars on north African field trips.  If Chey can harness his creativity responsibility, mute his worldview, and surround himself with a good team as he did in Slamma Jamma, he might become the most surprising film maker yet.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Alison’s Choice (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Alison is young and pregnant and she has no idea what to do.  Her boyfriend Rick is pressuring her to ‘take care of it’, so she drives herself to the abortion clinic and tries to go through with it, even though she is not sure.  As she continues to go back and forth in her decision, she meets a mysterious janitor who seems to know everything about her.  He tries to convince her not to end her baby’s life, but Alison is still torn.  As the clock ticks down, will she be able to make the right decision before time runs out?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The good thing about Alison’s Choice is that the production quality is nearly flawless.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all very professional.  However, the soundtrack is somewhat typical.  Though the film is limited to basically one set and location, it is utilized well and the props therein are realistic and appropriate.  Really the only production problems to point out pertain to editing, as there are too many wasted scenes and sequences included and too many long scenes.  But despite this fact, it is very clear that great care was taken to make this production excellent.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the rest of this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

We went into Alison’s Choice with an open mind—we really did.  We still really love the idea behind this film, which keeps this portion from being zero or worse.  Yet this is one of the most horribly wasted ideas on the face of the earth.  Much like David A. R. White and Kirk Cameron, Bruce Marchiano’s movie making style has no respect for subtlety, as everything must be plainly spelled out in black and white without trusting the audience to figure things out on their own.  The Jesus character must be obviously highlighted through dialogue, and other dialogue elements are also extremely forceful.  There is nothing to do in this story except have characters talk (there’s nothing inherently wrong with this if it’s done correctly), but the conversations in this film contain some of the most bizarre insinuations and comments that make for an extremely unusual experience.  There are overt racial stereotypes and borderline racist jokes, not to mention weird comments about biology.  The portrayal of pro-abortion characters is largely strawman and downright embarrassing.  As the conversations meander on and weird things continue happening, Alison’s Choice really just boils down to a cringeworthy portrayal of the pro-life argument combined with a wasted idea.  It’s such a disappointment.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Some of these cast members could be good actors and actresses if they had coaching.  As it is, most of the cast members act like they have been instructed to ad-lib and ramble on in order to fill time.  It’s very hard to believe that some of the sequences of dialogue were actually written as the actors and actresses appear to strain for something to say.  Most of them are either extremely awkward or very over the top, including some laughable racial stereotypes.  In short, there is nothing in this film done subtly or tastefully.

Conclusion

It feels like Alison’s Choice is the Twilight Zone.  There are so many out of place and unnecessary commentaries, besides the ramblings of Bruce Marchiano and other cast members.  This film is essentially another version of The Encounter, just more disappointing.  Marchiano and his team get high marks for production effort, but they completely lost out on the rest of the movie.  This story needed a total rewrite before it was allowed to film, to ensure that this idea was not wasted.  The cast members also needed coaching and refinement.  Though we have been accused of personal attacks in the past and though some lives have been changed as a result of this film, we cannot help but feel that Marchiano’s ego is the thing that keeps Alison’s Choice from being all that it can be.  This is unfortunate, for there was an opportunity for a blockbuster film here.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points