Producer(s): Brent Ryan Green, Ben Laurro, Kim Percival, Michael Scott, David A. R. White, Anna Zielinski
Starring: David A. R. White, William Forsythe, Isaiah Washington, Antonio Sabato Jr., Jeanine Pirro, Amanda Jaros, Paul Kwo, Francesa Battistelli, Matt Anspach, Marco Khan, Benjamin A. Onyango, Hadeel Sittu, Deborah Tucker, Lena Harmon, Anna Zielinski, Vincent De Paul, Nancy Harding, Gary Galone, Christian Stokes, Dani Oliveros, Leticia Robles, Grayson Palumbo, Benét Embry, Tatum Hatfield, Victor Caballero
Plot Synopsis: When an evil government official inspects a homeschooling family and tries to shut down the home learning operation, Pastor Dave (along with some lawyers) is ready to take the fight to highest court in the land! Liberty and religious freedom (as well as PureFlix’s future finances) are on the line, so there’s a lot resting on this fictional court drama that will inevitably feature a Fox News anchor. Will PureFlix be able to successfully use the fourth installment of a half-baked franchise to revitalize their business model?
Tommy Blaze Beverly is running out of money, and his constant hustles for quick cash aren’t yielding what he needs to fund his extravagant California lifestyle. Thus, when he sees a news story about foster girls in need, he jumps at the chance to make some extra money by becoming an instant foster parent basically overnight. Thankfully, his racially stereotyped butler and personal assistant are always there to meet Tommy’s beck and call, and the foster girls basically turn his house into a giant dance studio designed to hold daily auditions for the next Disney role. What could go wrong?
Production Quality (1 point) In keeping with PureFlix’s typical sitcom elements, the first season of The Beverlys is complete with a constant laugh track, an annoying soundtrack, and the same old sets, locations, and props. While some production elements, such as video quality, audio quality, and camera work, are fine, these limiting factors put a damper on whatever small potential it had. The editing is also littered with stock footage and corny transitions between scenes. Thus, this section only warrants a point, but this is just the tip of this season’s iceberg of problems.
Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points) Essentially, The Beverlys appears to be designed as PureFlix’s own version of the Disney Channel. Its first season is full of mindless conversations, dance sequences, and cheesy so-called comedy routines that are all funny for the wrong reasons. This doesn’t even mention the constant stream of extremely forced comedic diatribes and painfully shoe-horned Christian messaging. What makes matters worse is that the storylines are not only pointless but that the dialogue is littered with cringe-worthy racial stereotyping, which causes this section to be negative. Besides this, the characters are very over the top and empty at the same time. The fact that stupid antidotes are forced on the viewer just after the audience sees thinly veiled racism is very disingenuous and offensive. Further, the premise of each episode is utterly pointless, and there’s nothing good going for this season, which is why the derogatory elements overcome this section to make it negative.
Acting Quality (-2 points) Tommy Blaze departs from his usual corny performances to post a collection that’s in-your-face, bombastic, and annoyingly over the top. Most of the other cast members in this tiny cast are also trying way too hard as many emotions are basically screamed (or sang) at the audience. Line delivery is also very strained and forced. There is very little good to speak of, and the bad greatly outweighs anything positive, which is why this section also warrants negative points.
Continuity Quality (0 points) The eight episodes of this first season are all literally the same thing over and over again. They all take the same page from the sitcom playbook and find different ways to package it: some silly escapade or scheme entangles the characters, and they have less than half an hour to quickly resolve it and prepare for the next round. This time, however, it’s just done with a Bible thought spin. Therefore, this copy-and-paste model of episode writing warrants no points for this section, which rounds out an overall embarrassing effort.
Another month, another pointless PureFlix original series. For some reason, the PureFlix executives are intent on spending their funds on throwaway concepts like The Beverlys. It’s unlikely they are getting any type of return from this kind of bizarre Blaze pet project, so why make it? It just further adds to the nonsense littering PureFlix’s checkered past and contributes to the already tenuous perception of Christian entertainment. Hopefully, however, things are beginning to look up outside of the PureFlix realm.
Jessica ran away from home as a teenager after she did something she would regret forever, but now, after living with an abusive boyfriend for several years, she finds herself running back home for help. However, when she arrives on the farm she once lived on, she finds that all is not well nor how she left it. As she struggles to begin a new life, she discovers that she will need to return to her childhood faith in order to move forward.
Production Quality (2.5 points)
As should be the case for all recently-made Christian films, Christmas Manger demonstrates high production quality, as evidenced by good video quality and camera work. Though the audio can be quiet at times due to not having enough soundtrack, the sets, locations, and props are adequately used and well-constructed. Besides a few one-off lighting issues in some scenes, which may be by design, the editing is good, which rounds out a great production that we should see become more and more commonplace as we move into a new year of Christian film.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
Andrea Gyertson Nasfell has always been good at writing plots that portray real and accessible characters in believable life situations. This is paired with dialogue that is mostly good at building character personality and motive, but we really needed to see a bit more from the conversations among the characters in order to develop them a bit further since this is a highly character-based plot. While there are some great character back stories, flashbacks would have been helpful to enhance them. However, this return-to-hometown for Christmas plot does a great job with avoiding most of the cliches that come with this genre, and it’s a more meaningful Christmas movie than usual, even if the story is a bit simplistic. As a whole, this is an enjoyable story with no glaring errors but nothing truly dynamic either.
Acting Quality (2.5 points)
This film also has surprisingly good acting, including Andrea Logan White’s arguably best performance to date as she excels at playing herself. Other cast members are also effective and comfortable in their roles, even if a few random cast members tend to put a damper on things to keep this section from being perfect. In the end, however, this is a professional acting job to round out a professional and adequate film.
Films like Christmas Manger should be the norm and the baselines in Christian film (especially Christmas movies) rather than the exception. Hopefully, as we close out another year of Christian entertainment, we are beginning to see more of this, which will presumably lead to more dynamic and groundbreaking films from Christian creators. Movies like this one was a good launching pad to begin with, so it will be good to see Andrea Nasfell continue to release quality content that is memorable and culture-changing.
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.
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.
Bart Millard always loved to sing, but he grew up in a broken home. His mother left while he was young, and his father beat him and told him he would never amount to much. When Bart failed high school football due to injuries, he and his father spent as little time around each other as possible. Out of this, Bart began singing in high school plays and was told that he had a special talent for the stage. This led Bart to pursue a career in Christian music, but life on the road was hard. When he was forced to make a pivotal decision at a crossroads in his career, Bart was finally faced with having to go back to reconcile with the person he came to hate the most: his father.
Production Quality (3 points)
What else can be said about the talent of the Erwin Brothers at this point? They have clearly mastered production quality, especially when it comes to historical epics. The attention to detail in I Can Only Imagine is exquisite. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are flawless. With Brent McCorkle involved, the soundtrack is always going to be a hit. Sets, locations, and props in I Can Only Imagine are excellent and demonstrate wonderful historical authenticity. This content-packed epic is edited nearly to perfection. In short, it’s rare to have a perfect production, but the Erwin Brothers are still schooling the industry in how it’s done.
Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)
Naturally following their epic film Woodlawn, the Erwin Brothers seem to have found a niche in biopics. The story of Bart Millard is one that is absolutely worth being told, especially since so many people are familiar with MercyMe and their original breakout hit single, which is the title of this film. What some audiences may not expect is the profound and timely message this film has to offer. This film is more than just another inspirational film to grab cash from a willing audience. In typical Erwin fashion, I Can Only Imagine is the film the western church needs now. Besides this, the characters are very realistic, authentic, and easy to access via believable dialogue and back stories. Each character is flawed and gray rather than black and white. There are really no errors to point out here as the Erwins have masterfully captured another poignant true story in the context of film.
Acting Quality (3 points)
The Masters of Casting did their homework once again in crafting a cast that was true-to-life to the real people behind the story. Each actor and actress is cast appropriately and assume their roles very well. Costuming is excellent and correct for the time period. Dennis Quaid likely posts one of the performances of the year as a very complex three-part role. In the end, there are little to no errors to raise about this film, which has become the norm of the Erwin brand.
I Can Only Imagine receives an x-factor point for presenting an extremely important issue in a realistic way. Audiences will flock to this film on the basis of its title recognition alone, but many will receive a message they least expected, yet one that the church as a whole desperately needs. Many, many Christians and those associated with the church are running from parts of their lives that are broken and are not always their fault because they do not know how to deal with them. I Can Only Imagine brings this paradigm to front and center at a time when the message of redemption for broken families needs to be heard. Also, in keeping with their perfect record, the Erwins have notched another one on the Hall of Fame and have possibly taken the top spot of Christian film.
Travis Freeman is a popular and upstanding high school football player who everyone in the small town of Corbin looks up to. However, when tragedy strikes him and leaves him suddenly blind, he loses his purpose in life and retreats into seclusion. He gives up on life and his parents are a loss as to what to do until his mobility coach breaks through his protective walls and lights a fire under him to get back up and find his new purpose in life. With the high school football team struggling to find identity and success, the coach decides to put in Travis as center in the hopes that the whole team will rally around him and save their season.
Production Quality (2.5 points)
23 Blast has a respectable production with only small errors. Video quality is professional and camera work is great, especially in the sports action scenes. Audio quality is fine, even if the soundtrack is a bit pedestrian. Sets, locations, and props are realistic and authentic. There is little negative to point out here except for some slightly poor editing that allows confusing leaps in time to hurt this film. But otherwise, this is a professional effort that we don’t see enough of in Christian film.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)
Though 23 Blast presents an interesting story that contains honest characters, it commits a huge error by crafting a very rapid progression of events that keeps this plot from being all that it could be. Massive time jumps leave too many unanswered questions and stunt characters and plot development. There are too many vague ideas that are not well explained and there are typical sports montages, along with other predictable sports elements. There are some moments of dry comedy, but we would really have liked to get to know these characters better through deeper dialogue and more personality-forming circumstances. It’s a shame this plot could have been better because it’s a good story. Even so, it’s probably still worth a watch.
Acting Quality (2 points)
Though this cast is only semi-professional, they post some good performances. Blind acting is difficult, yet one of the cast members pulls this off well. Though sometimes lines are mumbled, emotions are mostly believable. This is another respectable effort.
23 Blast is an enjoyable sports film that many audiences will find interesting and fun to watch. Though there are some plot issues, the production and the acting are good enough to make this film fine on the surface. It’s always frustrating to see a story that does not reach its full potential, but this movie shows that this creative team can do greater things in the future, so we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.