Summer of ’67 (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In the years of the Vietnam War, families faced many different unique challenges posed by the international conflict.  Milly and Gerald have recently been married, but they have been forced to live with Gerald’s eccentric mother due to financial challenges.  Milly’s sister Kate is torn between the pro-war and anti-war efforts due to her mother’s past suicide.  When Gerald and Kate’s on-and-off boyfriend Peter are called to the war front for various reasons, Milly and Kate must both live with Gerald’s eccentric mother Joanna as the world around them seems to be falling apart.  Together, they must rekindle the faith they were always taught in order to make it through.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Sharon and Fred Wilharm of Mainstreet Productions have always had a commitment to building authentic productions.  Summer of ’67 is no exception, as they demonstrate a clear attention to specific historical detail in the props, sets, and locations.  Video quality and camera work are also quite professional.  Audio quality is mostly fine as well, although the soundtrack can sometimes be too loud and somewhat out of place.  As they are still transitioning from making silent films, some adjustments like this can be expected.  Also, the editing can be a bit choppy at times, which can cause the story presentation to be confusing.  Overall, with just a few more tweaks, the Wilharms are very close to mastering professional productions, especially those in need of historical authenticity.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, as Mainstreet Productions used to only make silent films, the plot of Summer of ’67 is not really what it could be.  It comes off as a loose collection of ideas that need better synthesis and organization.  The good thing is that the story does unfold without narration, but some of the dialogue is slightly expository.  Outside of a few interesting conversations, unfortunately, the dialogue does not do enough to build the characters as people.  Some scenes are too short and not explained very well, and time seems to jump from one thing to the next without very clear coherency or organization.  Thus, a lot of the characters come off as shallow, even though they have potential, and a lot of story ideas seem unfinished.  While the ending is very interesting and realistic, the lead-up is not quite enough to hold the attention of the audience.  Overall, it’s clear that the Wilharms really care about trying to making great films; they are just not quite there yet in the plot department.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Another adjustment from making silent films is obviously going to be acting coaching.  While this cast is mostly fine and has a lot of potential, there are one too many scenes where the cast members don’t appear to know what they are doing.  Some of the acting is too stilted and robotic in both line and emotional delivery.  As a good note, this might be Mimi Sagadin’s best role, but she needed a bit more screen time than she was given.  On the whole, this section is mostly average.

Conclusion

We know that the Wilharms really do mean well in their films, and the historical authenticity of this production has great value.  It’s definitely going to be an adjustment to move from silent to non-silent films, so growing pains are to be expected.  However, since the Wilharms have always been committed to improving however they can, we believe that Summer of ’67 is something that can be built off of for future improvement.  Perhaps next time, if a more substantial plot is crafted, the next Mainstreet film could be Hall of Fame.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

A Christmas Snow (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Kathleen hates Christmas and thus likes to make her restaurant staff work all the time on the holidays.  But she likes Andrew, so she decides to help watch his Christmas-loving (and slightly obnoxious) daughter, Lucy, while he completes a business trip before the holiday.  So when Kathleen and Lucy get snowed in with a random guy who saved Kathleen from some hoodlums in a parking lot, Kathleen thinks her life is over, especially when they are forced to play board games that remind her of her parents.  Will they ever be able to make it through the day?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The good thing about this film is that is has high production quality.  Tracy Trost and her team are usually committed to this, and it shows again in A Christmas Snow.  The positive elements include good video quality and camera work, as well as adequate audio quality and an okay soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are fine and are mostly utilized well.  There are really no glaring errors to note here.  There are just some small issues pertaining to some choppy cuts and transitions, but this is not enough to derail the production.  On the whole, this is an applaudable effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the plot of this film.  It is based on a stereotypical holiday-hating-character-is-forced-to-like-the-holidays-because-of-some-outside-event plot sequence.  It would be one thing if the characters were fine, since this is a character-based plot, but that is not the case here.  The main character in particular is quite obnoxious, as are some of the supporting characters.  This is mostly due to absurd dialogue and ridiculously forced comedy, such as statements like ‘chickatarian.’  There is really nothing creative about this story as it depicts a collection of random characters stuck in a house during the holidays again.  While there are some attempts to use flashbacks to build the characters, they fall flat.  The character arcs are far too steep, and the Christian message is too vague.  Unfortunately, this is a swing and a miss.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

For a majority of the film, the lead actress and the child actress of this film are quite annoying, in keeping with the characters they play.  This is demonstrated through forceful emotions and stiff line delivery.  They are clearly trying too hard, while other cast members just come off as off-beat.  Needless to say, this movie will be remembered for the wrong reasons.

Conclusion

There was a good idea behind this movie, this much must be noted.  Trying to develop a grumpy character through establishing flashbacks can be a great way to present a nice holiday story, but A Christmas Snow does it all wrong.  Unfortunately, although the production was good in this film, it was wasted on a poorly written story and off-putting acting.  Maybe next time, Tracy Trost and her team will improve upon their past films.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Home Run [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cory Brand is a seemingly successful baseball player, but he has an anger problem on the field and an addiction problem off the field.  Following the advice of his agent, he decides to return to his hometown to reconcile with painful memories of the past.  As a part of the deal, his agent signs him up for an addiction counseling group at a local church in order to work through his issues.  Cory’s brother, still a resident of the hometown, takes him under his wing to help him, but Cory doesn’t want any help.  He shuns all help until he is forced to come face to face with the choices he has made and people he has hurt.  He must deal with his personal hurt and learn to love again if he expects to change his ways.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Home Run is produced fairly well, especially where the camera work is concerned.  The video is clear, but some of the shots are awkward.  The editing is confusing and it seems like there is a lot of unnecessary content in the film.  The flashbacks put a strain on the film, although flashbacks are usually a positive aspect to assist the film.  However, in Home Run, they are accompanied by annoying flashes that isolate the audience.  While the audio quality is good, the soundtrack is uninspiring. In short, the production of Home Run is a nice try, but not good enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

For starters, it is commendable to make a movie dealing with the troubled personal lives of athletes, along with highlighting addiction issues in popular culture.  The counseling aspect is interesting and the gospel message is well-communicated, but it also seems like an advertisement for Celebrate Recovery.  Outside of this, there is not much good to say.  As previously mentioned, the flashbacks are an interesting touch to give background to Cory’s character, but they are not done well and seem to repeat too much.  There are too many characters that are not well-developed; some characters are so vague that they are easily confused with other ones.  The dialogue is lackluster and contains unnecessary profanity.  Most of the subplot conclusions are hard to understand.  In short, Home Run was an interesting idea that never materialized.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

There is a severe absence of acting coaching in this film.  The acting is not glaringly bad, but there is little positive to bring up about it.  A lot of the delivery is forced and the emotions are not believable.  It seems like this movie would have been better with better acting.

Conclusion

Alcohol addiction is an uncomfortable topic that needs to be dealt with appropriately on the big screen, especially from a Christian perspective.  Proper counseling also needs to be portrayed as necessary for people from all walks of life.  Home Run attempts to do all of these things, but their attempts fall short.  It seems like they forced this movie to happen for the sake of the issues, but the only thing that happened was just another forgettable film with a Christian tag on it.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points