Life With Dog (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Joe Bigler wants to shut the world out after his wife died a tragic death. However, his daughter won’t leave him alone, the bank wants him to pay his mortgage, and a big company is threatening to turn his neighborhood into a housing development, which prompts them to constantly offer to buy his house. Nonetheless, when a stray dog takes up residence with Joe, his life begins to take a different trajectory. Will he finally be able to make peace with his past and move on with his life?

Production Quality (2 points)

As is the typical custom of Corbin Bernsen and his team, Life With Dog sports a respectable production, including good video and audio qualities along with professional usage of sets, locations, and props. There are really no concerns to note save for the randomly poor lighting and the inconsistent application of editing. Also, the soundtrack is a bit off since it sometimes doesn’t fit the moods of scenes, but as can be seen in the remainder of the film, much of the oddness seems purposeful.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Life With Dog is a capstone of Corbin Bernsen’s erratic and unusual Christian entertainment career because it’s the ultimate encapsulation of everything he’s ever done. Not only does this film boast the typically odd elements he inserts into movies, but it carries an inexplicably unusual tone that can’t be easily quantified. Some example of this intangible bizzareness are evidenced by some actually interesting scenes that appear to make fun of cliched film tropes, some subtle asides that range from eyebrow-raising to borderline inappropriate, and a tendency for the dialogue to frustratingly meander among some actually pertinent topics that need to be discussed, some complex philosophical concepts that are difficult to grasp, and a constant itching feeling that the narrative is hiding some deep secret that’s never to be revealed. Besides this, there are logical inconsistencies in the writing, such as the fact that the main character is seemingly able to do whatever he wants with little to no consequences for his sometimes questionable actions and the fact that there are too many coincidences that allow the plot to exist. Though there are many half-hearted attempts (we suppose) to do something meaningful in the story, like provide an accessible character exploration, nothing specifically significant materializes and is instead left as an unfinished, off-the-wall idea. The climax scene is probably the best example of the entire film in a nutshell because it pretends to keep building to something real but never gets there and only leaves the viewer with something that’s both vaguely significant and head-scratchingly odd, as if the storyline was purposely written to dangle hidden things in front of the audience without actually revealing their true natures. In the end, though there is some potential in this chaos, it’s not enough to keep this movie above water.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Much like other Home Theater films, the acting of Life With Dog is fine without many noticeable errors. Though there are some overdone emotions are certain moments, the cast members’ line deliveries are consistently on point. Also, each individual appears to assume their roles well. Thus, this rounds out a slightly below average effort.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, Bernsen’s career is marked with wasted potential (Christian Mingle, In-Lawfully Yours, 25 Hill, to name a few), and it’s unclear whether or not he ever intends to change. It seems like he’s always striving to make the next great iconic Christian film but consistently falls short due to intangible oddness. The worst part is that he clearly has the connections and the resources to do better than he is, yet he usually comes up short as he settles for second best. Perhaps, in future projects, he will finally unleash his full skill set and collaborate with others who can make up for his shortcomings.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

MBF: Man's Best Friend (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Paul Landings retired from the military after a disability prevented his further service, so now he works at a dog shelter and takes in dogs who have no homes. However, his practices draw ire from locals, and several troublemakers set fire to his house with the dogs still in it. Affected by PTSD, Landings commits a crime in revenge for his dogs and finds himself embroiled in a lawsuit charged with local politics. Will he be able to be set free from the bondage both in his head and in his life?

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the production of Man’s Best Friend is respectable, including good video, camera, and audio qualities. While the sets, locations, and props are mostly well-chosen, there is some inconsistent lighting in the indoor sets. However, the outside locations are better, and these issues overall improve as the film progresses. Elsewhere, the soundtrack is acceptable, and the editing is a bit odd at types although it is mostly fine. In the end, this is an above average production that could have been a little better due to the year it was made.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The opening sequences of MBF are a bit of a drag for the viewer since they are drawn out and full of stock footage and vague voiceover that both isolates the audience and wastes valuable time. However, once it gets to the substantial parts of the plot, there are actually some good explorations of how warfare effects people after the military and how one’s life can be greatly altered by the service. Nonetheless, there are a number of problems in this narrative’s character department, beginning with the fact that most of the ‘bad’ characters are total strawmen who hate the main character for no particular reason, are unrealistically anti-military, and are generally annoying. At the same time, the military characters are painted in perfect lights as they create a very odd dichotomy that tries to force the viewer to choose between the importance of a paralyzed character’s life and the lives of dogs that died in a fire. There are either perfect victim characters (though it’s not clear how some of them are actually victims) or highly corrupt small town characters, which is likely realistic in many contexts but is too over the top for this situation. Moreover, the storyline provides both a realistic look at post-war trauma and a hard examination of corruption in small towns, but many audiences may find the premise to be a bit dark and without significant hope or redemption. Elsewhere, the judge seems unnecessarily biased toward the protagonist, and some of the characters attempt to nearly justify the paralysis-inducing crime that is on trial. Dialogue is inconsistently used for information dumps, and a lot of the characters feel unfinished as they tend to crowd each other out for screen time. Also, there is some inappropriate language throughout the plot, and the ending is a bit hard to follow. Overall, much like this creative team’s previous efforts at crafting complex suspense situations (Wild Faith), MBF tries to interest the viewer in legal intrigue mixed with military drama, but there are just too many issues with this concept to justify any points for this section.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While many of the cast members of MBF tend to force their lines and their emotional deliveries in the beginning, the performances as a whole improve as the film progress. The most significantly positive aspect is the fact that DJ Perry posts an extremely memorable and groundbreaking performance as he becomes a character unlike any other he’s previously played and transforms himself for a very difficult role. This element is very impressive and is one of the main bright spots in this otherwise flawed project. Thus, this rounds out an overall above average acting effort that could have been slightly better.

Conclusion

Man’s Best Friend, like many of this creative team’s past projects, had a lot going for it, but it didn’t quite make it past the finish line. Perry, Hagedorn, Teaster, Hornus, and the rest had a lot of momentum following Wild Faith and The Christ Slayer, but MBF tends to blunt this success with its confusing messaging and dark focus. However, Perry’s breakout performance is a key bright spot that gives renewed hope for the future, so it will be interesting to see what this collective produces next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Home Sweet Home [2020] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

What Victoria mostly cares about in life is going from one relationship to the next so that she can be whoever she wants to be without having too much commitment. However, when one of her attempts to get a guy’s attention doesn’t quite go as she planned, she stubbornly decides to do whatever it takes to make him ask her out. Thus, she volunteers at the non-profit her prospect, Jason, heads up and finds herself suddenly building a house for a single mother and her family. Little does Victoria know that she’s about to gain a surprisingly new perspective on life that she never considered before.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a whole, Home Sweet Home is a near-perfect example of what a 2020 production should look like for freshman Christian film makers. Not only did they wisely use their budget without over-extending themselves, but they also made sure that key production elements demonstrated good quality, such as video, camera, audio, and music work. The sets, locations, and props are also efficiently used, and overall, there are really no negatives to highlight here save for some minor editing concerns. However, some of these issues can be attributed to the plot; in the end, this is a very solid production effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

From the get-go of this plot, it’s very clear that the writers were inspired by very strong and worthwhile themes of people living behind false exteriors versus being comfortable with who God created them to be. Also, Home Sweet Home isn’t afraid to shine a light on fake romantic relationships that may exist in a Hallmark view of the world as well as the ease of finding identity in “scoring” relationships in the Western world. In doing so, the creators gave a lot of attention to detail to produce a truly funny comedy based on mostly good dialogue. However, while many of the characters are spot-on, some of them, such as the male lead, leave a lot to be desired in the personality and motivation departments because it’s hard to get to know him as a person. Elsewhere, secondary characters and subplots could have been a bit deeper than they are had they been provided with more adequate screentime. To make room for them, some romantic comedy cliches, such as the returning ex-love interest, could have been cut out. In the end, even though the narrative follows a basically predictable progression toward a somewhat forced and convenient ending, Home Sweet Home demonstrates tons of potential for future projects because the writers clearly know how to properly integrate themes into their stories.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Despite the small cast, there are not many acting problems to note in this film. One of the biggest drawbacks, however, is the lack of adequate coaching for the lead actor as he seems lost a lot of the time, but then again, his role isn’t very expansive. Elsewhere, Natasha Bure posts an above-average performance while Sarah Kim is also a standout. In the end, like the movie as a whole, there are just small problems that hold this section back from taking the next step.

Conclusion

The 5×5 Productions team is clearly onto something with this unexpectedly refreshing release. With just a few minor tweaks, Home Sweet Home would have easily made the Hall of Fame. Nonetheless, the themes of this film make it worth your time and give us great hope for the future of this creative team’s work. With a bit more funding and collaboration, they could be going great places with their next project.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

The Least of These: A Christmas Story (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Rose and Katie have been homeless ever since escaping from an abusive relationship, and Rose struggles to make ends meet for her and her daughter. Working as a waitress at a local diner causes her to cross paths with Charlie, who acts as a Salvation Army Santa Claus just outside the restaurant. However, while their friendship gets off to a rocky start, Charlie feels like God wants him and his wife to reach out to the single mother who’s fallen on hard times. Together, they all discover what it truly means to help the needy at Christmastime.

Production Quality (2 points)

The production of The Least of These starts out a bit rough with some cheap sets, props, and locations as well as some inconsistent lighting. There are also some awkward cuts, fade-outs, and slight continuity errors in the beginning. However, the production does improve as it goes, which suggests a positive change of direction. This includes demonstrating good camera work and video quality throughout. Also, the audio quality is great, including a well-constructed soundtrack. Further, all other elements that were previously below par show marked improvement by the film’s conclusion, which helps this section get over the average mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

From the beginning of the narrative, The Least of These takes a rare look at little-considered Christmas themes like the connection between the concept of Santa giving gifts to good children and following a works-based religion. Neither of these ideals holds up when someone is homeless due to fleeing an abusive situation. Elsewhere, the writers put forth realistic attempts to present some problems there are with traditional Christmas ideas while at the same time showing the authentic struggles of real people. This includes giving actual attention to detail of how the working homeless population functions on a daily basis and of how Christians can practically assist them if God prompts them to do so. As a whole, the plot feels like it’s based on real happenings of real people, and the dialogue definitely aids this pursuit. However, the storyline isn’t without its flaws; it can be a bit slow at times, and it struggles to hold the audience’s attention. Though the story is definitely trying to be real, some scenes feel like unnecessary filler, and the ending is basically typical. Also, the Christian message can be a bit muted at times, even though this isn’t always bad. In the end, this screenplay shows tons of potential for future projects, especially character-based explorations, so it will be interesting see what a little collaboration can do for this creative team.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As a whole, the acting isn’t bad at all as many of the cast members appear to be really striving to do their best in assuming the roles of the characters. While they are not always dynamic in their performances, they are mostly professionals and do well enough in emotional portrayals and line delivery. Moreover, this section is kept from being perfect by some isolated scenes where the acting is very awkward and some makeup that is a bit crazy a times. Nonetheless, this section rounds out a commendable and honest effort, which is all we ever ask for.

Conclusion

For future projects, this creative team would definitely benefit from further collaboration to enhance their talents. Also, creating a series may be a better way to showcase their characters and to more efficiently use their budget. In summary, The Least of These is an average movie

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Fat Chance [2016] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Allison has always struggled with her weight, but she doesn’t know what to do to change herself. She feels ostracized by other people, and when she feels like she might be interested in a guy from her church group, she feels like she has no chance due to her image. Thus, she decides she needs to find love on the internet…by using her roommate’s picture on her online dating profile. However, things don’t go as she originally planned them to go, and everyone learns a hard lesson about self-esteem and being themselves.

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, Fat Chance has a fine production, including good video and audio quality. The soundtrack is intriguing, but some of the camera angles are a bit odd at times. Similarly, lighting is good throughout even if the sets, locations, and props are a bit limited. Even still, they are mostly used well, and the editing is adequate. In the end, this is essentially an above average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Fat Chance definitely isn’t afraid to explore some very relevant body image issues, but this film may not have gone about it in the best way. This is a difficult topic to tastefully portray in a movie, and some of the attempts to highlight the weight of the main character are questionable at best. There are also quite a few distasteful jokes about being overweight, but there are also some other areas of comedy that are actually somewhat funny because they poke fun of silly societal trends. Elsewhere, the writers definitely had some good intentions with character development (since the characters are intended to be based on real people), yet there are also some very poorly designed “bad” characters who are basically really obvious strawmen. However, the dialogue throughout the film is pretty good despite the somewhat strong messaging, and these worldviews are agreeable since they explore important topics of how people paint themselves on social media, how some Christians act fake, and how it’s better to be yourself. In a similar vein, while Fat Chance also includes a lot of typical dating service plot elements (two characters are virtually dating and know each other in real life but don’t know that the other one is the virtual date), it does present a realistic parody of the problems these services can cause. In the end, this storyline is a mixed bag of missed opportunities and potential for the future. With deeper characters and subtler messaging, this plot could have gone a lot further.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Despite having a partially “amateur” cast, Fat Chance has a handful of bright spots among its cast members. Many of them definitely make good attempts to become the characters, and while some are a bit awkward at times, they are mostly good at exhibiting emotions and delivering lines. Thus, this rounds out a basically average effort.

Conclusion

More Christian movies and series need to explore the unpopular opinions and topics found in Fat Chance, but there are obviously better ways to go about this particular concept. Self-worth and self image are both important and sensitive issues to look at, which is why they must be done in consultation with people who have struggled with them and in conjunction with the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the creators of this film demonstrated potential for the future by making Fat Chance, so it will be interesting to see how they build off of this movie in their potentially upcoming projects.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Tapestry [2019] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Ryan’s family is already in turmoil before he loses his job, so after he’s fired, things begin to unravel even more. His mother, his only emotional support, is dying of cancer, and his wife refuses to speak to him. As he grows more and more distant from his family and as life seems to crash down around him, Ryan will have to decide who he relies upon: himself or God?

Production Quality (-1 points)

Tapestry is likely the worst production of this year due to its myriad errors, beginning with the inconsistency of its camera work: sometimes shaky and sometimes unusually angled. Similarly, a lot of shots seem very tight. There are also many, many audio concerns, including annoying background sounds, erratic volume changes, noticeable echoes in the backgrounds of some sets, and some instances of severely over-driven audio. However, none of this even speaks of the predominantly poor video quality or the very bad lighting that accompanies many of the already-cheap sets, props, and locations. Nevertheless, perhaps the worst element of the production is the truly horrific editing job. A key example of this is the fact that there is sometimes zero continuity between scenes that are merely seconds apart…in these moments, it feels like several different movies were maniacally spliced together with no reason whatsoever. Further, these problems are paired with lagging fadeouts, quick and awkward cuts, and abrupt transitions to top off this dumpster fire of a production. For these reasons, this section warrants a negative score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

During the first ten minutes of the film, there’s absolutely no way to discern what is transpiring as tons of characters are introduced in a very short span of time using clunky narration and random, disconnected scenes. From there, the story proceeds with an unusual attitude like the whole thing is meant to be one big joke; this idea is only reinforced by the extremely dramatic narration style that tells the viewer what people are thinking and the very vague plot ideas that contribute to the confusing story presentation. Due to the sheer number of characters, there are too many random subplots and tangents to keep up with, which causes the focus to jump from one thing to the next and cuts some scenes painfully short. Some scenes just pop up very quickly without warning and disappear without leaving a significant impact, and there are also unannounced black and white flashbacks as well as weird asides that have no connection to the “main point,” whatever that really is. The viewer is left guessing not only what’s happening but what’s coming next, and things trend weirder and stranger as they progress, including a bizarre obsession with multiple characters committing infidelity. Besides the obviously inexplicable elements, there are also many completely laughable moments before it all culminates in a silly, patched-up conclusion that teaches the audience absolutely nothing. In short, there’s plenty of evidence that supports this section’s negative rating.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Despite the need for most of the characters to have northeastern United States accents, many of them, most notably Stephen Baldwin, who is mostly his usual self, do not make the mark of inflection authenticity. However, this mistake isn’t the worst part of the acting section. There are plenty of screaming scenes and extreme emotional displays that really take the cake. Elsewhere, line delivery is often forced and very strained; it’s clear that no acting coaching was present since there are basically no good performances to note. Therefore, this category rounds out a comprehensively negative effort.

Conclusion

We repeat: negatively rated Christian entertainment has no place in the year 2019 and beyond. When all aspects of a movie are this bad, there needs to be some very serious rethinking of the creation process. The fact that utter disasters like this still make it to the public is disheartening, but hopefully, we have a growing group of Christian innovators who will transform the field into something that will help us forget that negatively rated Christian entertainment ever existed.

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

Be Still and Know (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Childhood friends CJ and Sophia have lost connection with each other due to various life circumstances, but they now have a chance to rekindle their friendship during a fall break getaway. Along with two other friends, they go off the grid in a family cabin in order to re-establish what they once had. However, things don’t go as planned, and their sort of vacation takes a turn for the worst, which forces them to rely on God for their help.

Production Quality (1 point)

After showing concerted production improvement in If You’re Gone, the Goodwin creative team has unfortunately gone backward in quality with Be Still and Know. This is due to many very dark indoor scenes and quite a few outdoor scenes that are dominated by background noises. Camera also tends to be shaky throughout, and some odd camera angles are used, likely for some type of dramatic effect. However, it doesn’t work, and the sets, locations, and props are fairly cheap. While video quality is one of the only bright spots of the production and although there are some good portions of this film’s presentation, there are many concerns as well, including a soundtrack that almost always plays in the background even though it doesn’t fit with the moods of the scenes. It goes without saying that many scenes are quite long and drawn out, which is due to random editing. In the end, while it’s not all bad in this section, it’s still a major letdown from a collaborative team that was headed in such a good direction.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unlike previous efforts from the Goodwin team, the plot of Be Still and Know unfortunately has no real potential since there’s barely anything to it. The characters are either blank or stereotypical, and the conflict in the story really makes no sense at all. Conversations and dialogue are very bland and uninspiring, which makes the viewing experience a drag. The premise is highly unrealistic and questionable as it tends to involve slightly illegal activity that’s nonsensically justified. Further, the Christian message feels extremely forced and contrived. In the end, there are either too many issues with this storyline or too much boredom to justify its creation; it’s rare to see a plot with no potential from a experienced creative team, but this is unfortunately the case with Be Still and Know.

Acting Quality (1 point)

In this small cast, errors are more obvious, and they tend to carry the weight of the movie on their shoulders. However, the cast members cannot be fully blamed for the lack of adequate lines to work with. Nonetheless, many of them come off as either bored or overplaying, yet they aren’t all bad. Most of the acting is very boring, unchallenging, and uneventful, and emotions are vanilla. Further, costuming is unusual at times, but this section isn’t completely lost, which rounds out a surprisingly low-quality attempt.

Conclusion

John and Brittany Goodwin definitely care about making an impact in Christian entertainment, and every creator must come to a crossroads in their career: will they choose to continue in mediocrity or step out with something even better than before? Some movie makers are better suited to be series makers (see Dallas Jenkins), so this may be the missing piece of the puzzle for the Goodwins. There’s also plenty of Christian fiction to explore, which can supply ample content for struggling screenwriters if permission is secured. In the end, one movie doesn’t define someone’s entire career, so Be Still and Know could be a rough patch before the breakthrough.

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Miles Between Us {Four Days Alone in a Car} (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Scott Dauer is a successful Hollywood agent, but an untimely accident prevents his ex-wife from driving their daughter across the country to the Christian college she wants to attend. Thus, Scott is forced to reconnect with the young woman he’s been estranged from for many years as they make the four-day journey across the nation. However, little does either one of them know that their time together will forever alter their lives.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Especially in the beginning, the sets, locations, and props of Miles Between Us are fairly cheap and not well-thought-out. This include some sets that echo a lot of audio, yet most of the scenes have fine lighting and video quality. Camera work is acceptable for the most part, except for the shaky moments and the odd camera angles that sometimes appear. Audio quality is mostly okay, but the soundtrack leaves something to be desired. Finally, there’s virtually no editing in this film as many of the scenes are long and drawn out without proper cuts. In the end, though there’s some improvement as the movie progresses, the production still ends up average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

At the start of this heavily character-based plot, the characters seem to be grasping for things to say in order to fill time while the story moves along. Many of the conversations seem unnatural and don’t do what they need to do with character development even though this plot line heavily depends on them and their personalities due to its limited scope. On top of this, the Christian characters are both perfect and condescending, and many lines spoken by all characters are sterile and clinical, like they were crafted by AI. The progression of time is also unrealistic, no doubt confused by the riveting driving montages and clouded by sequences of sermonizing. One of the only ways to save this plot would have been to transform the memory-based dialogue (“I remember when you did that!”) into actual flashbacks that integrate into a non-linear storyline; this would have done something to breathe life into the dead characters therein. This would have especially helped the fact that an important concept is explored in the last quarter of the film that, while it’s kind of out of left field for the movie’s context, really does need to be discussed in Christian entertainment. However, many viewers will never make it that far due to absolute boredom of the story’s first three quarters. It’s too bad this intriguing idea was wasted, along with the somewhat ambiguous ending, but perhaps, one day, it can be re-purposed in a better way.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Throughout a majority of the film, the cast members seem understandably bored with their lot and sometimes awkward around each other. We can’t blame them since they were given such poor lines to work with. However, their delivery of them is still overly practiced and stilted even though there are some fine performances. Emotions are a bit lame at times, and hair and makeup is strange. Nonetheless, there’s some improvement in these areas as the movie goes on, which is enough to warrant and average rating for this section.

Conclusion

The creative team behind Miles Between Us is almost onto something, but they would do well to make sure their screenwriting is up to industry standards. With the growth of Christian entertainment and the collective improvement of productions, the bar has been raised, and there’s little room for vanilla or basement-level creations anymore. Thus, this can be a learning experience for them; in the near future, they may be able to redo this film or at least use some of its concepts with better characters. Overall, film making is always a learning process, so it will be interesting to see what they produce next.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

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

Secrets in the Snow (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

When a snowstorm hits unexpectedly, six teenagers are trapped at Eastbrook High to wait it out.  None of them want to be there, and each of them as a secret to hide.  As time goes on, frustrations and stress increase, which causes the secret stories to come to light one by one.  However, the storm also continues to worsen, which threatens their safety.  Will they be able to make it out before it’s too late?

Production Quality (2 points)

Although it appears the budget was somewhat limited, Secrets in the Snow has a mostly good production, including fine audio, video, and camera quality.  However, the soundtrack is a bit generic and loud at times, and the sets, locations, and props are understandably limited by design, even though they are well-utilized for the most part.  There is also some inconsistent lighting, as well as some randomly shaky moments of camera work, but the editing is good.  As a whole, this is an above average production that could have been slightly better than it was.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

John and Brittany Goodwin have always attempted to develop their characters through backstories, so the effort to do this in this film is definitely commendable.  However, since this is a heavily character-based plot with almost nothing but the characters to hold it up, we needed to see much deeper character development and growth through meaningful conversations and flashbacks.  The dialogue therein needed to be less shallow and less scripted, and there are too many wasted scenes on activities that don’t build characters or help us to understand who they are as people.  Even still, this is a non-typical and mostly creative plot structure that demonstrates the true potential the Goodwins have as both screenwriters and film makers.  As they continue to grow in their careers, we expect great things from what they have to offer as they continue to deepen their character development over time because we know that they mean well and want to do their best.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Like other parts of this film, the cast members also mean well, but some of the line delivery and emotions come off as overly practiced and not natural enough.  Some performances seem to stilted and measured while some lines appear to be read.  However, there is plenty of positive here as most of the cast members appear to be comfortable with their character roles and seem to be committed to the process.  As a whole, this is an average film, which is great for a debut.

Conclusion

After this film and If You’re Gone, the Goodwins and their team are definitely on the cusp of something great.  Once they are able to deepen their characters and refine their plot structures, they will definitely be a force to be reckoned with since they have already rectified their production and acting shortcomings.  As the Goodwins continue to produce their own source material for films, we anticipate better things from them in the near future.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Clara’s Ultimate Christmas (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Clara wants to have the ultimate Christmas or something, but her dad is always working on ‘projects’ and ‘contracts’; he even has to fly out to finish a project in NEW YORK on CHRISTMAS EVE!!!!!!  Thankfully, Clara has plenty to keep her busy with her VLOG and her dog, which keeps getting lost.  She also hangs out with her awkward cousin, uncle, and aunt while her mother sees how bored she can be with this movie.  The real question with this film is can it get any less creative?

Production Quality (1 point)

As Clara’s Ultimate Christmas is basically an enhanced collection of home videos, production is greatly lacking.  This is manifested in random and off-the-wall camera angles and shaky camera work.  While video quality is fine, audio quality is inconsistent as there is basically no soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are severely limited for good reason since the entire movie basically takes place in one house.  In keeping with the home video theme, editing is virtually non-existent, which rounds out a very poor production score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The home video theme continues with basically no plot content as Clara’s Ultimate Christmas is essentially Clara’s and her family’s activities of daily living (ADL’s), including eating breakfast, playing with dolls, walking the dog, crafting, cooking, vlogging, and talking on the phone.  I don’t know about you, but one-sided phone conversations aren’t what Christmas is all about.  In pursuit of ADL’s, characters and dialogue fall flat as we don’t really know these characters as real people but as pawns in the chess game played by the Hallmark Holiday Syndicate.  Granted, this isn’t a Hallmark movie, but the plot might as well be.  Every scene is squeezed and stretch to manufacture any possible content out of it, and the Christian messages are extremely vague and forced.  Essentially, there’s nothing good to say here since there’s nothing to this ‘plot’ at all.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The horrific child acting in this film is almost enough on its own to make this section negative, but the vanilla acting from other cast members just makes it zero.  Since this cast is so small, errors are greatly pronounced, especially when the child acting is forced through a strainer.  The adult cast members come off as very awkward and uncomfortable in their interactions with each other, and some cast members seem very bored with the film.  Emotions are either over the top or too bland, and line delivery is mostly lazy.  As a whole, there’s really very little good to say about this ‘film.’


Conclusion

It’s great that Bridgestone gives independent Christian film makers chances to get their content out there, and it’s been helpful for films like Altar Egos that people disregard for no reason, but movies like Clara’s Ultimate Christmas have literally nothing going for them.  There’s no purpose or point to them, and they just used worn-out and recycled ideas that nobody cares to see again.  Maybe we will see fewer and fewer of these sorts of films moving forward.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Undeserved (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dawn’s life is changed when her deadbeat mother is shot dead in a bar parking lot, which prompts the state to assign her custody to her aunt and uncle until she can finish high school.  Despite her loss, things are looking up for her as she is moved to a better area.  However, it doesn’t take long for Dawn to discover that there are just as many hidden problems in suburbia as there are obvious problems on the streets.  Fearing for her safety, Dawn leaves her new home to take up residence on the streets once again.  Moreover, she soon finds herself in trouble again, and only her aunt believes that she is worth the fight.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For a very small budget, Undeserved sports a lot of good production qualities, including good camera work, video quality, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also creative, even though it tends to be a bit too loud at times.  Sometimes, camera work is randomly shaky, and sometimes scenes are too dark and poorly lit.  However, these issues are not completely noticeable, even if the flashback quality is bit odd.  The editing is average overall, and these factors are enough to make this an above-average production, which is a great start for a new film maker with such a limited budget.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Undeserved is definitely not afraid to take on difficult but unfortunately realistic issues within the white suburban church demographic.  Though there is some obvious and expository dialogue throughout, the storyline is intriguing due to its non-typical structure.  For the most part, the story unfolds in a realistic manner with a natural progression of time, even though there are some slight coincidences that help the plot along.  The character are fairly well-developed even though the dialogue could be constructed a bit better.  Sometimes it seems like the main characters are victimized too much, but there are plenty of good attempts to develop character motive and personality through conversations and flashbacks.  However, there are a few too many montages, and issues appear to be fixed too easily in the end.  There are quite a few things tacked onto the end of the film, as if time ran out, which suggests that this idea might have worked better as a series.  However, this plot is overall average.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is mostly inexperienced and ‘amateur,’ they appear to be professional in their performances.  There is definitely evidence of coaching, and although there are some slightly forced emotions and some moments that are partially underwhelming and awkward.  However, there is far more good here than bad, and this is only amplified by the fact that the cast does not have ‘big names’ in it.  In summary, this rounds out a very good first film effort.

Conclusion

It’s hard to get the necessary funding for a first-time small church film, so the best thing a film maker can do is craft a good plot, coaching cast members well, and get the film out there.  This creative team made efforts on all three of these fronts, and for the most part, the efforts paid off.  One can hardly do better than this with a less than $50,000 budget except perhaps forge a more captivating storyline.  In the end, a film like Undeserved is all we really ask of freshman creators, so it will be interesting to see what this team produces next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Part 7 (MTASBTNEWOT 7)

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.

 

Lazer Us: The Legend of Jimi Lazer

In this strangely-titled film that appears to convey something about Lazarus, a guitarist named Jimi Lazer is depicted as he stumbles upon a magic guitar that gets him in contact with the Devil!  As a musician, Jimi wants riches and fame just like the next guy, so he sells his soul to the Old Liar.  Essentially, Lazer Us is a trippy, LSD-style drug trip from the 60s that has an unhealthy obsession with Satanism and tries to warn aspiring artists to stay away from Lucifer.  Unfortunately, the time spent on Satan is disproportionate, and the storyline is overall extremely confusing and hard to follow, which is why it landed here.

 

Pocket Angel

As a basically unknown new film from this year, Pocket Angel is in a category all by itself–almost rivaling The Rev for cartoonishness.  Apparently some reporter is assigned to a story in Mexico, so she takes her newly adopted son along.  Most of her lines are overdubbed in the most horrible way, and she comes off as a cruel parody of a Hispanic character.  Her son is kidnapped by the most childish cartoon villains you can dream of and held for random.  As a majority of the film consists of ridiculous sound effects from Lost in Silver Canyon, it’s easy to miss the creepy angel characters that peddle Pocket Angel figurines from a Christian bookstore to the characters.  Basically, this film is mostly inexplicable.

 

A Wish For Giants

When a girl who just contracted brain cancer is given a chance to have her wish fulfilled by a non-profit, she does what every girl would do and wishes to see Bigfoot.  The non-profit actually takes her seriously and assigns a summer intern to the case.  This film is full of boring and drab sequences that utilize terrible production quality.  There is also a lot of Bigfoot message-pushing and some vague reference to the Nephilim that are off-putting.  It goes without saying that the acting is basement-level deplorable.  As a whole, this movie is extremely strange and hard to follow, which is why it has found a home here.

 

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

I Before Thee (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeffrey Douglas has recently lost his job as a fireman, so he decides that drinking is the best way for him to escape from his problems–both his present and his past problems.  His wife loves him, and she is pregnant with their first child, but Jeffrey can’t seem to get it together as he runs from his past.  As his life continues to spiral out of control, will he ever reach the point where he decides to rely on God?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

These days, even cheaply made films have the ability to have productions of decent quality.  Before Thee is an example of this.  Its video quality is fine, as is the audio quality and camera work.  The soundtrack leaves something to be desired, and there are some random moments of loud background sounds and obvious overdubs.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly cheap and limited, and editing is fairly poor.  However, this film is a step up from the early-2000s garbage productions that used to be dumped into the market, but that’s unfortunately not saying very much.  While this production is average, the movie doesn’t have much else going for it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

A lot of the time, it is very unclear what message I Before Thee is trying to convey.  It raises some important points and highlights some unfortunately realistic circumstances, but there is a bit too much edgy content.  There are also a handful of unusual elements that are difficult to understand.  While there are some interesting psychological concepts that keep this section from being zero, they are mostly poorly executed.  Characters have next to no development as dialogue is very half-hearted and empty.  There are barely any attempts to make the audience understand who the characters are as real people–they appear to just be pawns in the plot.  Elsewhere, the storyline is too disorienting at times, and the ending generally makes no sense at all.  There is very little redemption for the messes that are created in the plot, which gives little purpose to this plot being made.  Maybe someday somebody can use the slightly interesting portions of this film to make a better one.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

It’s not like the cast members had any good lines to work with, but this acting is fairly poor.  While there is some slight potential here, a lot of it is very forced and unnatural.  Emotions are too cardboard and uninspiring.  Line delivery is vanilla.  On the whole, this is another throwaway film you are unlikely to hear much about.

Conclusion

The Christian movie field is beyond flooded at this point, so new creators have to do whatever they can to stand out for the right reasons.  I want to emphasize “for the right reasons.”  Film making is hard and expensive, and your first film is unlikely to have a very high budget.  That’s why you can set yourself apart by having a dynamic plot and great acting coaching.  Anyone can act well with the right coaching, and a great plot is one that captures real people doing real things without pushing a message.  Unfortunately, I Before Thee fails on most of these fronts and will likely be soon forgotten.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points