Movie Renovation: Do You Believe?

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

Much like other newer, more mainstream PureFlix releases, Do You Believe sports professional production quality with very few errors to speak of.  Naturally, due to the nature of this film, the editing is mostly a mess as each scene tries to be a dramatic climax with no resting periods or relief scenes.  Thus, the only issue with the production can be rectified by improving the plot.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

Much like God’s Not Dead, Do You Believe takes on far too many subplots than it can handle.  Easily half of them are unnecessary, as each of them try to insert a dramatic turn into nearly every scene that comes up.  The paramedic subplot is mostly unrealistic and unnecessary, and its deletion would have also rendered the Andrea Logan White\Sean Astin subplot useless.  The military veteran suffering from PTSD and the girl with the unknown past who tries to commit suicide belong in their own film, so they can be developed better as characters.  The criminal brothers subplot is awkward and stereotypical.  With the removing and reassignment of these subplots, the more pertinent elements of this storyline, namely the older couple who helps the homeless mother and daughter and the pastor and his wife who help the young homeless mother, could have been given more room to grow and be developed beyond their current state.  An alternate option to improve this plot would have been to start at the mass car accident scene and then work backward by following each character’s path to the accident, but this would take a lot of skill and discipline.  Also, the narration has to be totally eliminated.  In short, there is so much content in Do You Believe that there is bound to be potential in here somewhere.

Acting Improvements

While there are some good elements to the acting of this film, most casts would be improved in the absence of Liam Matthews, Andrea Logan White, and of course, Ted McGinley.  There are just so many cast members involved here that any good portions are cancelled out by poor performances.  However, if the storyline was pared down to a realistic medium, the cast would have also been trimmed to ensure quality of quantity.

Conclusion

Quality over quantity was truly the order of the day for this film.  Dumping every subplot you can think of into one film will make a film that a lot of people will see and perhaps like momentarily, but its lasting impact is blunted by its onslaught of content.  However, there are enough good ideas in this film to perhaps kickstart a better film in the future.

 

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Johnny [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Johnny is a foster boy with cancer who sees it as his mission to show people the truth and love of God even though he is suffering.  When he encounters Dr. Carter, little do they know that both of their lives will be changed forever as a result.  Dr. Carter and his wife are still hurting from the death of their young son, and though they are not ready to believe that Johnny could offer healing for them.  However, God has other plans for all of them.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In keeping with most recent PureFlix productions, Johnny is most fine.  Video quality is on standard, but there are some unexplainable moments of shaky camera work.  Audio quality is mostly what it should be, but the soundtrack is extremely uninspiring and sometimes it seems like the audio is overdubbed.  Sets, locations, and props are professional.  However, there are far too many montages in this film that serve as a crutch for actual content.  Thus, the editing work is poor.  Overall, this is an average production that should have been better than this, considering the funding it had.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there is a somewhat good message behind Johnny, there is far too much melodrama that distracts from it.  It is very difficult to connect with the struggles of the characters because they come off as very manufactured and plastic.  The main character is very cheesily sappy and perfect, almost to the point of embarrassment.  A lot of the dialogue from all the characters is very obvious and forceful in moving the plot along rather than developing the characters.  Thus, the story follows a predictable progression that is obvious from the start.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with the plotline itself, the way it is presented and the lack of authenticity really derails this film.  Also, things are fixed too easily, which doesn’t really help us learn anything.  In the end, these sorts of movies are very formulaic and are unfortunately designed to make money.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though this cast is intended to be professional, there is really no coaching present.  While it is not all bad, there are far too many over the top emotions and yelling sequences.  Everything is overly dramatic, which makes for a very distracting experience.  This is not the way to make a meaningful film.

Conclusion

Johnny is one of those films that uses a generic and predictable plot structure to churn out a made-for-bookstore film that can be easily sold on the shelves.  It contributes nothing to the field and only serves the purpose of generating revenue for the production company.  A few weeks after the release, it is totally forgotten and eventually turns up in the cheap Walmart bins and in thrift stores.  Christian film should not be about profit ventures, even though PureFlix has done this for about a decade now.  However, hopefully that tide is turning.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Part 6 (MTASBTNEWOT 6)

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.

 

There’s a map on the back of Georgia’s state constitution

The Adventures of Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure

Oh, Mickey Matson.  Why does this series exist?  I guess someone pitched the idea of a juvenile young-adult patriotic secret society action adventure suspense secret codes National Treasure concept copycat film to PureFlix and they liked it because they don’t usually have any standards (see Divine Will).  So they found the most redneck characters ever to play the villains and wrote out a bunch of mumbo jumbo about secret codes to make the story look interesting.  Then they thought it would be cool to throw in some kind of cockamamie machine invention doohickey that does alchemy or something.  Basically, this sort-of-non-Christian action adventure film is just too far over our heads to warrant a full review, especially since we can’t make heads or tails of what we’re supposed to learn from it.

 

The secret lies with Charlotte

Pirate’s Code: The Adventures of Mickey Matson

Oh, there’s another one?  To think they meant to make more of these like PureFlix’s own version of a poor man’s young adult film franchise.  Seriously, is this all they could come up with?  More redneck villains and stupid props!  More devices, doohickeys, and junk science!  More secret societies and secret codes and secret secrets!  More terrible special effects!  If a non-Christian saw this, they would laugh you out of the room.  This non-franchise should have been left at the storyboard.

 

Road to the Open

This isn’t really even a Christian film at all, just another random cheap inspirational film that PureFlix endorses.  It was so boring to watch and the only reason we did was so we could see John Schneider and Eric Roberts play an alpha-male star tennis team.  They were barely in the movie as it was, which was a real bummer, and they weren’t even that funny, even though they tried.  Oh well.

 

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

Return to the Hiding Place (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As the Nazis strengthened their grip on the Netherlands, the brave Ten Boom family and their accomplices—a secret army of teenagers and college students—worked tirelessly to undermine the evil work of the Third Reich.  From hiding Jews and sympathizers to tracking Nazi movements to distributing illegal material to springing prisoners, the ragtag force was constantly doing something to resist the evil.  But when they are stretched to their furthest point and feel like all hope is lost, they will have to dig deep and determine what really matters most.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

From start to finish, it is evident that the Spencer family and their team are dedicated to high quality productions.  It was ambitious of them to choose a difficult historical setting to portray, but they delivered exquisitely.  Each set, location, and prop is perfectly crafted for realism.  Video quality is excellent and camera work is effective in building suspense.  Audio quality has no flaws and the soundtrack is epic.  The only nitpick to raise here is some minor editing problems, probably due to the nature of this large-scale story.  But in the end, this is a top-notch production that will take them places in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

We always say that when it comes to movies, true stories are usually better than fiction.  Return the Hiding Place is an example of this.  Though the historical topic is very large and difficult to handle, it is handled almost perfectly.  Though there are many subplots, a common thread weaves them together to forge a true historical epic.  The characters are many, but they are believable and authentic.  Real, even hard, life is portrayed effectively.  The ending is powerful and drives the point home.  The biggest issue to raise here is the constant and seemingly unnecessary narration throughout.  While the dialogue therein is great, we would have liked to see more showing than telling.  But otherwise, this is a plot to behold and one you don’t want to miss out on.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Much thought was put into making this cast historically and culturally authentic, from costuming to accents.  Each character is cast excellently.  Line delivery is very much on point and emotions are real and believable.  The only compliant to raise here is some minor accent issues, but it’s not enough to detract too much.  In short, like every aspect of this film, it’s a job well done.

Conclusion

Return to the Hiding Place receives half of an x-factor point for portraying an important issue by properly connecting with audiences in multiple ways.  This is the sort of film we should see over and over again produced from Christian entertainment.  It’s high quality, plot-heavy, and well-cast.  Money was clearly spent wisely to make this film the best it could be, and it paid off.  The Spencer family and their team are truly talented, so we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 8 out of 10 points

 

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

Jerusalem Countdown: A Prelude to Armageddon (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nuclear weapons have been smuggled into America, and FBI agent Shane Daughtry and his team have been ordered to find them before they are detonated.  They must reluctantly collaborate with an old weapons dealer, a corrupt CIA director, and an ex-Muslim spy in order to find the dangerous contraband before America and Israel are blown off the map.  Little do they know is that their true hope lies in a Jewish researcher who has come by valuable information about his mysterious next door neighbor.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The good video quality is the only positive element to mention.  Otherwise, this movie is barely watchable.  The cheap action scenes are unbearable and poorly executed.  The camera angles are below par and the musical score is what one can expect from such a film as this.  The editing is as maddening as the jumpy action sequences.  CGI and special effects are very C-grade.  Nothing can compare with the incessant John Hagee product placements as the audience is spoon-fed his controversial views on eschatology and international politics.  Unfortunately, the negativity doesn’t end here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It doesn’t really seem like David A. R. White and company really did any research on the inner workings of government organizations or the true nature of terrorists when they were planning this movie.  The way that the plot unfolds is so unrealistic that it feels like a comic book.  Leaps in logic and plot holes litter the landscape.  The ways that the characters proceed forward with ‘leads’ is absurd.  Searching the internet for ‘Iran Shipping Ltd’ and then snooping around in a house they own to see whether or not they have nuclear weapons probably takes the cake, but it’s not to be topped by a librarian assisting FBI agents in a confidential case.  Every character is a ridiculous caricature and not believable.  The only consolation is that this is an apocalyptic plot that doesn’t take place on an airplane, but that’s not saying much.

Acting Quality (0 points)

We are convinced that PureFlix believes that if you have enough action scenes in a movie, you don’t need to coach the actors.  Such is the case in Jerusalem Countdown.  The delivery of lines is lackadaisical and emotions are lackluster.  So-called interrogation scenes are forced and awkward.  In short, there is little to nothing good to say about this film.

Conclusion

Is this movie supposed to have a sequel?  We certainly hope not, but ending the movie the way it does suggests that this film was only created to push John Hagee’s unusual worldview.  Movies in the action adventure, suspense, and apocalyptic genres can be used to reach audiences outside of the church, but when films like Jerusalem Countdown crowd out the field and water it down.  The next time an unbeliever hears about a Christian action film, they may only think of movies like this one and roll their eyes, as we do.  We implore Christian film-makers everywhere to learn from the mistakes of movies such as this one and not repeat them.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Encounter [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nick, Melissa, Hank, Catherine, and Kayla are all strangers to each other until they are forced to meet up at a quaint diner due to road closures one stormy night.  Each has their own story and hurts, but the last thing they expect is to meet the mysterious owner of the diner, who calls himself Jesus.  He knows many things about them that no one else knows but he actually demonstrates true care for them, something many of them have never experienced.  Each of them must make the most important choice of their lives—will they listen to the words of Jesus or will they turn away?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The production pretty much derails this movie from the get go.  For starters, the movie is purposely designed to have extremely limited sets—the movie only takes place a very small amount outside, partly inside vehicles, partly inside flashback locations, mostly inside the makeshift diner, and yes, inside the diner’s bathroom.  The video quality is quite grainy and the camera work shaky.  The sound quality is inconsistent.  The only redeeming production quality is the editing, even though there is very little content to work with.  In short, it would have done this movie wonders to have better production quality.  With such a small cast and so few sets, there are no excuses to have such poor production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Although the encounter with Jesus in modern times is not really a new plot, there is nothing inherently wrong with this particular rendition.  The characters are pretty good and the flashbacks effectively enhance them, but once again, with so few characters, there was more time to develop them, yet this was not done.  This sort of small scale plot depends entirely on the characters, and since the characters are just average, it’s not good enough.  We needed to know more about these characters besides their favorite foods, their occupations, their parents, and their surface struggles.  Again, the flashbacks are great, but more is needed.  The spiritual\psychological elements in the plot are interesting, but the devil character is very cheesy.  In short, this plot concept had a lot of potential—especially if more psychological elements had been explored—that was not brought to the surface.  The final result is just a stock plot.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast seems better than a lot of PureFlix casts; even though there is really no acting coaching, the actors and actresses do a pretty good job by themselves.  However, like the rest of this movie, more is needed.  Similar to how the characters carry this sort of small scale plot, the actors and actresses are vital.  Unfortunately, there is just not enough positive here.

Conclusion

Though David A. R. White is the director of The Encounter, he does not insert his usual cheesy flavor.  But at the same time, dynamic elements are not present.  The tools are there, but they are not picked up and used.  The Encounter had the possibility to showcase a unique movie genre, but it was left hanging.  This film likely joins a group of Christian films that deserve a remake.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

In the Blink of an Eye [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

David, a detective, stumbles into the vacation of his life when he saves a famous pop star from a hostage situation.  David and his wife Lori, along with David’s partner Larry and his wife Sussette, are invited by the pop star’s boyfriend to spend a lavish weekend with them on their private yacht in the waters of Mexico.  But David quickly sense that something is not quite right with the pop star and her boyfriend.  Yet before he can do anything about it, strange things start happening.  Passengers begin disappearing and David keeps waking up to the same day repeating over and over and over again.  No matter what happens, the day repeats over again and David is the only one who can remember anything about the repeats.  In order to solve the mystery of his life, he must face the faith he has been running from all his life.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

For starters, In the Blink of an Eye has pretty good video and sound quality.  However, that is all that can be said.  The film also contains odd camera angles and confusing editing—this may be due to the odd plot structure, but it is difficult to understand the flow of the movie.  There are also plenty of unnecessary scenes that appear to just fill time.  In addition to this, the movie has limited and cheap sets and costumes, like they spent most of the money on the expensive yacht, cars, and jet skis.  There is also bad makeup work on most of the characters and cheesy apocalyptic special effects.  To make matters worse, John Hagee product placements litter the dialogue.  In short, there is little to be positive about here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This plot has basically no potential.  The premise is very trumped up and most of the plot is filler—nothing dynamic or interesting.  There is plenty of out of place and awkward dialogue; some of the lines seem impromptu.  Thus, the few characters within are mindless and empty.  This sort of plot concept, a day repeating over and over again, has been done before and is almost worn out at this point.  To top things off, the entire plot, including the confusing end, is based on bad theology regarding knowing the exact hour of the Rapture’s occurrence, which is directly contrary to the Scripture verse used at the end of the movie.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

It is commendable to cast David A. R. and Andrea Logan White together as husband and wife, but it is not worth it if they are not going to be coached properly.  Most of the lines are forced, and since the cast is so small, they carry the entire movie on their shoulders.  Instead of helping the movie, most of the actors are very poor casting choices, exhibiting overdone emotions and unrealistic actions.  There are really only one or two good actors.

Conclusion

There is nothing wrong with expanding the Christian film genres into action adventure and psychological thriller, but In the Blink of an Eye misses the mark.  The repeating day plot is overused and is rarely justifiable, especially in the fashion that this movie uses it.  Employing such a small cast and limited sets in exchange for using expensive vehicles suggests an air of vanity.  Our advice for the Whites is that they listen to constructive criticism in order to improve their film quality, because they certainly have the potential and resources to do so.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Do You Believe (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Pastor Matthew has almost forgotten why he believes what he believes.  His spiritual life is stagnant and he wonders why he is even a pastor, until one day he when he encounters an eccentric man on the side of the road carrying a cross.  The man asks him if he truly believes in the cross he preaches about.  This prompts Matthew to alter his approach to ministry by assisting a homeless pregnant girl and by learning more about the lives of his congregants.  Outside of his realm of influence, events begin to take place that indirectly affect him and the people of his church.  They are all headed for an unexpected collision and are forced to truly look at the lives they are living—what do they truly believe?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

In the same vein of God’s Not Dead, the production of Do You Believe is an improvement over previous PureFlix installments.  The camera work is good; several difficult action scenes are portrayed well.  The sets are realistic and diverse.  Audio quality is also good and the soundtrack is respectable.  There is not too much wasted time in the movie, but the editing is not the greatest.  However, this is most likely due to the high amount of plot content.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

There are a lot of well-meaning intentions in the plot of Do You Believe.  There are a lot of good stories, but like God’s Not Dead, they are all crammed together, thus making it hard to focus on one or for each one to develop as they should.  There are more subplots in Do You Believe, and a handful of them are unnecessary and stereotypical.  There is also too much narration that replaces the value of developing a plot.  Due to the large amount of content, most of the characters are reduced to stereotypes and are therefore not accessible.  What would have greatly improved this movie would have been to start at Do You Believe’s climax and then work backward by integrating the past and the present.  As it is, a lot is left on the field.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Some actors are professional, while others seem unrealistic in delivery.  The cast is very diverse, which is a plus.  It is possible that the many characters crowded out the scene and did not give actors enough time to work through their characters, but it is also possible that not enough acting coaching was employed in Do You Believe.

Conclusion

Do You Believe has an excellent message, but it is too issues-based.  The better production quality and the action sequences do hold the attention of the target audience, but the movie is not as good as it could be.  There is plenty of potential with some of the better story lines, but they are drowned out by too much content.  It is noble that the creators wanted to address a lot of important issues in a Christian movie, but the point may be lost.  In the end, it will be interesting to see how this PureFlix saga plays out in the future.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points