Fishes ‘n Loaves: Heaven Sent (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Since Pastor Randy Michaels’ inner-city church is being shuttered by the ministry organization that runs it, he and his family are being reassigned to a small town across the country in Arizona.  Though reluctant to go at first, the Michaels family arrives to meet strange and eccentric characters that pique their interest in the town.  They soon find that they have a greater purpose for being there than they ever thought.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As one of those secular-company-tries-to-make-a-Christian-movie-to-make-some-money gigs, Fishes ‘n Loaves: Heaven Sent, one of the most awkwardly-titled films ever, has a fine production.  Though there is some random shaky camera work throughout, other elements are fine, including video quality and audio quality, even though the soundtrack is silly.  Though some sets and locations are slightly limited, they are not all bad, and props are realistic.  The editing is a pretty standard job, but then again, most of this film was taken from the inspirational film factory.  Thus, there is nothing creative to speak of here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This oddly-titled film rips off the old standby plot in which an offbeat pastor and his family gets reassigned to a struggling church in an eccentric small town in the middle of nowhere that’s filled with off-the-wall, goofy characters that are trying way too hard to be comedic.  I’m just surprised there’s no save-the-church elements here.  Basically, this so-called comedy is extremely forced and plastic, mostly due to very juvenile dialogue.  There is really no conflict to speak of as the story meanders along in pointless and purposeless ways.  Random things happen to check plot boxes and then the movie is mercifully over, leaving no impression whatsoever on the viewer.  The Christian message that is forced in is very cheesy and unfeeling, which is no surprise considering this is a secular cash-grab.  The only thing left to ponder is why this is even a movie at all.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though there are some okay moments throughout that keep this section from being worthless, most of the time, this cast seems to be competing for who can have the most screen time.  They are all very impressed with themselves, especially the lead actor, and appear to be auditioning for better roles in other films.  A lot of them have questionable and weird accents and many of them look like they just got rejected from a Hallmark casting call.  Again I ask, why is this a movie?

Conclusion

Whoever pitched this idea was probably rejected by Hallmark and possibly UP for total ineptitude, even by Hallmark standards.  The rating does not reflect how empty this film really is.  Were it not for the strangely high amount of funding, this film would be a total wash.  Even so, it still takes its place in the basement of Christian film, so why bother with more money?  Many audiences will see through this blatant and very poorly executed pandering to Christians.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

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Persecuted [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

John Luther is a highly successful ministry leader sometime in the near future, and he is being pressured by politicians to support a bill that would allow the government to regulate religion to ‘keep it fair’.  However, John refuses to comply, and thus finds himself under intense attack from faceless enemies who seem bent on destroying him and his reputation.  Injured and on the run, John will have to decide what he really believes and how he is going to defend himself.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The main redeeming elements of this film pertain to the professional production job.  It’s difficult to successfully execute a suspense production, but this team does very well.  Camera work is great, especially in the action scenes, and video quality is what it should be.  Audio quality is also good and the suspense soundtrack is a nice touch.  Sets, locations, and props are appropriate and adequate.  The only nitpick to raise here is some editing issues pertaining to the choppy presentation of this story.  But in the end, this is a respectable production that should be the norm.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this suspense story has a lot of interesting ideas in it, it is too all over the place to make any sense.  It’s great to have a different genre for once, but this isn’t really the way.  Though the persecution premise is somewhat well-explained, it needs to be explained better so it comes off as more realistic.  The protagonist is seemingly too perfect and one-dimensional, although other characters are interesting.  However, several of the villains are fairly cheesy.  We would have like to get to know some of these characters better; as it is, the dialogue is all over the place and does not help develop the protagonist.  There are also a lot of convenient suspense turns as things happens because they need to.  Too much is fixed at the end, even as the ending will leave you scratching your head.  In the end, this plot needs a serious rework.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this cast is at least somewhat professional, a lot of the performances are overly dramatic.  The lead actor does not do a very good job carrying his role, and a lot of the villain cast members are over the top.  Emotions are slightly believable, but line delivery is sometimes unsure.  In short, this is an average performance.

Conclusion

Persecuted fills a genre gap in Christian film, but that’s about the only reason why it stands out, besides professional production.  Persecution premises set in modern America are always going to need a lot of explanation and justification, and this film does not necessarily succeed on that front.  No matter the suspense film, this genre tends to suffer from lack of character development, which Persecuted also demonstrates.  In the end, while there is potential here, it needed a lot more development in order to be better.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Beyond the Heavens [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Oliver Henry wonders what is really out there, beyond the stars in the night sky.  Ever since the tragic death of his brother, his family has never been the same.  But that has only made Oliver all the more curious about the true nature of reality.  So when a mysterious man comes to town and reads to the local kids after school every day, Oliver finds himself drawn to the man’s unique outlook on life.  Though his mother is skeptical of everything the strange man does, Oliver looks deeper and deeper into his claims and into how others view reality.  What he finds is not what he expected, but is exactly what he was looking for.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Echolight Studios is known for its quality productions, and Beyond the Heavens is no exception.  The camera work is professional, as is the video quality.  However, lighting is inconsistent throughout, with some scenes being too dark.  Audio quality is fine but the soundtrack is uninspiring.  There is an odd use of special effects and overlays in an attempt to make the movie mysterious.  Unfortunately, this also contributes to the editing being confusing and isolating.  Therefore, once again, Echolight has the potential to go all the way, but does not.  Needless to say, this does not only apply to the production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Beyond the Heavens is a very ethereal and mystical experience, one unlike any other movie we have reviewed.  However, this is not a good thing.  The ‘plot’ is very unclear and murky, consisting of vague and meandering ideas and cryptic dialogue.  It’s like Corbin Bernson is winking at the audience with every scene, waiting to reveal some great secret, but it’s never revealed.  The whole has a very tip-of-the-tongue feel, like the characters know something you don’t but never intend to let you in on the secret.  As the characters wax eloquent and philosophize about the true nature of reality, the viewer is left, in the end, with a more confusing view of reality than before.  Is Bernson advocating for or against Darwinism?  Is he a creationist?  Does he really believe that angels come to earth on the tails of comets?  Is Bernson suggesting that reality is not what it seems?  If so, what is his view of reality?  Only God knows the answers to these questions as Bernson spends 90 minutes toying with his ‘big reveal’ and dancing around whatever his philosophical worldview is.  It’s basically just a waste of your time.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is mostly average in their delivery.  Some acting coaching is present, but some cast behavior is head-scratching.  There are too many unnecessary emotional swings.  However, costuming is appropriate.  Overall, this is just an average performance.

Conclusion

What is to be made of Corbin Bernsen?  What is his place in Christian film?  Is he trolling?  Is he a great mind misunderstood?  Whether it’s abstract musings like Beyond the Heavens or half-hearted satire like Christian Mingle or In-Lawfully Yours, Bernsen’s motivations for making Christian films are very unclear.  It’s possible that he’s smarter than us all and doesn’t know how to show it.  But it’s also possible that he’s just trying to make a quick buck off of Christian audiences.  Reality is probably somewhere in between.  Regardless, Beyond the Heavens really needed to be rethought before anyone spent money on it, because it falls flat and is unable to properly convey whatever message it is trying to present.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Brother White (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Stuck in a long line of pastoral succession at a megachurch headed by the popular Johnny Kingman, James White is desperate to make his mark and to stand out from the crowd.  But doing so only gets him into further trouble.  After nearly ruining a children’s Sunday school class and an expensive painting and disrupting a church service, Kingman send James on a probation to pastor a struggling church in Atlanta.  So James, his wife Lily, and their two children make a cross-country move to the Peach State and find themselves thrust into a multicultural world they have never before experienced.  Not only must James find a way to save the struggling church, but he must come to grips with the fact that he is not invincible and must rely on God and his family for help.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Compared to other PureFlix productions, Brother White is not horrible.  It actually has a lot of potential.  The camera work is pretty good, as is the video quality.  However, the sound quality is inconsistent and some outside scenes are covered up with musical montages.  The editing is decent, but the sets and locations are obviously cheap.  There are some slight excuses for this, but it still could have been better.  Probably the worst production element is pretending like certain characters are singing when they are obviously not.  In short, the production of Brother White is just average—neither horrible nor dynamic.  There was a lot of potential here that was not brought to the surface.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Unlike many PureFlix plots, Brother White is slightly interesting.  Exploring racial relations by inserting an affluent white (White?) family into a predominantly African-American church has a lot of potential, if stereotypes are avoided.  For the most part, they are.  There is plenty of satire in Brother White that is actually funny, such as tongue-in-cheek swipes at prosperity gospel churches.  But there are also elements that are just trying too hard.  Too much comedy falls flat and some lines leave you scratching your head.  There are plot holes that are glossed over and some humor is way too obvious, such as the name ‘Lily White’.  The plot boils down to a simplistic save the farm storyline and seems to lose its original purpose in the end.  James’ character arc is commendable, but the whole movie just leaves you wanting more substance.  In short, Brother White is not so awful that it’s unwatchable, but it’s also frustrating to watch because there was obviously a lot of creativity left untapped.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is probably David A. R. White’s best lead role, it still leaves much to be desired.  The presence of more professional actors in this cast keeps it from sinking to the depths of most PureFlix casts.  However, there is still a lack of acting coaching.  Were all the actors up to par, this movie would have improved.

Conclusion

This is probably the closest the Whites and Tommy Blaze will ever get to true comedy.  But were this plot in different hands, we can’t help but feel it could have been Hall of Fame worthy.  It contains a unique plot on a good topic and as it is, has some humorous elements.  In the end, Brother White is the highest rated White comedy and unfortunately, it is hard to believe that it will get any better than this.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points