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

 

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Home Beyond the Sun (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Since Jenna was raised by a missionary, she feels that it is her duty to give back by becoming a missionary herself.  So when an opening presents itself in China, she jumps at the chance.  She travels to Beijing to work as a teacher to children there, but as she works there for a few weeks, she finds an entirely different mission field: orphans whom no one wants, not even the government.  However, the orphanage leader has to keep everything a secret since she is teaching the orphans Christian values.  Who will prevail in the end?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, though this movie means well, it is packaged in a very poor production.  After the long opening sequence that would be interesting if it was produced better, the audience is subjected to grainy video quality and poor audio quality, including a loud and cheap soundtrack.  Camera work is average, especially since most of the scenes are pedestrian shots.  However, the international locations are pretty good and demonstrate an attempt at authenticity.  Finally, editing is okay, but there is not much complex content that requires any rigorous editing.  In the end, it’s clear that this creative team has good intentions, but their delivery is lacking.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Additionally, though some care is revealed through this touching story about Chinese orphans, not enough care is given to making this a palatable plot.  Home Beyond the Sun contains a slightly amateurish portrayal of Chinese people, including some strawman cultural aspects and characters.  Though important social issues are raised, they are sort of forced down the audience’s throats and do not develop naturally through the use of realistic characters.  Instead, the characters use information-packed dialogue to drive the story along.  But at the same time, the story is quite slow and does not hold the attention; any conflict therein is too trite.  There is a better way to depict an otherwise important story about Chinese orphans, and unfortunately, Home Beyond the Sun does not cut it.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though there is some good here, the acting is overall quite amateurish.  There is some realistic cultural casting, but in all cast members, emotions seem plastic and line delivery is quite forced.  Yet it seems like this case has potential that could have been brought out through proper coaching.  But alas, coaching is not present here, thus creating another disappointing performance.

Conclusion

This really could have been an interesting movie.  It focuses on a different topic that needs to be depicted on the big screen, yet Home Beyond the Sun does so in such a way that makes it all seem so silly.  There are definitely good intentions here, but good intentions are not everything.  There must be follow-through that manifests itself in professional production, an engaging storyline full of realistic and accessible characters, and acting coaching that brings the cast members to life.  Yet when these elements are not present, even if a good idea is present, it makes for a very frustrating and disappointing film.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Sarah’s Choice (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sarah wants a big executive break like her boyfriend has, that’s why she sees an opportunity when she gets interviewed for a temporary job.  The only catch is that in order to get hired, she has to prove that she’s not pregnant.  But after she takes a test, she finds that she is pregnant and is faced with a serious decision: pursue a career and abort her child or give up her career and have her child.  Sarah will have to decide how real her faith is and what direction she wants her life to go in.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The one thing PureFlix usually has going for them is that they can put together a respectable-looking production.  Sarah’s Choice is not an exception.  Notwithstanding an odd opening sequence, the camera work is at least above average.  The video quality is good, as is the audio quality.  The soundtrack could use some improvement, but the sets are respectable.  Also, the editing is mostly average, though there are a handful of unnecessary scenes that put a damper on this production.  But overall, despite their obvious flaws, PureFlix can usually put together a semi-professional production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Leave it to PureFlix to take an important social issue and mutilate it with over the top messaging.  As a plot filled with typical White-style extremist characters, Sarah’s Choice sports a ridiculously unrealistic premise that is designed to force the issue of abortion on the audience.  As usual, pro-abortionists and other people who disagree with the PureFlix worldview are portrayed in offensive ways.  The dialogue is very obvious and forces the plot along, even though there is plenty of time wasted on bizarre asides.  There is also a silly shoehorning of the Christmas story into this plot, along with some odd ‘magical’ Christmas elements.  While the psychological parts are intriguing, they are not enough to offset the onslaught of nonsense in the remainder of the storyline.  As can be expected, the end is neat and tidy with no real justification for it ending up that way.  Basically, every horror story regarding the combination of PureFlix and the issue of abortion comes true in Sarah’s Choice.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While some cast members, including Rebecca St. James, post moderately respectable performances, this is probably Andrea Logan White’s most obnoxious role to date as she attempts to caricature a vain (well this mostly true) pro-abortion feminist.  There are some bright spots here that keep this category from being terrible, but there are still too many unrealistic emotions and drama moments.  Line delivery is fairly average throughout.  Overall, this is just average, despite Andrea Logan White.

Conclusion

In a PureFlix Christmas movie about abortion, what could go wrong?  Well, a lot, actually.  The Whites and company continue their addiction to portraying non-Christians as heartless ogres and construct an unrealistic framework designed to shove a social issue down your throat.  Do they even have any regard for reality or are they just trying to sell movies?  Movies like Sarah’s Choice are exactly why people tire of legalistic Christianity.  Unfortunately, while this blog is unashamedly pro-life, this is not the type of film we can support.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 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

A Long Way Off [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jake Abraham feels stifled in his life.  Even though he has a guaranteed job working for his father’s successful farming business, he never has enough.  His conflicts with his brother and desire to experience the world drive him to quit his job and ask his father for his inheritance.  His father gives him what he wants, thus sending Jake on a quest to acquire all the pleasure he can get and to use his money to make a name for himself in ‘important’ circles.  But no matter how many perks he buys for himself and how many rich people he hangs out with, nothing ever satisfies the hole in his soul.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

For starters, the most positive element of this movie’s production is the clear video quality.  This make the movie look good on the surface.  However, the beauty is only skin deep, so to speak.  The camera angles are confusing at times and the editing is isolating.  There are many unnecessary scenes of characters walking around and staring.  Some scenes seem like they were not properly cut for the final draft.  The sound quality is inconsistent; some scenes are substantially quieter than others.  In addition, there is an unprecedented number of eccentric product placements that are no doubt funding this low quality production.  In short, it’s just the same song, different verse for an independent Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

There are interesting nuggets of quality mired in this cheap plot.  The integration of a famous parable into a semi-believable real world situation is noble.  However, it gets washed away in a river of wasted time.  In an attempt to be realistic, there are too many suggestive elements that could have been presented in a more tasteful manner without tarnishing the movie.  The characters are very shallow and wooden, prodded by cheap and cheesy dialogue that was obviously not edited or proofread.  The end is very rushed, leaving some characters and subplots in awkward positions.

Acting Quality (0 points)

A majority of the actors are very awkward.  Their lines seem very forced and intended comedy falls flat.  Some lines are downright perplexing and seem impromptu.  Jason Burkey has been better in other movies, which reflects the lack of acting coaching in A Long Way Off.  Robert Amaya is a fine actor, but he only has two scenes.  Some alleged fight scenes have a Three Stooges feel to them.  Unfortunately, there is nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, this type of movie is becoming the norm in Christian movie circles.  Creators have seeming good ideas and intentions and decide to rush a direct-to-DVD release, funded by quasi-Christian product placements.  No time or thought are given to developing a quality plot with realistic characters, and no care is taken to coach the actors.  The production is sloppy en route to forcing another Christian movie into the market.  These ill-advised actions only further hurt the cause of Christian movies, lowering overall quality and causing people to laugh at whatever Christians make.  It’s time for someone to stand up and end this assembly line production and replace it with truly quality Christian movies that can be upheld rather than shunned.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points