The Big Fix [2018] (Movie Review)

The Big Fix (2018) - IMDb

Plot Summary

The Reynolds family members all have many commitments and obligations, yet none of them want to see anything from the others’ perspectives. However, after asking God to change each other, they get the surprise of their lives when they suddenly switch bodies with each other. This gives each of them a chance to see what it’s like to walk in the others’ shoes, and what they find out is unexpected.

Production Quality (2 points)

Overall, the production of The Big Fix is good without many errors. This includes a great soundtrack and professional audio quality. Camera work and video quality are also up to standards. Sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized. The only drawbacks in this section are some cheesy special effects and some choppy editing. In the end, however, this production is enough to be above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

At times, The Big Fix offers some good dialogue and realistic looks at problems with families and businesses in American culture, but other times, the film is a bit in-your-face with obvious messaging and sermonizing. This aside, the movie’s entire basis is a bit off, to say the least, as it comes with all the expected logical problems and inconsistencies that usually accompany body-switching plots. Despite these obvious concerns, not much actual content actually transpires in this narrative apart from forced comedy, unearned silliness, wasted time, and useless montages, which all pertain to the questionable premise. Along with these errors comes inevitably unusual content and insinuations that make for awkward stop-and-start scenes and meandering sequences that lead to nowhere. In order to effectively pull off any type of character-switching idea, you have to actually have good characters to begin with rather than basic stereotypes. This storyline’s poor character development also gives rise to cheesy views of young people. In the end, the conclusion is forced and cheesy as it basically fixed everything very rapidly, and the last scene is quite bizarre in general. Therefore, not many points can be awarded to this section.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the acting in The Big Fix is okay even though it can be too forceful at times. Other times, however, the emotional and line deliveries seem more natural. The biggest issue here is that, in order to properly execute a character switching plot, you need high-level acting. Unfortunately, these performances are just a bit above average. Nonetheless, while the acting is a bit stop-and-start at first, it tends to improve with time, which rounds out a run-of-the-mill effort.

Conclusion

This creative team is usually almost there (see Fat Chance), but a collection of things always holds them back from reaching the next level. They would greatly benefit from improved screenwriting so that they can focus their talents in other areas, like beefing up production and acting. With a more substantial plot and stronger characters, The Big Fix could have really been something. Nevertheless, perhaps we’ll see better things from this group in the coming days.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

I Still Believe [2020] (Movie Review)

Image result for i still believe movie

Plot Summary

Jeremy Camp didn’t grow up with much, but he always had the love of his family, which is why they supported him in his dream to pursue a music career. When he attended a Christian college to fulfill this goal, Jeremy unexpectedly met Melissa Henning, who he quickly fell in love with. However, as Jeremy and Melissa grew closer together, they embarked on a harrowing and arduous journey into the unknown as Melissa battled cancer. Through the twists and turns, they discovered that God is always present in the midst of suffering and that there’s always a purpose to pain.

Production Quality (3 points)

It’s no surprise that, after the success of I Can Only Imagine, the Erwin brothers and their team have crafted yet another perfect production. I Still Believe hits all the right notes in every aspect of production, including video quality, camera work, audio quality, sets, locations, and props. Many camera angles are creatively artistic, and the soundtrack is a huge plus as it enhances the audience experience in all portions of the film and seamlessly integrates Camp’s music without turning it into a product placement. Further, the editing professional handles a story that is obviously difficult to properly present due to its scope. In short, there is nothing negative to note in this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

The Erwin Brothers, along with Jon Gunn, have no doubt mastered the art of the biopic as they have wisely chosen to focus their movie-making efforts on adapting real life stories into feature films. Though I Still Believe is a slight departure from the traditional Erwin brand since it zeroes in on a very small collection of characters, there are still no concerns with this storytelling adjustment. This narrative may signal a new era of Erwin creations, but it’s still another installment in their history of reliably quality offerings. In many ways, I Still Believe is almost two different movies as the first and second halves are quite different in tone, but these talented screenwriters correctly applied their God-given skills to weave the source material into a life-changing plot that will resound with many viewers from diverse backgrounds. Based off of real people, the characters therein are very poignant and relatable via realistic and profound dialogue that brings the story to life. Musical montages are responsibly used and don’t encroach upon important conversations that build characters; similarly, creative overlays effectively aid the complex plot presentation. Further, there are clear themes that are used throughout the film and serve to tie the major points together. Essentially, there are no issues to note in this section either.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Once again, in I Still Believe, the Erwin collective proves that they take great care in their casting and acting coaching work. Even though some of the cast members don’t entirely represent the real people they are portraying (which is the movie’s only flaw), every performance is still on point. Line delivery and emotional delivery are basically flawless as the audience is able to easily experience the characters’ feelings. Though this is a relatively small cast compared to previous Erwin projects, it still shines nonetheless and rounds out another blockbuster hit for the brothers.

Conclusion

Jeremy Camp’s compelling backstory was absolutely worth bringing to the big screen and will no doubt lead to further success for Kingdom Story Company. I Still Believe receives an additional x-factor point for being realistic, re-watchable, and generally worthwhile for all audiences. Many viewers will enjoy this film, and it’s likely to leave lasting impact on the Christian entertainment market. However, no matter what, we still highly recommend this film for all Christians and always look forward to future Erwin productions.

Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

Overcomer [2019] (Movie Review)

Image result for overcomer movie

Plot Summary

A random small town is apparently falling apart due to the local factory closing down, and this decimates a Christian private school’s basketball team and sends the coach spiraling. When he already doesn’t even know what he’s going to do about a team, his superior, the principal, forces him to coach a one-girl cross-country team even though she has asthma! Along the way, he stumbles into a random hospital room containing someone who has surprising connections to the plot! Will he ever learn who he really is in Christ beyond just being a coach?

Production Quality (2 points)

Okay, so, what exactly was this $5 million budget spent on? Much of the production is fairly uninspiring. As usual for the Kendricks, it’s fine and mostly professional-looking, but for reals…all we get from this dollar amount is a bunch of vanilla sets, props, and locations mostly pertaining to people’s houses, a school campus, and lots of running\training footage? The decade-plus career of the brothers who brought Christian film out of the dark ages culminates with this? Besides the overall blah-ness of the layout, tons of time is wasted on nothing special in this film, and the editing seems very disjointed and disorganized. However, much of this could be due to the lack of any substantial plot content…

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

…which makes us wonder what the story actually is here. What are we supposed to focus on? The less than half-an-hour treatise on small towns falling apart? Five minutes of basketball footage? Alex Kendrick getting angry and throwing things? A runner with asthma? A random guy in a hospital? In all actuality, the blind man in the hospital bed is the most worthwhile subplot of the entire film, and it keeps this section from being abysmal, yet we only hear this part of the story through spoken word rather than via effective flashbacks. The only way to fix this film would be the focus entirely on this part of the story (the past and present narratives of the blind man and his interactions with other side characters) through a non-linear plot style. However, we don’t get this in Overcomer as we’re instead left with a very disjointed and disorganized storyline that gives us no opportunity to get to know the characters except that Alex Kendrick’s character is an almost-perfect white guy who has to save a non-white girl. Therein, there are many disturbing themes, such as the white family being overly good as they help the ‘bad’ African American girl; it goes without saying that a very disturbing plot point involves the school principal telling the coach to aid said minority minor in going around and lying to her legal guardian in basically illegal fashions. These actions are painted as good and never receive any consequences because the white characters can do no wrong. It’s too bad that the cross-country athlete character never stood a chance with the poor dialogue written for her character…she’s essentially programmed to respond to the prompts of her Caucasian helpers with little thought of her own. Elsewhere, old Kendrick humor is dying a slow and painful death as cringe-worthy attempts at comedy litter the already-confusing landscape of this storyline. In the end, it’s very difficult to think this plot had any other goals besides pushing propaganda and some kind of weird suburban version of Christianity.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The Kendricks can choose literally anyone to be in their films; some cast members would do it for free, yet Alex insists on continually casting himself in lead roles he can’t pull off. He and Shari Rigby crowd out the runtime of Overcomer with bland and forgettable performances that drown out better skills from supporting (non-white) cast members who are barely given a chance to do anything. For instance, Priscilla Shirer and Cameron Arnett have plenty of acting skills, but we don’t see them as often as we see awkward white people. Aryn Wright-Thompson probably has something to offer if she was ever given a shot to do something besides robotically repeat stale lines. In the end, this section is fine, but it punctuates a surprisingly bad effort from the Kendricks.

Conclusion

Minus the unusual racial undertones and the bizarre condoning of illegal actions, Overcomer is basically a run-of-the-mill church film with a sports twist. Even without the glaring issues, however, this still wouldn’t be acceptable based on where the Kendricks are in the careers. They are basically at the pinnacle of success, coming off their most successful film (War Room), so their budget and advertising resources are clearly vast. They can hire and cast whoever they wish, including actual screenwriters, yet they decided to settle for a well-produced version of Flywheel combined with the worst racial stereotypes found in Courageous to create a blandly vague idea that focuses on forcing messages down the audience’s throats. In the end, it appears as though their refusal to reach out and try different collaborations is causing them to fade into the background of an industry they helped save from the brink.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Discarded Things (2020?)

Image result for discarded things movie

Movie Trailer: Discarded Things from Gerry Martin on Vimeo.

Currently in post-production from Earth Mother Entertainment

Writer(s): Karen Abercrombie, Tara Lynn Marcelle

Director(s): Tara Lynn Marcelle, Joanne Hock

Producer(s): Karen Abercrombie

Starring: Sharonne Lanier, Ian Grey, Alexandria Benford, Silvia Dionicio, Madison Bailey, Jemarcus Kilgore, Thomas Ford, Karen Abercrombie, Cameron Arnett

Plot summary: When the life of Grace Wyatt, an esteemed music professor, is disrupted by tragedy, she finds herself thrown out of her lavish academic world and into the harsh reality of teaching at-risk youth

Redeemed (coming in 2019)

Redeemed

Currently in post-production

Writer: Ty Manns, Monice Mitchell, Jacqueline D. Moore

Director: Ty Manns

Producer: Vickie Adams, Joel M. Gonzales, Bishop Charles Mackie, Ty Manns, Jackie Moore, Kevan Otto, Pejman Partiyeli, Brandon Riley, Tim Warren

Starring: Keshia Knight Pulliam, Jeff Rose, T.C. Stallings, Eaddy Mays, Roshawn Franklin, Shannen Fields, Karen Valero, Cameron Arnett, Ty Manns, Nereida Velazquez, Johann Mikaiel, Shari Dyon Perry, Deetta West, Joel M. Gonzales, Thom Scott II, Jef Holbrook, Mayra Nuñez, Ole Goode, Bishop Charles Mackie, N’dia-Marrie Farr-Cannon, Sara Lynn Herman, Will Oliver, Sam Beman

Plot Summary: After becoming the youngest female, minority judge elevated to the bench in her state, Angela Sylvester quickly finds herself trapped into a ‘Kids for Pay’ prison scam orchestrated by her boss, Judge Cynthia Paulino. Fearing her legal career and dream of becoming a federal judge is over, she struggles and her career spirals out of control. Afraid, she takes the advice of a close friend and turns to her faith to find the strength needed to redeem herself of the crimes committed.

Mission Improbable [2016] (Movie Review)

Mission Improbable (2016)

Plot Summary

The lives of several substance abusers and a pastor who lives a luxurious ministry lifestyle suddenly become interconnected as God leads each them down different paths to the same place: a Christian substance abuse rehab. They all have different motives and different reasons for being there, but by the time it’s done, none of them will be the same. However, when each person’s past comes calling, how will they respond?

Production Quality (1 point)

One of the most glaring problems with this production is that it’s over-extended and cannot adequately portray what it’s meant to portray. This is evidenced by very cheap and limited sets, locations, and props, as well as poor lighting throughout. The audio quality, both indoor and outdoor, are also both inadequate. While the video quality is mostly fine, there are a lot of strange camera angles. Also, while the editing is mostly fine, this is overall a very cheap production that really has no place in this era of Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While this film seeks to portray unfortunately realistic circumstances that can be found virtually anywhere in America, it does so in a very tone-deaf manner. Substance abuse is a real and serious issue, but this movie treats it solely like a spiritual issue (there are spiritual components, but not only that) and does so in a very legalistic and unrealistic fashion, such as implying that praying and becoming a Christian immediately cures substance abuse. However, there is a refreshingly honest look at church problems, even if the bad characters are total strawmen, especially the ‘bad’ women. It doesn’t help that all of the dialogue is painfully forced and has a very archaic style and tone about it. As such, the conversations do nothing to build or grow characters even though there are very steep character arcs that come as a result of reading Bible verses, which are also highly unrealistic. In the end, everything is magically fixed when the characters act as the plot wants them to act. Essentially, this is a worthwhile topic to explore in film, but screenwriters need to do so in the context of actual research about and\or experience with substance abuse rather than the total ignorance this film displays.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To top things off, this film contains some of the worst acting of the past few years. This poor quality includes weird scenes of cast members talking to themselves and is most represented by the very awkward and overly-practiced tone of the acting. Many cast members seem self-impressed for no reason and demonstrate tone-deaf emotional and line delivery. Elsewhere, emotions are extremely forced to the point parody. In the end, this film has very little going for it.

Conclusion

Nearly every movie starts off with a good idea. One of the most error-prone areas of Christian film is converting that good idea into a movie that’s worthwhile, high-quality, and accessible by several different audiences. If a film can’t be understood or can’t properly relate to people, there’s really no hope for it. This besetting sin of Christian film is an overall symptom of problems facing the church: American Christians, as a generalization (there are always exceptions), have difficult time understanding real people because they don’t know them very well. Until this changes, Christian film as a whole won’t change on the large scale.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Extraordinary [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dr. David Horton is known as a great professor in Lynchburg, and his ‘running’ class is extremely popular.  His reputation is that he helps all of his students by connecting with them on a personal level.  Dr. Horton is also a marathon enthusiast, but his passion often takes away his time from his family, which is something his wife greatly struggles with.  Much to her chagrin, David embarks on a dangerous cross-country marathon for two months, even though he is secretly battling health problems.  Will his health and their marriage survive the trek?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Liberty University has all of the toys and resources an independent film maker could dream of, yet they consistently settle for just above average productions.  There’s no doubt that Extraordinary has some great cinematography, even if it’s mostly a collection of American landmark shots.  Nevertheless, camera work is excellent, and video quality is great.  Sets, locations, and props also make this production a mostly good experience.  Editing is standard, and on the surface, this is a well-produced film.  However, beneath the surface, there are some head-scratching inclusions, such as silly production gimmicks and weirdly bad special effects.  These elements are reminiscent of film school professors playing around to see what they can do with what they have.  However, most audiences will likely look past these issues and see the above-average production that it is.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on a true story, the Liberty University team had a lot to work with, even though they have struggled in the past with storylines.  However, in Extraordinary, the Curlee\Schultze team continued their issues with very thin and empty plots and characters.  Though this is based on real people, they clearly had no idea how to craft realistic characters as the story does not translate well at all.  The characters are empty due to dialogue that is full of title-dropping, pedestrian platitude-pushing, and repeated content.  Many scenes are basically filler with no substantial contribution to the overall plot.  There are one too many ‘funny’ scenes, and the majority of the movie is packed with musical montages and dramatic moments that have no meaning.  In the end, though the basic idea behind this story was great, the film version leaves the audience with no real focus or purpose as it tried so hard to drive the point home that it fell flat.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Acting coaching and casting is another area the Curlee\Schultze team struggles in, which is a shame since they claim to be prodigies of the Kendricks.  The lead actor of this film is particularly weak and awkward, and several supporting cast members are annoying.  Kirk Cameron is beyond obnoxious, and Shari Rigby struggles without better directing.  However, there are enough good areas here to make this section at least average; one has to consider that this cast didn’t have many substantial lines to work with.  Nonetheless, the Liberty University team continues to disappoint.

Conclusion

Scotty Curlee and Stephan Schultze have the film world at their fingertips, yet they constantly settle for half-measure and expect you to deal with it because at least it’s a Christian movie or something.  Unfortunately, they are consistently wasting the time and money of Christian audiences as all of their marketing is for nothing but a quick cash grab.  Extraordinary is another example of a squandered opportunity because Curlee and Schultze refuse to retain a truly talented screenwriter (like Sean Morgan) and have demonstrated time and again their lack of regard for improvement.  Now we can just wait with bated breath for their upcoming Trump film.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Adrenaline [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Joseph Jenkins is a hotshot drag race car driver, but when he is suddenly crippled in a wreck, he feels like his life is over.  As he sulks in a hospital room, he doesn’t want to see anyone, but his roommate pulls him out of his shell and gives him a new purpose in life.  Then Joseph suddenly reconnects with an old friend of his father, whom he never knew.  Joseph soon finds a new lease on life and a chance at redemption, but will he be able to make his newfound faith his own?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Adrenaline is overall a mixed bag, including the production.  Video quality is fine, but camera work is too shaky, including a lot of odd camera angles.  Lighting is poor at first, but it improves as it goes.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is sometimes too loud.  However, sets, locations, and props are very professional.  Yet Adrenaline commits a common error of indie films—imperfect editing.  Cuts and transitions are very confusing and even sometimes spastic, thus making for a lot of choppy editing.  In the end, this is a good production effort, but some kinks still need to be worked out of it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, though it has some good messages, Adrenaline is a formulaic sports redemption plot with a predictable sequence.  The characters are somewhat stereotypical, though attempts are made to develop them.  However, it would be better to see them deeper because they are intriguing characters.  This can be done by making the dialogue more creative and complex.  Elsewhere, there are too many (unfortunately expected) sports and training montages, as well as a lot of wasted time.  It’s too bad because it feels like this plot has a lot of potential that it doesn’t reach.  Perhaps things will improve next time.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Even as a slightly amateur cast (except for John Schneider), the acting isn’t really that bad.  Even John Schneider is better than he has been in the past.  The cast members embrace their characters well.  The only issue to point out is some overdone emotions, but that’s easily fixed.  This shows great hope for the future.

Conclusion

With some experience working under the Kendricks, this creative team did pick up on a thing or two that they will likely be able to use to get even better in the future.  First movie mistakes can easily be forgiven, so it will be interesting to see what they have planned next.  With some better production funding and a more creative plot, as well as a continuously good cast, this team will be going places.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Badge of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Bryan Lawrence was a well-respected police officer who was caught in an unfortunately violent situation that ended with him becoming paralyzed.  However, through this very difficult situation, he fought to keep his optimism up as his family came around him and supported him.  Though it was deemed impossible, Bryan sought to walk again with the goal of walking his future daughter-in-law down the aisle.  Times were hard and sometimes he and his family felt like giving up, but his faith in God always kept him grounded.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Badge of Faith is clearly a well-funded production with professional caliber video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is somewhat generic but is respectable.  Sets, locations, and props are highly realistic and appropriate.  There is little negative to speak about here, except for the fact that the editing seems unfinished in that some scenes seem abruptly cut off before they’re done.  However, despite this issue, this is a nearly perfect production that the creators should be proud of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This story is a very inspiring real-life story, but one has to question how it is presented in this film.  As it is, the storyline is fairly boring and somewhat flat, even though there is a lot of potentially interesting content here.  For instance, there are too many montages that stunt character development.  Even though there are some good attempts at developing the characters through realistic dialogue, since there are not many characters and since this is a character-driven plot, we would have liked to see further development.  Though there are many pertinent and accessible issues explored in this film, the storyline overall lacks the necessary continuity and driving purpose that would make this movie dynamic.  Though the struggles of the characters can be appreciated, it feels like this is just a string of random sequences.  In the end, Stone Table Films knows how to find a realistic story and make a movie out of, but like Touched by Grace, the plot of Badge of Faith leaves something to be desired.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The acting is definitely the strongest point of this film.  The cast is highly professional and well-coached.  Each member is case highly appropriately.  Emotions are very realistic and line delivery is on point.  There are no errors to point out here.

Conclusion

It is certainly enjoyable and refreshing to watch the movies produced by the Stone Table team, but it is also frustrating to see the potential they left behind.  If Touched by Grace and Badge of Faith had slightly better plot improvement, each of these films would be on the Hall of Fame.  Yet the Stone Table team is continually improving, so there is great hope for their future.  We firmly believe they will keep trying until they finally get that blockbuster release.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Champion [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sean Weathers is an up and coming dirt track racer who is obsessed with becoming the best and doing whatever it takes to do that.  He feels like he is close to becoming the top dirt track racer, but when one rival stands in his way, Sean does the unthinkable to secure his position.  However, tragedy sends Sean spiraling out of control as he begins to lose his sanity and everything he holds dear.  The only path forward is to face the pain he is trying to avoid and to seek forgiveness in the hardest places.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a student of the Kendrick film model, Judd Brannon and his team have mastered professional productions skills early on in their careers, which will be a major advantage for them down the road.  All aspects of Champion’s production are excellent—video quality is superb and camera work is very good as difficult action shots and outside scenes are executed nicely.  Audio quality is also on par and the soundtrack is reminiscent of a Kendrick soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are highly professional and appropriate, thus enhancing the film’s overall quality.  The only minor issues to raise here are some editing mistakes that cause for a small amount of viewing confusion, but this is something that will be rectified with more experience.  Overall, you can’t ask for a better production start than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Judd Brannon and his team have also taken a page from the Kendrick playbook when it comes to plots, as they used a non-linear plot structure with interlocking subplots.  This is mostly a good thing, yet there are a few too many unnecessary tangents that hamper with the storyline’s focus.  The characters therein are realistic and the circumstances they encounter are also believable.  However, they could use a little bit more deepening through better dialogue and more complexity.  It is clear that a lot of thought and effort was put into this plot, and there is certainly great messaging that many audiences will enjoy.  Yet this story is held back by its predictable progression and reliance on coincidences.  But in the end, like the Kendricks, Judd Brannon and his team are making the most of the inspirational genre plot structure and have great potential for the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is a professional cast, and for the most part, each cast member is appropriately placed in their roles.  Andrew Cheney and Robert Amaya clearly know what they are doing.  Yet some other cast members are not very convincing in their roles and sometimes come off as disingenuous.  But overall, emotions are believable and line delivery is on point.  This is a great cast to begin with.

Conclusion

The good news for Christian film is that the bar is being raised by new film makers entering the field.  Although hardly anyone can make a freshman blockbuster like October Baby or Priceless, films like Champion certainly make for a great start in the field.  You can’t argue with this type of beginning, especially since most viewers will enjoy it.  We firmly believe this team has the ability and the resources to take that next step, as long as they add a little more complexity and creativity to their plots and make sure to avoid pesky acting errors.  Regardless, Brannon and company are well on their way to greatness and will find great success in this debut, as it is certainly worth your time to see.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points