The Farmer and the Belle: Saving Santaland (Movie Review)

Movie – The Farmer and The Belle

Plot Summary

Belle Winters is a model who’s been told that she’s aging out of the business. Thus, she decides to revisit a place from her childhood to find the secret to true beauty, which she believes was found on a bracelet she left behind. However, when she returns, she once again crosses paths with the pen pal she thought forgot about her. In seeing him again, what Belle finds is unexpected.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Despite being average, The Farmer and the Belle isn’t quite good enough for a 2020 production. Video and audio quality are good, and sets, locations, and props are acceptable. However, camera work is randomly shaky at times. The generic soundtrack is sometimes too obvious for the situations it’s played in. Editing is quite choppy as some scenes cut off prematurely. Nonetheless, there’s some improvement as the film goes on, but it’s still just run-of-the-mill.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Surprisingly, this plot begins with good attempts to develop character motive via a flashback prologue. Though the often-expository dialogue leaves a lot to be desired, there’s actually a basic narrative focus, including obvious themes albeit slightly juvenile ones. The tongue-in-cheek comedy is sometimes funny and sometimes not. At times, things happen simply because the writers want them to, and convenient turns transpire simply to suit the story’s purposes. The middle of the plot wastes a lot of time, seemingly kicking the can down the road, and a few sequences seem too staged and forced to exist. Overall, there is some potential in this section, but the contrived nature of the narrative and the lack of strong characters holds it back from being all that it could be.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Due to the back and forth nature of this section, the final score comes out as average. At times, the acting is professional while other times, it isn’t. Line delivery and emotions are overall inconsistent. Some scenes are more dramatic than others, but it’s not all bad. In the end, this mixed bag caps off an mostly underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

Movies like Saving Santaland are neither bad enough to be remembered nor good enough to be upheld. In the end, this screenplay is likely to fall into the same bin with other forgettable Christmas offerings that clamor for the attention of audiences. It’s definitely possible that holiday films are more likely to be viewed, so why not give the watchers something to remember rather than forget?

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Chasing Grace [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The wounds between two brothers are only deepened on one tragic day when the daughter of one of them is tragically killed in an avoidable accident.  The brothers and their families are immediately divided by hate and grief, which sends all of the family members spiraling and searching for answers in all the wrong places.  Secrets are kept and vices are sought, and the only way out is through confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  Will they return to the faith their profess with these actions?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It is clear that a lot of time went into making this production, as most elements are fairly professional.  Camera work is mostly good except for some inconsistently shaky moments.  Video quality is on standard, but sometimes there is some randomly poorly-lit scenes.  Audio quality is fine and the soundtrack is intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props are all realistic and appropriate.  The editing is okay, but there are some confusing cuts and transitions and isolate the story.  But overall, these are all minor errors and the production as a whole meets industry standards.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Chasing Grace depicts a very interesting story, even if it is too slow to develop.  It contains many realistic circumstances and accessible struggles, but it also has a lot of dead sequences that don’t hold the attention.  There are a lot of long and drawn out conversations, but the characters are fairly well-developed.  Yet there are too many under-developed and vague subplots due to a confusing and disorienting presentation of events that includes unnecessarily missing gaps of time.  Family problems are given a fair look, but many of the problems presented are fixed far too easily and in ways that would never work in real life.  The Christian message is good, though there are some moments of melodrama.  Overall, this is a really good plot effort, especially in developing the characters, but as usual, we strongly feel like it could have been more.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

This is a highly professional casting job and lends the best elements to this film, as each actor and actress is cast appropriately and coaching well.  Even Rusty Martin Jr. posts a good performance.  There are only some minor errors among this cast, mostly of slightly overdone emotions.  Otherwise, this is a job well done.

Conclusion

Chasing Grace joins the ranks of middle-ground Christian films that stand out in the market due to their successful attempts at creating quality films.  However, it has a handful of small issues that hold it back from being all that it could be.  A character-driven story needs deep characters and a seamless plot that flows without confusion.  This is certainly difficult to pull off, especially when you have a lot of other elements to think about, but it is definitely possible and worth it in the end.  Films like this one are something to build off of for the future, so it will be interesting to see what the Catalyst team has planned next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Vanished: Left Behind Next Generation (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In one instant, millions around the globe disappear, leaving everyone else to wonder what just happened.  Four friends find that all they have in the world is each other as they embark into the wilderness to search for one of their own.  As they journey into the new landscape, they are forced to take refuge at a survivalist compound that seem safe on the outside, but is it really all it appears to be?  In this new world, can anyone be trusted?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

EchoLight has always had a commitment to quality productions, but in Vanished, the quality slips slightly.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are all professional except for some dizzying action shots.  The soundtrack is pretty good but is sometimes used to fill time.  Sets and locations are on par.  However, there are some cheap-looking special effects, as well as weird ‘dramatic’ sound effects.  There are also too many bouts of silence and too much slow-mo.  Finally, there is tons of wasted time as this film is designed to set up for the inevitable next one.  In short, EchoLight knows how to make an above-average production, but with Vanished, one has to wonder if it was worth it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

After an opening sequence that dumps all kinds of information on the audience, things start happening at a rapid pace for the first twenty minutes before you can even catch your breath.  After throwing a bunch of random characters together and trying to force you to get to know them too quickly, the plot soars off on a predictable apocalyptic progression that’s been done before and tries to hurriedly construct an isolating dystopian premise.  Then when everything is set, things slow way down to let you be immersed in a half-hearted teenage love triangle.  As previously mentioned, there’s not enough dialogue as one-dimensional characters wander around and make apocalyptic references and things happen because they need to.  The entire storyline is based on coincidences and trumped up conflict as time progresses vaguely towards a cheesy climax and uninspiring end that is supposed to make you want another movie, but fails epicly.  In short, there is little justification for this movie being made.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While it’s clear that this film was professionally cast and the cast members therein know what they’re doing, there’s still a handful of problems.  Some emotions are too forceful and some line delivery is half-hearted.  It also goes without saying that there is little chance the mainstream actors and actresses used in Vanished will come back for a supposed sequel.

Conclusion

Do we really need to re-hash this same old apocalyptic plot sequence over and over again?  How many more times do we need to repackage and reboot the same worn out Left Behind concepts and characters?  This time, it’s clear the creators were pandering to young adult audiences.  Maybe it’s time to stop constantly trying to redo Left Behind, because this movie would have been better if it had just created its own dystopian premise and abandoned Left Behind altogether.  Had the survivalist concept been expanded and the apocalyptic landscape been made a little more creative and mysterious and less copied, we could be looking at the start of a truly great saga.  But instead we are left wondering what could have been.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points