The World We Make (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

The Grove family has had their share of heartache over the past few years, but family friend Jordan Bishop has always been a constant support for them. However, the dynamics begin to shift when Jordan and Lee begin to develop a relationship after the grief seems to settle. Many discourage them from getting involved, and the small town seemingly works against their being together. Together, they experience unexpected prejudice and bias while discovering that they had more hiding below the surface than they previously realized.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a 2019 film, The World We Make is the type of respectable production we should be seeing time and again. There are very few flaws to point out here save for the slightly awkward editing near the end of the film (likely due to large story scope). Camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all basically flawless even though most scenes are filmed outdoors. The sets, locations, and props are extremely authentic and well-utilized; on-location shooting is definitely a big plus. Although the soundtrack could be a bit more than it is, this is a very high-level effort for a partially low-budget film, which goes to show what a little experience and proper collaboration can do for a movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Brian Baugh has always been committed to developing raw and real storylines based on accessible characters (I’m Not Ashamed). While The World We Make is one of his calmer tales, it’s nonetheless refreshing and believable. While the scope of this story may be a bit narrow, it’s nonetheless true-to-life and demonstrates great understanding of real people. The central romance is deeper than what we usually see in these types of films because it feels more believable and everyday. There are some very important themes explored, including grief avoidance, small town prejudice, and racial ostracizing. Characters make realistic decisions based on personality and motive rather than on plot necessity, and the storyline has a few slightly unexpected turns. As a whole, this is a very enjoyable plot to witness, and while it could have been a bit better since the ending is fairly rushed and somewhat cutoff, it’s still great as it is, which is enough to push this film over the top and onto the Hall of Fame.

Acting Quality (3 points)

There are virtually no flaws in the acting department. Caleb Castille owns another starring role, and Kevin Sizemore adapts a unique character that suits him. Gunnar Sizemore is a supporting role, but he could be a new rising star. Further, Gregory Alan Williams demonstrates a much more effective role than he’s played in the past. Overall, there is clear acting coaching present here as emotions and lines are authentically delivered, which rounds out a very commendable effort.

Conclusion

Although The World We Make could have been a bit more dynamic than this, it mostly reaches its fullest potential as a film. There are a few nitpicks, but in the grand scheme of things, Brian Baugh is continually setting himself apart as a master of characters, which seems to give him a better proclivity for series writing rather than movie writing. Indeed, not counting this year, we’ve had a longstanding drought in Christian series, so with new opportunities coming available (VidAngel), we may be poised to seeing a breakout in creators like Baugh directing their talents toward series rather than only films. Regardless of what happens, The World We Make is another good addition to the Hall of Fame and is one you’ll definitely want to make time for.

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

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Run the Race (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

It seems like Zach and Dave Truett have always been dealt a bad hand in life. Their mother died, and their father soon after fell into alcoholism. Dave suffers from a medical condition, so when Zach tears his ACL at a party, his chances of a football scholarship, their only clear way out of their small town, are jeopardized. This forces Zach to do the soul-searching he had always avoided since their mother died, and it leads the brothers to unexpected places.

Production Quality (2 points)

As the first production funded and facilitated by the Tebow brothers, they have definitely shown that they can aggregate funds and put them to fairly good use. For the most part, this production is quite good and hits all the right notes, including good video quality, effective camera work, professional audio quality, and a great soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props are also adequately used and constructed. While the music is good, one drawback is the many dizzying sports montages that seem to eat up most of the runtime. Because of the time spent on this part, other scenes in the film are awkwardly and abruptly cut off with poor transitions. However, on the whole, this is an above-average production that is great for a first time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the money put into the production didn’t reflect well in the plot department. While something good is trying to be portrayed in this story, it doesn’t come through well at all, mostly due to the quick, clipped scenes that leave little room for proper development. Much of the dialogue refers to off-screen content or is very punctuated; this makes for awkward conversations that are inadequate in building characters effectively. While there are some attempts to take a real look at issues facing small towns in America and the people in them, too much time is spent on sports and training montages, which makes for a fairly choppy story presentation that doesn’t flow very well at all. There are too many missed opportunities as mindless sequences crowd the runtime, and many of the characters are too basic and one-dimensional. Difficult topics are mishandled with cliches, and unexpected time jumps leave the viewer disoriented to the story’s progression. Besides a handful of good scenes near the end of the film, this movie mainly talks about things without really showing them to you and fixes things without any heart behind them. In better screenwriting hands, this could have been a great exploration of relevant issues facing ordinary people, but we are left wondering what could have been.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

On the whole, the acting of this film could have been good, and while there aren’t any glaring errors, it’s still a bit thin. Better coaching would have likely brought out the potential in the cast members, and even so, it’s not as bad as it could have been. However, it’s not really dynamic either, which makes this an average section that rounds off a middle-of-the-road film.

Conclusion

In summary, Run the Race is fine for a freshman film effort, but with higher standards being set in the Christian entertainment market, new film makers will need to aim higher if they want to make their mark. Good productions have become more of a benchmark than they once were, and acting should at least be above average. The films that will truly set themselves apart moving forward are those that have dynamic plots and effective storytelling techniques. Perhaps in the their next attempt, the Tebow brothers can wield their fundraising skills to support a truly talented screenwriter.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Movie Renovation: Where Hope Grows

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

For starters, like most films that need remakes, Where Hope Grows has a poor budget allocation.  The camera work needs a total rework, and the presence of a substantial soundtrack would have also helped things along.  Post-production elements, such as editing, also need to be renovated, as the way the plot is presented is a bit disorienting at times.  Overall, this film had a very indie feel to it, which is not always bad, but the lack of proper funding crippled this film’s full potential.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

The plot of Where Hope Grows also has some work to do.  There is a disproportionate amount of time spent on the woes of troubled characters.  Although this is a realistic approach, it’s not always done in a tasteful way.  This is billed as a family film, but the audience therein will likely be disappointed by the slightly overdone amount of edgy content that lacks a proper amount of redemption to help things.  Also, even though the characters are realistic in many ways, their dialogue needs deepening in order to assist the audience in relating to them better as people.  For example, some flashbacks could have aided us in understanding the motivations of the characters rather than having another scene of the main character acting drunk.  Also, as previously mentioned, the disorganization of this plot is a drag on the experience and blunts the full impact of the otherwise good ending.  Essentially, a total rewrite of this plot by the right person could have put this film on the Hall of Fame.

Acting Improvements

This film’s important message regarding special needs people is reinforced by the excellent casting of a special needs actor.  Though there are some overly heated emotional moments that could use some toning down, this section is overall the most reliable section of the movie.

Conclusion

Where Hope Grows was closer to greatness than a lot of films with twice its budget.  This level of commitment to raw, imperfect characters is hard to come by in the plastic Christian market.  However, there is a balance to find between extremely fake and extremely realistic.  Perhaps a future Christian film maker can use this film as a model for how to walk the line between the two in order to make a truly dynamic film.

 

2016 Box Office Revolution Awards

Every year, movies are released and cast members show off their talents.  Writers and directors showcase their creativity.  Films are separated into roughly three groups: the truly talented, the potentially great, and the others.  At Box Office Revolution, we believe it is our prerogative to annually recognize those movie makers and players who have the ability to bring revolution to Christian entertainment.

 

Reader’s Choice Movie of the Year: Providence

Runners-up: God’s Not Dead 2, Priceless, Risen

 

Staff Choice Movie of the Year: Priceless

Runners-up: I’m Not Ashamed, Risen, Heaven Bound, The Matchbreaker

 

Staff Choice Actor of the Year: Joel Smallbone

Runners-up: Joseph Fiennes (Risen), Danny Vinson (Heaven Bound), Michael Joiner (Heaven Bound), Wesley Elder (The Matchbreaker)

 

 

Staff Choice Actress of the Year: Masey McLain

Runners-up: Bianca Santos (Priceless), Christina Grimmie (The Matchbreaker), Nancy Stafford (Heaven Bound), Karen Abercrombie (God’s Compass)

 

Staff Choice Director of the Year: Kevin Reynolds (Risen)

Runners-up: Ben Smallbone (Priceless), Adam Drake\Torry Martin (Heaven Bound), Wesley Elder\Torry Martin (The Matchbreaker)

 

Staff Choice Writers of the Year: Marshal Younger\Torry Martin (Heaven Bound\The Matchbreaker)

Runners-up: Chris Dowling\Tyler Poelle (Priceless), Kevin Reynolds\Paul Aiello (Risen), Rene Gutteridge (Heaven Bound), Wesley Elder (The Matchbreaker)

 

Staff Choice Soundtrack of the Year: Priceless

Runners-up: Risen, Heaven Bound, The Matchbreaker

Priceless [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

James never intended to become a bad man, but he slowly slipped into a destructive lifestyle after his wife tragically died.  After losing custody of his daughter and being convicted of crime, James finds himself desperate for cash.  He agrees to help a ‘buddy’ out by hauling unknown cargo across the country to an unknown buyer, no questions asked.  But just before he reaches his destination, curiosity gets the best of him and he breaks the lock to see what is inside the box truck he has been driving for days.  Inside, he finds two young women in squalid condition and is faced with the ultimate moral choice: does he complete the job for the cash or does he break protocol and face consequences?

 

Production Quality (3 points)

It is refreshing and encouraging that there are new Christian film makers coming onto the scene every year to contribute to a growing army of creative minds ready to redeem the field once and for all.  2016 has been a year for many film makers to try to make their mark, but Priceless stands alone from them all, starting with exquisite production quality.  Shot on location (there’s a concept!) with professional camera work and angles, Priceless has all the goods.  Video quality is excellent, including diverse lighting done right.  Audio quality is flawless and the original soundtrack is an epic breath of fresh air.  Sets and locations are extremely realistic; outdoor scenes are executed well.  There are no editing problems.  There are few times we have an opportunity to say this: there are no production errors in this film.  The production is easily one of the best for a rookie effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Unlike the failed Caged No More, which portrays human trafficking in a far-off location away from ‘safe’ America, Priceless shoves the issue in your face—in the middle of small town America and American suburbia.  Though the beginning sequence is a bit rushed and the narration is heavy-handed, there are no errors beyond this.  The flawed character arcs are inspiring; we really feel like we can relate to the struggles of the characters.  Dialogue is effective in building the excellent storyline, as is the use of flashbacks.  The plot itself is very gritty and down to earth; there are no unbelievable elements or plot holes.  The Christian message is neither in-your-face nor muted, but is presented tastefully.  Edgy elements are handled properly.  The creators did all they could do with this plot, including a slight plot twist and an appropriate ending.  In short, except for some minor rookie errors, this is a plot to be proud of.  It not only presents the human trafficking problem to the audience in a realistic way, but it does so with authentic characters and an engaging storyline.  We can’t wait to see more from the Smallbones.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Taking a page from the Kendrick\Erwin playbook, the Smallbone team employed acting coaching and it paid off.  Though the cast is small, they carry the movie well.  In Priceless, Joel Smallbone finally became vindicated for past uninspiring performances that were likely the consequence of poor leadership in those films.  Bianca Santos is a very promising actress for the future.  Emotions are very believable and line delivery is on point.  Costuming is appropriate.  In short, there are no errors here.

Conclusion

Priceless receives an x-factor point for presenting a highly important issue in an exquisite manner.  While watching this film, I was reminded that this is why we do what we do.  Christian film makers who care use their God-given talents to create movies that make a difference in the culture.  Similarly, we feel God has called us to critique the Christian creative so that hopefully the field will improve as a whole.  Enslaved girls is why we do this.  Lost souls is why we do this.  Mobilizing activism is why we do this.  Making a difference is why we do this.  Under such films as Priceless (and other Hall of Fame films) can we unite for a common cause and no longer remember the days of failed low-quality Christian movies.  Budding film makers like Ben Smallbone and his team are lighting the way and giving us hope for a new day in Christian film.  Since this is how he has debuted, we cannot wait to see what he has to offer next.

 

Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

 

Where Hope Grows (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Calvin is a down on his luck ex-pro baseball player who has been struggling to get his career back on track ever since he blew it in a big game.  He’s addicted to alcohol and has a strained relationship with his daughter.  He’s aimless in life until he randomly meets a young man with Downs syndrome working at a local grocery store.  Named Produce, he immediately forms an unlikely bond with Calvin and begins to unknowingly challenge him to live better.  In talking with Produce, Calvin begins to have a whole new outlook on life—one that doesn’t revolve around himself.  But as the challenges and struggles facing them get tougher, they will each have to choose how they are going to respond in order to determine where they will end up in life.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Where Hope Grows is severely under-funded.  It’s painfully obvious that one main camera is used and that it is not stationary or mechanically movable, as the shots frequently shake around.  The video quality is also B-grade, but not as bad as it could be.  The sound is inconsistent, but mostly stays good.  Perhaps one of the biggest production issues is the painful absence of a soundtrack.  If this film had a musical score, it would be greatly improved.  On the upside, the sets and locations are good; the crew demonstrates a commitment to making everything look realistic rather than getting stuck in a few cheesy sets.  However, the editing is unfortunately very confusing, making the storyline hard to follow.  Overall, the production shows that this film was not a throw together and it feels like the crew did the best they could with what they had.  We only wish they had more funds to work with.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

There is a lot of great content in this plot that doesn’t seem to live up to its full potential.  The concept of this film is very ingenious in an inspirational market that is flooded with pedestrian movies.  It accurately and realistically (sometimes too realistically) portrays real issues facing ordinary people, whether special needs people or ex-professional athletes and their families.  However, it is sometimes too hard to connect with the characters because the plot is too choppy to create an environment conducive to character development.  Dialogue is too inconsistent—sometimes profound and other times understated and isolating.  There are too many portions of the plot that are either too short or not explained well enough.  There are also too many points where the audience is tempted to turn off the movie because it’s too confusing or too raw.  But if you do make it to the end, there is actually a very creative intersection of the characters that partially makes it all worth it.  This portion of the film is the best because it is well thought out but it is also frustrating to watch, knowing how much better it could be.  Elsewhere, as previously mentioned, there is too much raw and sometimes crude content in this film—even though this definitely realistic, it should be presented in a more palatable way.  In summary, there are many ways in which Where Hope Grows could have been a better film and we really wish a remake would be made.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, the acting is the strongest point of this movie.  It is so rare to cast a special needs person in a film, so the casting of David DeSanctis is both groundbreaking and highly appropriate.  The remainder of the cast sometimes lives up the acting genius of DeSanctis and sometimes they do not.  Emotional delivery is pretty good throughout, but sometimes it is over the top.  Therefore, the acting quality is overall above average.

Conclusion

In Christian and inspirational film, there is a list of movies that are frustrating to watch because they exhibit far more potential than they produce.  These films should all be up for remakes, and Where Hope Grows is one of those.  Special needs people need to be portrayed properly in movies; this is one way that this film breaks barriers.  If it had more money behind it and less crude content, we can’t help but think that it would have been Hall of Fame worthy and extremely successful in inspirational circles.  But alas, we are left with another film that could have been.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

The Remaining (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jack, Dan, and Allison are excited to be a part of the special day for their friends Tommy and Skylar, who are marrying each other.  Dan looks forward to capturing the day with his camera.  However, the wedding reception is interrupted by an unexplainable cataclysmic event—thousands around the world are turning up suddenly dead.  As if this was not enough, natural disasters begin occurring one after another, driving the five friends to seek shelter along with millions of others as darkness descends on the planet.  They must come to grips with the Christian beliefs they have long been ignoring in order to survive the chaos.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

This is intended to be a found footage production, but the movie does not stick with found footage for the entire duration, even though multiple characters are shown filming with various devices.  In conjunction with this, the camera work is expectedly shaky, probably to add some kind of sensational feel.  Since this is supposed to be a horror movie, there are also obligatory cheesy jump scares, cheap dark action, and poor special effects.  Multiple scenes have constant flashing lights or piercing noises, making for a cringing watch.  In addition, there are multiple scenes that repeat over again due to characters watching the footage they have already recorded.  In summary, the production is C-grade; do not watch if you have epilepsy or dizziness problems, because this movie will not be kind to you.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

What is the plot?  The Remaining falls in line with many apocalyptic action and horror movies that discard the plot and exchange it for sensationalism.  There is no driving purpose except for trumped up drama.  There too many characters, and they are all empty, neglected in a quest to attempt to entertain young audiences, we are guessing.  The dialogue is stock and forced, like it was added just because the characters had to say something.  The Biblical elements of the movie are juxtaposed on top of an overdone horror concept.  No matter where you stand on end-times prophecy, the succession of the judgments is sped up to suit this movie’s runtime.  Furthermore, the end of the movie is extremely perplexing, like they just ran out of ideas.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The acting is cheesy and amateurish.  Most of the time, the actors are either trying too hard or not trying at all.  Horror acting is already bad enough, and this cast took it to a whole new level.  We feel that even coaching would not have helped because of this movie’s clear lack of direction.

Conclusion

The Remaining feels like a group of college students got together and wanted to make a horror movie.  When they were rejected by mainstream producers, they decided to slap a Christian message on it and hope it stuck.  Why this movie was distributed is beyond Box Office Revolution.  It should have been stripped of its funding early in the production process.  It will forever be remembered as one of those cheesy Christian apocalypse films that never made any real impact.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points