No Lost Cause (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After BethAnn is the victim of a car wreck, she is left paralyzed and angry at the world.  She feels like God hates her, and she definitely does not want to go live with her Christian father.  She is also angry that she is now behind in school.  BethAnn feels like her life has no meaning, but her father and his farm hand help her see otherwise.  Only when BethAnn is able to forgive the man who put her in the wheelchair will she be able to move to a new place in life.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, No Lost Cause has a mostly average production.  This is evident in the fine video quality, yet the camera work and audio quality are inconsistent, including a generic soundtrack and some echoing audio.  Sets, props, and locations are somewhat limited to a few options.  However, there is improvement to these issues as the film goes on.  Editing is fairly standard, which overall rounds out an overall average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While this film is an interesting attempt to develop realistic characters with realistic struggles, it definitely does not go deep enough.  Dialogue stays around the surface rather than showing character motives, back stories, and personalities.  The premise is also somewhat limited and needed deeper characters to sustain it.  This is a nice idea with a slight amount of potential, but it needed definite upgrading.  Also, the romantic subplot is too predictable and shallow.  The characters arcs that are created are far too steep and suggest that being a good person will automatically heal you of physical ailments.  Further, the ending and resolution of problems are too rushed and unrealistic.  Thus, this idea could really use a rewrite.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While there are some moments of over-acting, including some forced emotions and lines, most of the members of this small cast are trying to be realistic and interesting in their characters, even if they didn’t have much to work with.  There are some awkward moments and a few random outbursts, but on the whole, this is an above average effort.

Conclusion

No Lost Cause is a good first-time film as it keeps things simple and doesn’t try to go too far outside of its bounds.  Even still, since this is a character-driven plot, it would have been much better to see deeper characters through more substantial dialogue and clearer character motivations.  However, perhaps this creative team still has better things in store.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

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The Potential Inside (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chris Carmik is a successful professional cyclist and is an extremely competitive athlete.  However, his great success on the track has caused his family life to suffer.  His wife and daughter barely know him or see him.  But one night, a tragedy changes their family forever and leaves them reeling in the aftermath.  With the rise of a new cyclist who wants to be trained by Chris, will he be able to pick up the pieces and turn back to God before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As usual for Scotty Curlee and the Liberty University team, production is certainly not a major issue in their early film The Potential Inside.  Video quality and camera work are professional, as are audio quality and the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are adequate and appropriate, especially the sports scenes.  The biggest issue to point out here, as usual, is the fairly choppy editing job.  It’s difficult to follow the story due to this fact and makes the experience uneven.  In the end, while Curlee and team are masters of production quality, they often get lost in film school and forget about real plot content.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The Potential Inside is the same song, different verse for the inspirational sports genre.  This story follows the rock bottom journey of a typical downtrodden and troubled athlete character who needs a comeback to save his career and his family.  All the typical melodrama ensues, even though these characters are circumstances are mostly believable.  Yet it’s difficult to get to know these characters as real people rather than as cardboard cutouts.  As the story jumps all over the place and wastes lots of time, there are way too many sports\training montages to pump the runtime.  Due to this fact, the message of this film is fairly unclear, even as it introduces unwarranted quick fixes to patch things up in the end.  Unfortunately, there’s really not much good to say here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the Liberty University team usually assembles semi-professional casts, coaching isn’t their forte.  The performances of this cast are mostly okay and passable, but there are some forceful emotions and yelling sequences that get annoying.  Line delivery is mostly on point.  In the end, a lot of parts of this film seem to be checking boxes.

Conclusion

This film was early in Curlee’s career, so perhaps he will only grow from where he has been.  He and his team have all the potential in the world—as well as an amazing amount of resources that some film makers only dream about.  Now it’s time for them to marshal these resources properly and to truly make a film that can turn the industry on its ear—because they definitely have the ability to do so.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Welcome to Paradise [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Debbie Laramie makes a mistake that causes her to lose her current pastor job, she is demoted by her superior to become the pastor of a struggling small town church in Paradise, Texas.  She tends to be a rogue when delivering her sermons, so she brings her unique style to the stuck-in-their-ways small town in an attempt to shake things up.  Though plenty of gossip goes around about her, she forges ahead and tries to make a difference.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unlike other Echolight-affiliated productions, Welcome to Paradise does not have the usual professional quality.  Camera work is unprofessional and there is some inconsistent lighting, although video quality is fine.  Audio quality needs some work, as does the random soundtrack.  However, sets, locations, and props are adequate and appropriate.  The editing could also use some improvement, but it is not that bad.  Overall, this is a confusing production because it’s hard to understand what they were trying to do.  They don’t appear to be that limited on budget, so it’s hard to know why quality is inconsistent.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This story was taken from the pages of a proverbial stock plot playbook.  It is the extremely stereotypical tale of a character who is forced to live in a small town and save the church therein.  Thus, every character stereotype imaginable is included, driven by pointless dialogue and very cheesy and forced comedy.  As the story meanders along in a useless fashion, it is driven by laughable coincidences and things that happen because they need to.  There is little to no justification for making this formulaic film because it has been done a million times before and after.  If you’re going to use a typical storyline, at least develop the characters properly.  However, this was not done in this film.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is a semi-professional cast, they are trying way too hard to be funny.  Though they have their good moments, they are trying too much to exhibit quirky stereotypes.  It’s hard to feel like emotions are taken seriously in this cast.  Overall, this film is a big disappointment.

Conclusion

Welcome to Paradise feels like a dumb TV show or a reject Hallmark movie.  It could have very well been marketed by Hallmark, as long as it was fit into one of their seasonal molds.  Nonetheless, it’s difficult to justify the creation of these types of films.  Is this really what the Christian market needs?  We beg to differ.  Christian film makers can do better than this by a long shot.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

25 Hill (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Trey Caldwell’s father is tragically killed overseas while serving in the military, Trey feels like he will never fulfill the dream his father gave him—the dream of racing their soapbox car in the derby.  But then, Trey’s kind school principal introduces him to Roy Gibbs, a troubled fireman who would like to forget the death of his son.  The two of them find that they have something in common: a passion for soapbox derby racing.  As Roy trains Trey, they develop a unique bond and inadvertently find healing from their wounds.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As Corbin Bernsen’s first foray into the inspirational market, 25 Hill demonstrates his typical high production quality that he likely learned in the mainstream sector and is unfortunately not commonplace in the Christian field.  Beginning with an effective opening sequence that tells the story without narration, this film checks all the necessary boxes for production quality.  Video quality, camera work, audio quality, and soundtrack are all professional and effective.  Sets, locations, and props are also above standard.  The only complaint to raise here is the high number of sports montages, which are too typical of this genre.  Otherwise, this is a very respectable production that many Christian film makers can model after.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Before Bersen decided to develop his own zany brand of satire, he decided to create a grief plot that has a commitment to taking jabs are stereotypical plot elements.  His take on this predictable plot structure is enjoyable, yet like Bernsen’s other films, 25 Hill still includes too many formulaic elements that are commonly found in sports\grief plots.  Yet his continual pointing out and exposing of typical movie clichés is a fun experience nonetheless, as is his satire on product placements.  With good dialogue and character development, this story demonstrates a better version of the Bernsen brand, which later devolved into silliness and insanity in Christian Mingle, 3 Day Test, and In-lawfully Yours.  The biggest thing that holds 25 Hill back is its predictability, as Bernsen does his typical flirting with creativity but doesn’t really follow through.  Yet in the end, this will be an enjoyable story for most and is certainly worth a watch.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Bernsen and his team completely nailed their casting work.  Each actor and actress fits their characters comfortably as they deliver their lines and inflections flawlessly.  Emotional performances are highly effective, thus making this a perfect score.

Conclusion

We definitely understand where Bernsen is coming from—sometimes.  He wants to make quality inspirational films while at the same time exposing where many films in the genre go wrong.  He always thinks about doing something different with his storylines, but in the end goes back to the typical, safe ending.  Nonetheless, 25 Hill will be liked by most audiences, and it is certainly worth a watch.  Perhaps eventually, Bernsen will finally hit the home run he has been searching for all these years.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

1 Message (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Becca Norris had it all—money, success, and a boyfriend—until her doctor discovers that she has breast cancer and requires a major operation to save her life.  However, the operation leaves her changed forever, thus causing her boyfriend to become uninterested in her.  His departure sends Becca into a reclusive depression that no one, not even her family, can shake her out of.  Yet when her brother gets interested in internet research, Becca meets a man online who is interested in her as a person and who makes her think twice about shutting herself off from the world.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

1 Message falls into the typical mold of a Kelly’s Filmworks production.  With good video quality and overly artistic camera shots, this film is classic Jefferson Moore.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is a bit off.  There is basically only one set in this film, but the props are good.  Though this production tends to improve as it goes on, there is little to no justification for it being two and a half hours long.  There is a serious lack of editing in this movie that will cause many audiences to give up by the first hour.  In the end, this is an average production that needs some more fleshing out and cutting down in order to make it more professional.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously mentioned, it is mind-boggling that this film is two and a half hours long when there is certainly not enough interesting content to sustain this runtime.  The first hour or so of the film is incredibly boring and melodramatic as it confusingly conceals parts of the story for the second hour.  The first half includes a fixation on breast cancer and ‘genie-ologies’, as well as weird attempts at humor.  A majority of the ‘dialogue’ is people verbatim typing and reading stuff on the computer over and over again, which is incredibly boring and does nothing to build the characters, even though there are few of them.  Time is also wasted and filled with activities of daily living, including the characters lying around and sulking, which further stunts character development.  However, if you have the time and stamina, the story comes down to an interesting point if you can slog through two hours of useless content.  Basically, this film needs a serious redo, because as it is, nobody is going to give a care.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With such a small cast, most errors stand out, unfortunately.  Though there is some good to be found here, there is also a lot of bad, including some very boring and dry emotions, ridiculously over the top attempts to be dramatic, and very measure line delivery.  Unfortunately, Kelly’s Filmworks films seem to consistently struggle in this department.

Conclusion

With a movie this long, there should have been plenty of positive things to say.  However, rather than making this a deep character exploration plot, time is filled with fluff and fake drama that ruins the good idea that is behind this plot.  We can appreciate the work of Jefferson and Kelly Moore, but they often get too lost in the artistry of film making.  They would do well to collaborate with different story writers so they can more effectively create films.  We believe that they mean well—they just need to take that next step.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Clancy [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nick Best is a down on his luck veteran of the military who has chosen to live on the streets due to his drinking habits and his emotional issues.  But he is given a so-called second chance when the corrupt mayor of the city he hangs around tells the chief of police to offer a substantial amount of money to Nick for him to keep, Clancy, a runaway abused girl for a week so that the mayor, who is losing his reelection campaign, can have a media field day.  Skeptical of this elaborate scheme, Nick decides to take the girl under his wing to protect her, but he soon finds that she is changing his outlook on life.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Why do Kelly’s Filmworks productions always look so drab?  It’s like they were all filmed in cloudy weather.  Though the video quality of Clancy is fine, the camera work is atrocious, including very tight shots and shaky camera work that looks like it was literally filmed in an alley with a camcorder.  Thus, the lighting is very inconsistent and there are constant loud outside sounds.  There is no soundtrack to speak of—just background silence.  Sets and locations are very cheap—no thought was given to making them look interesting.  Finally, there is absolutely no editing as all content is included—and we mean all content.  Every Jefferson Moore silent staring scene is here.  In short, the continual creation of Kelly’s Filmworks productions is baffling to us.  They obviously aren’t spending much money on these, but what is the real point if it’s going to look this bad?

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Clancy includes perhaps the most trumped up scheme possible.  Who really believes that a corrupt mayor (aka the most cheesy villain available besides Goliath from Timothy Chey’s David and Goliath) would pay off a random homeless guy to keep an abused girl ‘safe’ for a week in order to boost reelection chances?  In what universe would that work?  Most importantly, why do we need a movie about this?  Why do we need to be forced to see long sequences of characters (mostly Jefferson Moore) wandering around and staring into the distance?  There is no way this is going to hold anyone’s attention, especially when the dialogue is extremely void and lackadaisical.  The story is based on far too many coincidences to keep it going and there is so little content here that we can hardly believe the runtime lasted as long as it did.  All we can say is that we were glad when it was over.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Recycling the same old cast members from Kelly’s Filmworks (they weren’t that good in the first place), Clancy is much like the others from this company.  Makeup is bad, costuming is laughable.  The only emotions present are either deadpan or over the top.  The line delivery is beyond lazy.  One would think these cast members would get better with experience.

Conclusion

Jefferson Moore and company are experts at thinking up the most mundane movie ideas and then following through with them.  How have they made so many feature length films?  One thing you can say for them is that they save money—in all the wrong ways.  These movies are definitely easy and cheap to make, but why do we need them?  They are utterly pointless and contribute nothing.  Maybe they won’t make as many in the future.  But wait…there’s a sequel to this film????

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

The Lamp [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After a tragedy takes their son from them, Stanley and Lisa’s marriage is on the rocks and they seemingly have no purpose in life.  As they try to sort through what’s left of their son’s possessions, Lisa is given a mysterious lamp by one of her neighbors, who tells her that it has special powers.  Though Stanley is skeptical and angry, Lisa chooses to believe that the lamp can help them.  Little do they know what is coming to them next.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, The Lamp has good funding behind it that produces a decently above average production.  All the typical elements are good, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also intriguing.  The editing is also fine as the story is presented well.  However, the sets and locations are fairly limited to a handful of neighborhood areas, houses, and a baseball field.  Also, the biggest nagging issue here is the use of odd special effects to ‘enhance’ the experience—yet they only end up coming off as cheesy.  Overall, this is a good enough production, but the cheesy special effects tend to put a damper on things.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Based on a novel by Jim Stovall, The Lamp is a very unique Christian storyline that, while it has an interesting point and purpose, it also has a slightly silly premise.  The plot is somewhat slow to develop, but the dialogue improves as it goes and helps to build the characters.  There is a good use of flashbacks, but they are sometimes too disorienting.  As previously mentioned, though there is a good point here, there are also too many goofy magical elements that are introduced and only downplayed later.  This makes for a confusing viewing experience.  Also, in the end, things are fixed too easily, although there is an interesting twist that many will find interesting.  Overall, many will enjoy the uniqueness of The Lamp and there’s certainly nothing wrong with it—we just feel it could have been better.

Acting Quality (2 points)

At first, the acting of this film is atrocious.  Emotions are very extreme at first and there is far too much yelling in the first half hour.  However, the acting does get better as it goes as the cast members settle into their roles better and deliver their lines more smoothly.  In the end, it becomes an above average performance.

Conclusion

The Lamp is a textbook average film—with good production backing, it looks good on the surface.  It’s based on a book by a popular author, so that also works in its favor.  It also has recognizable cast members.  While average is awesome in the Christian entertainment market, we want movies to take that next step into greatness.  It’s definitely difficult to do, but in the end, it’s so worth it.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Like Dandelion Dust (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When the Campbells adopted little Joey from the struggling Porters, they thought it was forever.  But when the Porters get back on their feet after Joey’s father gets out of jail, they file to regain custody of their son.  Heartbroken, the Campbells do everything they can do to keep their only son, but they cannot prevail.  Therefore, they resort to a drastic measure that could land them in prison, but they are committed to protecting their son from evil.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a pilot production from Jon Gunn and company, this production quality is not what it could be.  But on a shoestring budget, it is not that bad.  Camera work is sometimes shaky and video quality and lighting are sometimes poor.  The standard soundtrack is sometimes loud enough to cover up dialogue, but audio quality is mostly fine.  For a first-time effort, the sets and locations are quite realistic, even the international ones.  The editing is a pretty good effort considering what they had to work with.  In the end, every movie maker has to start somewhere, regardless of the budget or resources.  When put in that perspective, Like Dandelion Dust is an applaudable effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Based on a novel by Karen Kingsbury, this plot is somewhat slow to develop and has one too many flat scenes and dead spots.  Yet the story is true to the book and depicts unfortunately realistic happenings.  Too much time tends to be spent on trashy elements, although what happens therein is believable.  This film is a fair portrayal of real people and their struggles and highlights important issues with child welfare.  Dialogue is mostly accessible and helps to build the characters.  Unfortunately, the first three-fourths of the film may not hold the attention of most audiences.  However, once it gets to the point at the end, it suddenly becomes really good and is worth the wait.  Overall, Like Dandelion Dust improves at the end and shows great potential for the future.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is semi-professional and mostly knows what they are doing.  Through they are small, they have some bright spots, such as well-played and believable emotions.  Their line delivery can be wooden at times, but overall, this is a good effort that shows talent in casting.

Conclusion

It is always good to choose a book plot for your first film, but we have to wonder if this was the best Karen Kingsbury book to choose.  The story is intriguing as a book, but it doesn’t translate very well to the big screen.  Yet nonetheless, it is a good effort and something to build off of for the future.  There is great potential in this team and we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

77 Chances (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jason Shaw is a photographer who always wants to capture the right moment.  But what happens when the same moment repeats over and over again?  After meeting Mackenna, his life is never the same as the day of their meeting continues to repeat itself.  Jason tries to change the fate he is left with, but is unsuccessful.  Will he be able to come to grips with the truth God is trying to tell him before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

EchoLight Studios and Liberty University clearly have the resources and know-how for crafting a top level production.  This is evident in the professional camera work, video quality, sets, and locations of 77 Chances.  However, there are some minor audio issues, such as an overbearing soundtrack.  Also, editing issues plague this movie as there is too much wasted time and incongruence.  But otherwise, this production is above average—we just feel that it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

At this point, it’s likely that the Groundhog Day plot concept is a little worn out.  There is little that can be done with this idea, and the story only ends up being filled with montages and copied or varied scenes.  Therein, there is too much ‘silent’ dialogue covered up with music, which stunts the development of the few characters there are.  Nevertheless, some of the ideas and psychological elements presented in 77 Chances are interesting and intriguing, albeit sometimes too mystifying and confusing.  After establishing the repeating day and subsequently playing around with it for about an hour, a unique and creative concept is introduced with about ten minutes left to go.  Due to time constraints, this idea is not fully developed or completed, thus leaving the audience with a half-hearted effort.  This is frustrating to watch because there is actually a lot of potential here.  But alas, we are left wondering what could have been.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Erin Bethea, Andrew Cheney, and Rachel Hendrix have all had their better movies, but this is not one of them.  They come off as stiff, awkward, and flat.  Scotty Curlee and Stephan Schultze are supposed to be Kendrick prodigies, yet their acting coaching comes up short here.  Though not all is bad, this is another disappointing element.

Conclusion

We know that EchoLight has the ability to create a quality film, but the Liberty University team has even more potential they are sitting on that they are not properly using.  Tracy Trost, Curlee, and Schultze all have the training and the talent necessary to take the next step into greatness, but they are stuck in mediocrity.  As a side note, we would like to see this movie have a remake, if possible.  The bottom line is that this creative team has more resources than many film makers dream of—they just need to use them properly.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Hoovey (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeff and Ruth Elliot are living their ideal life on a Midwestern farm with two great teenagers before everything starts to change for them.  Their lives are forever altered when their son Eric “Hoovey” collapses during basketball practice, thus leading to a medical examination revealing a brain tumor.  Hoovey is not given long to live at first, but he is given a second chance by having the tumor removed, leaving him a fraction of what he used to be.  Unable to play basketball anymore due to danger and having to relearn motor skills, Hoovey and his family are also suddenly faced with possibly losing their dream farm to the bank.  As a family, they will have to pull together in order to face the challenges ahead.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Echolight Studios has a commitment to producing quality Christian films, and Hoovey is no exception.  The camera work is clearly professional, along with the video and sound quality.  Disability plots are difficult to pull off because they require unique props, but Hoovey does it with ease.  The only negative points to raise here are slightly isolating editing and some generally inauthentic surroundings.  For the most part, the editing is good, but there are some parts that are confusing.  The same goes for the surroundings—sometimes it seems like this film is taking place in a realistic Midwestern setting, while other times it does not.  But in the end, there are only minor issues and Hoovey passes the production bar.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Stories based on true events are almost always more complex than an average inspirational plot.  Hoovey proves this.  Believable events happen to the characters and unexpected twists occur.  Not everything turns out neat and tidy.  However, since this is a character-based plot, the deepening of the characters throughout the film is important.  Unfortunately, this does not occur to the extent it needed to.  Dialogue is pretty good, but it rarely delves below surface conventions into deeper character development.  The plot uses narration as a crutch far too often.  Also, the Christian message is not very clear—in the end, the audience is just left with a feel good story rather than a life-changing message.  In summary, the plot of Hoovey is average—it started out with a lot of potential on its side, but it only found part of all it could have been.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is clearly a professional cast and they are coached fairly well.  Emotions, for the most part, are believable.  However, sometimes line delivery is slightly lackadaisical.  Some of the casting choices don’t seem to fit very well.  But these are just small issues—the important thing is that Echolight followed through on their commitment to produce quality Christian films.

Conclusion

Every Christian studio should be committed to rolling out quality movies on a very regular basis.  Some are willing but not able, while others are able but not seemingly not willing.  Hoovey broke into mainstream markets, which makes it even more of a shame that it did not carry with it a stronger Christian message.  Had it delivered a meaningfully obvious but not preachy Christian message, Hoovey likely would have made it in the Hall of Fame.  But regardless, it is still an enjoyable film and is worth a watch.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points