My Brother’s Keeper [2021] (Movie Review)

My Brother's Keeper - IMDb

Plot Summary

When Travis Fox returns from war, the trauma of combat still haunts him, especially the death of his Christian friend.  Nonetheless, Travis has sworn off Christianity altogether, wanting to move on with his life.  However, the past won’t leave him alone, and new complications with Travis’ family don’t help matters.  Will he ever be able to find peace?

Production Quality (2 points)

In keeping with most Christian productions that have come out since 2018, My Brother’s Keeper is mostly professional.  Video quality, camera work, and audio are all in line with industry standards.  For the most part, sets, locations, and props are acceptable although they sometimes don’t adequately represent what they’re supposed to portray.  The biggest concern in this section is the choppy editing as some scenes cut and transition in awkward ways.  Thus, this portion of the film receive a slightly above-average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Throughout this narrative, the conversations and scenes come off as overly staged and unnatural, such as the forceful dialogue and messaging (including overt sermonizing) that leaves nothing to chance.  These problems are only complicated by the many subplots that are juggled, which causes the story to lack focus.  As a result, every character is a one-dimensional representation of an issue rather than an actual person.  Despite potentially good PTSD flashbacks, these experiences are a bit overwrought instead of providing opportunities for the audience to connect with the character.  Elsewhere, events in the narrative happen just because the writers want them to, and this extreme level of convenience causes the plot of aimlessly meander through a sea of empty platitudes and disorganized ideas.  It goes without saying that there are also some very questionable portrayals of dual relationships and counseling ethics.  In the end, there’s unfortunately no potential in this story, leading to zero points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Despite acceptable line delivery, the emotions in this movie’s performances are very over-the-top.  This is evidenced by lots of yelling and screaming, and it’s generally hard to believe that the cast members care about what they’re doing.  Many of their performances are robotic and practiced although there are some bright spots.  In the end, due to the errors, only a small score is warranted here.

Conclusion

My Brother’s Keeper is essentially another Christian issue screenplay, this time focusing on PTSD.  Normally, this would be a good idea, but adequate research and firsthand accounts are needed to keep mental health portrayals realistic.  There are many complex factors to consider, so crowding out this concept with subpar content isn’t the way to go.  Unfortunately, this film is unable to connect with the audience, which likely means that it will be forgotten in a few weeks.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Church People [2021] (Movie Review)

CHURCH PEOPLE (2020) | Movieguide | Movie Reviews for Christians

Plot Summary

Youth pastor Guy Sides feels like he’s stuck inside of a well-oiled ministry machine. His boss, lead pastor Skip Finney, wants to find new and outlandish ways to draw people into the church. However, Guy feels like the simple gospel is enough. Nonetheless, Skip charges ahead with zany plans for an Easter production that will have everyone talking about it. Can Guy help everyone see the true meaning of Easter before it’s too late?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s evident from start to finish that Church People is well-funded, and this results in a professional production. This high quality is evidenced by top-notch video, camera, and audio elements. The sets, locations, and props are great, and it’s clear that the money has been well-spent. The only minor concerns in this section pertain to some inconsistency in editing, but overall, a high score is warranted here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This plot begins with a strong opening sequence that refrains from narration and establishes a basis for subtle humor that avoids being too over-the-top. Though the comedy is sometimes a bit dry, the writers were definitely trying to construct effective dialogue as they took a realistic look at the problems with the corporate church mentality. There are many relatable conversations throughout the narrative although there’s also a dose of exposition throughout the course of the conversing. However, as the story continues to develop, some comedy overstays its welcome, being used too much and coming off as too quirky. Rather than expanding as it goes, the premise remains quite thin and has little basis in reality beyond silly conventions. Montages strung together with humor take the place of deeper character development, and some oddly explained off-screen scenes only make matters more awkward. When it comes down to it, Church People is just another return-to-hometown plot, complete with forced romance-with-your-former-love tropes. Despite its promising beginning, this narrative continues its nose dive all the way to a forced conclusion that involves an eye-rolling ‘twist’ that doesn’t really work. Thus, one point is garnered here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Although Stephen Baldwin once again positioned himself to star as a wise character in a self-produced film, he exhibits an acceptable kind of unusual in Church People. Other cast members are quite good in their performances despite a few slightly awkward moments. Some actors and actresses can be over-the-top and over-extended, but for the most part, they are all well-coached. As a whole, this section is at least above-average.

Conclusion

In the end, some audiences will enjoy this screenplay even though it travels through well-worn church comedy ruts. Unfortunately, the humor just isn’t enough to carry the entire movie: deeper characters are needed to drive the point home. The purpose of Church People is commendable (exposing corporate Christianity), but the audience isn’t left with much beyond the obvious fact that this approach to the faith is insufficient. Therefore, this film boils down to another standard comedy release that will unfortunately be forgotten in a few months.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Trafficked: A Parent’s Worst Nightmare (Movie Review)

Trafficked: A Parent's Worst Nightmare (DVD) - Kino Lorber Home Video

Plot Summary

When Allison goes missing on her birthday and doesn’t turn back up, her parents become very worried. The police won’t do anything for 48 hours, so Allison’s parents do the only thing that any reasonable person would do: contact an old friend from college who deals drugs and happens to know a shady private investigation group that has questionable ethics, such as impersonating police officers and breaking into people’s houses without permission. Allison’s grandmother uses a good portion of her retirement to fund this dubious operation, and time is running out to find Allison, who has been taken by human traffickers.

Production Quality (1 point)

After a long opening sequence wastes time, this film’s remaining production doesn’t get much better. Video quality is acceptable, but camera work and lighting are quite inconsistent. The audio leaves a lot to be desired, such as a very loud and distracting soundtrack as well as awful special effects. Sets, locations, and props are fine, but the editing is quite poor. Some scenes awkwardly cut off while other sequences are very disorienting. In the end, despite slight improvement with time, this section is still below average, which is unacceptable for 2021.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This plot’s main strategy is the shove one thing after the next onto the audience without any continuity. Most events happen because the writers want them to, and some occurrences are quite unrealistic, such as the questionable legitimacy of the narrative’s shady investigative force and their possibly illegal actions. Many scenes come off as overly staged, and the many confusing subplots easily become discombobulated. There are a lot of moving parts in this story, and characters have no chance to be developed due to musical montages and mindless conversations. The villains are stereotypical and over-the-top, often using unnecessary expletives. The Christian message in this movie is fairly vague, and there seems to be an unnecessary political tilt. Overall, with unforced errors and basically no potential, zero points can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Most of the time, the acting in Trafficked is trying way too hard. Line delivery and emotions are much too forceful. Performances come off as overly practiced and unnatural. Despite slight improvement with time, only a small score is warranted in this section.

Conclusion

This screenplay is a true embarrassment for 2021. How much longer must we endure such drivel? Besides a juvenile portrayal of the otherwise serious issue that this human trafficking, this film chooses to give credence to shady and questionable operations wherein people take the law into their own hands. This should have been a major red flag for anyone who thought about investing in this movie. It’s still unbelievable how projects like Trafficked even get funded and make it to the public release, but it’s high time that we see fewer of them.

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points