The Farmer and the Belle: Saving Santaland (summer 2020)

Currently in post-production

More Info

Writer(s): James M. De Vince, Reuben Evans, Billy Falcon, Betty Sullivan, Bob Sáenz

Director(s): Wes Llewellyn

Producer(s): Joel Bunkowske, Jenn Gotzon Chandler, Jim E. Chandler, Terry Chase Chenowith, George D. Escobar, Isaac Hernandez, Chip Lane

Starring: Corbin Bernsen, John Schneider, Amy Sutherland, Jenn Gotzon Chandler, Natasha Bure, Jeff Rose, Delilah, Henry Cho, Jim E. Chandler
Roxzane T. Mims, Livi Birch, Beckah Shae

Plot Synopsis: This film seeks to show young girls that their worth is not based on their appearance, fame, social followers or money, but is instead found when you treat one another with love, honor, and respect. Told through a hilarious Christmas story inspired by real events.

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Dead Man Rising (Movie Review)

Image result for dead man rising movie

Plot Summary

Daniel is a death-row inmate awaiting the lethal injection, but he will be one of the first prisoners to receive the new experimental injection drugs. Desperate for an out, he convinces his lawyer to lobby for him to have limited and monitored internet access in order to research the drug in his last days. He is granted this privilege, but a fellow inmate keeps provoking him to research arguments for and against Christianity, and Daniel keeps taking him up on the challenge, even though he has never believed in God. before he knows it, something is changing inside of him, but is it too late?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a more recent film, Dead Man Rising lives up to the expectation of higher production quality, which is evident in the professional camera work and video quality. Audio is also good, even if the soundtrack is a bit generic at times. It’s noted that the sets, locations, and props are relatively limited by the design of the plot, but the props are nonetheless realistic. It’s definitely a better idea to live within your means as far as the production goes rather than to over-extend and look silly. This is really the only issue with this production since the editing is good. Moreover, this limited production design definitely puts more pressure on the plot and characters to deliver…

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

…which they unfortunately do not do as much as they could have. While the plot is a unique idea, it too easily devolves into a boring philosophical conversation between two characters that appears to push a pre-determined agenda a bit too strongly rather than to let things develop naturally. There are also some slightly unrealistic plot circumstances that are designed to make the story happen, even if there are portions of intriguing dialogue that make attempts at character development. However, since there are so few characters, they needed to be developed deeper than they were with more effective flashbacks and clearer character motivations. While there are some attempts at flashbacks, we needed to see more in this area and less in the area of apologetic information dumps that sacrifice precious time that could have been used to increase character growth. We needed a story that tells us about actual people, but we only got half-measured. Nevertheless, the ending is very interesting and effective if you make it that far, but after the wearing apologetic dumps in the middle, many people won’t get to the meaning in the end. Basically, this movie, like most other films, was made or broken by the plot, which didn’t deliver as much as it could have.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, this small cast demonstrates good acting skills even if there are some forced lines and emotions that seem out of context for their situations. Although each cast member assumes his or her respective role well, due to the small size of the cast, each error is more pronounced. There are also some unnecessary yelling scenes that can become wearing. However, as a whole, this is an average performance that rounds out an average film that could have been more.

Conclusion

A common theme in Christian film that few Christian movie-makers have discovered and remedied is that audiences want characters they can relate to as real people. This is done through effective flashbacks and conversations that reveal to us what the character wants, why he does what he does, and how he got to where he is. Filling time with worn-out Christian debate talking points only implies that a film maker doesn’t know how to relate to real people on this level. However, when this trend changes in Christian film and when Christian movie creators begin depicting real characters we can relate to on these levels, that’s when the Christian entertainment field will finally take the culture by storm, which is good food for thought as we begin a new year.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Roe V. Wade (2019)

Currently in post-production

 

Writer(s): Cathy Allyn, Nick Loeb

Director(s): Nick Loeb, Cathy Allyn

Producer(s): Alveda King, Cathy Allyn, Nick Loeb, Mindy Robinson

Starring: Jon Voight, Robert Davi, Corbin Bernsen, John Schneider, Stacey Dash, William Forsythe, Steve Guttenberg, Wade Williams, Richard Portnow, Greer Grammar, Ken Davitian, Chris Lemmon, Steve Monroe, Lucy Davenport, Sherri Eakin, Jim Gleason, Andrew Vogel, Allen Dixon, Chad Governale, Octavius Prince, Jarrett Ellis Beal, Summer Joy Campbell, Peter Thomson, Joey Lawrence, Milo Yiannopoulos, Robert Davi,

Plot Synopsis: Roe v. Wade chronicles the untold story of the infamous abortion enabling court case that impacted American history. It exposes the truth that a magnitude of lies has deprived millions of people of their human dignity and rights. Dr. Bernard Nathanson and Dr. Mildred Jefferson square off in a national battle in this untold conspiracy that led to the most famous and controversial court case in history.

My Daddy’s in Heaven (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Becca Smith suddenly loses her husband in a tragic car accident, she feels like her world is falling apart.  Then she meets an old friend from the past who decides to introduce her to a new lifestyle of partying and drinking to help drown her sorrows away.  However, Becca is unable to fill the void.  Will she come back to the faith she was always taught before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

On the surface, My Daddy’s in Heaven has a fairly good production, as evidenced by some great outdoor scenes and good video quality.  For the most part, camera work is good, except for some weird camera angles.  Audio quality is sometimes too echoed, especially in indoor sets.  Lighting is somewhat inconsistent, including some odd sequences of soft lighting.  There are also some sequences of disorienting sound effects and special effects, but there is some slight production improvement shown throughout, thus warranting an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, though this film is based on a book and tries to have a good point, the storyline is quite thin.  There seem to be a lot of scenes grasping for substantial content as the plot meanders aimlessly and purposelessly for nearly sixty minutes.  During this time frame, a good portion of the time is spent on the main two characters getting drunk.  Dialogue is all over the place, including too many instances of forced comedy.  Though this film is billed as a family movie, there is a lot of embarrassing content within, including long and pointless bar scenes.  However, the last ten to fifteen minutes of the film take a slightly interesting turn based on some intriguing ideas.  Unfortunately, with no buildup to this point and no support from the rest of the film, these ideas are wasted, and there are too many quick fixes employed.  Thus, only half a point can be awarded for this section.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The two female leads of this cast, outside of a few good moments, do their best to make fools of themselves.  Most of the acting in this film is oddly forced and awkward, but it’s likely that the cast members didn’t have much good to work with in the first place.  There are also some mumbled and whispered lines that make for a frustrating experience.  Overall, unfortunately, there is little good to mention about this film.

Conclusion

While the effort and the heart behind this film might have been there, the good intentions were terribly misplaced.  Production was almost passable, but it’s unsure what the intention of this plot was.  Audiences who are expecting a family-friendly film will likely be disappointed at the number of drunken scenes of this film.  While it great to show the struggles of real people in film, there is a way to do this without being so embarrassing.  Unfortunately, the interesting pivotal scene near the end of the film is out of place and could have been used in a better film.  Better luck next time, I guess.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Rust [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Former pastor James Moore, who is running from his faith and his career, returns to his hometown to discover it the grounds of a dark mystery and closely held secrets that has put one crazy man in prison for arson.  With nothing left to lose and nothing else to do, Moore decides to take it upon himself to solve the mysterious case that was too open and shut.  As he looks at all the angles of the fire and the events of that night, Moore finds himself turning to God again as he rediscovers the faith he left behind.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Corbin Bernsen and his teams have always been committed to high production quality.  Rust is the earliest example of this commitment, as it sports great video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is also intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props, for the most part, are professional.  The only issues to point out here pertain to some choppy editing and some slightly poor lighting in some parts.  But otherwise, this is a professional and model production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

From the beginning of his foray into Christian film, which was this film, until now, Corbin Bernsen’s creative motivation has always been an enigma.  What is he ever going for?  Rust adopts the mysterious and semi-dark approach that was seen later in Beyond the Heavens.  Neither film truly makes much sense or has any driving purpose behind it.  Yet the mystery portion of Rust is intriguing and somewhat engaging.  The characters, while a bit eccentric, are also interesting in their own way, sometimes due to unique and cryptic dialogue.  Movies like this one always seem to be hiding something, like a private joke or secret, but they never let us in on the puzzle.  At least the ending is slightly unexpected, even though it takes a somewhat predictable path to get there.  If there were some more clarity in this plot, it could have been interesting and more highly rated, because there was a lot of potential here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Much like the production of this film, the acting quality is professional and above average.  For the most part, actors and actresses are cast appropriately, and their line delivery is on point.  Sometimes emotions tend to be a bit forced, but they are good as a whole.  There are also some other moments of underwhelming performances, but they are not enough to keep this section from being highly rated.

Conclusion

Corbin Bernsen always has a lot of potential in his films.  He usually maintains high production and acting quality.  However, he is also committed to plots that are seemingly purposely unusual.  Rust is no exception to this trend, especially since it is his first Christian film.  One can understand why ‘secular’ film makers want to dip into the Christian market, but we have never understood Bernsen’s odd approach to movie making, despite his quality productions.  Yet perhaps we will never understand.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

The Last Straw [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The McDonald family is full of screaming kids, and now they have taken on a trouble making relative for the holidays whose family doesn’t care about her.  As the kids perform all of their silly escapades, the shunned relative tries to fit into the neighborhood and meets a random boy next door whom she automatically likes, of course.  Then Mrs. McDonald, at the end of her rope, decides to institute a contest to see who can do the most deeds so they can put straw in their nativity manger.  It’s just another holiday tale.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, Rob Diamond and his team know how to put together a respectable production.  Video quality and audio quality are what they should be, even though the soundtrack is fairly generic.  There are some random moments of shaky cam, however.  Yet sets, locations, and props are fine, albeit somewhat limited.  There are also some minor editing concerns, but there are really no glaring errors.  On the whole, this is an above average effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the plot.  Besides being an extremely limited idea full of silly asides and manufactured drama, it is mostly eccentric.  The characters tend to be overdone yet not well developed, even though they spend a lot of time sitting around and talking.  With no clear purpose or direction, sometimes it seems like this story is a joke.  The ‘struggles’ of the characters are impossible to appreciate.  There is also a cheesy forced romance.  Overall, this is really not a complete enough idea to make a full-length film; the priorities of this film needed to be reevaluated.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Besides being very awkward at times, the cast members have a tendency to be overly happy and loud in most scenes.  Emotions are very plastic and laughably fake.  There is far too much shouting and yelling throughout, especially from the child cast members.  However, there are plenty of good moments, as well as improvement throughout, which saves this section from being zero.

Conclusion

In summary, it’s very hard to justify the making of this film.  It is based on a very thin idea, and it seems like it was rushed into being made without stopping to think about where this plot was even going.  Stories like this need to be seriously slowed down and evaluated for necessity and quality.  Until this happens on a consistent basis, we will keep having films like this put out.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Prayer Never Fails (Movie Review)

Make a serious face Eric

Plot Summary

When Aiden Paul is fired from his job as a public school teacher and basketball coach, he feels like God wants him to hire a troubled agnostic lawyer to help him win a case against his former employer.  But the school district prepares to throw the book at Aiden and make an example out of him, so he soon finds he will have to fight for his rights and for the team that loves him.  Will he be able to prevail over the odds that are seemingly stacked against him?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Prayer Never Fails begins as a very rough and raw production with very shaky camera work and strange camera angles.  The lighting also begins very poorly.  Audio quality is relatively stable throughout.  Moreover, sets and locations are consistently realistic throughout.  The good thing is that the camera work and angles do improve later in the film, if you make it far enough.  Yet the editing is confusing throughout and leaves too many dead sequences intact.  In the end, though the production ends up average, it’s a very rocky road to get there and certainly doesn’t help this film’s already-shaky cause.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this story is very low-key and slow to develop at first, it is based on an absurdly unrealistic religious freedom premise that would never stand up in the real world.  This is combined with a typical downtrodden legal premise and several other confusing and disjointed subplots.  However, the agnostic lawyer character is one of the best we have ever seen in these sorts of films and should be transported to a different movie where his flawed characteristics can be more professionally explored.  Yet other characters are not nearly as well-developed, including the downtrodden lead and the strawman villain lawyer.  Furthermore, like certain other ‘persecution in the courtroom’ stories, this film fails the test of realism and boils down to an easily patched-up and fixed ending.  This story needs to be scrapped and started over with the agnostic lawyer character only.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a semi-professional cast, they begin in a very underwhelming fashion.  The lead actor is especially unsure of himself and cannot carry the leading role.  However, there is potential here and the acting, especially the emotional delivery, does greatly improve in the second half of the film.  Overall, this rounds out a very roller coaster experience of a film.

Conclusion

It’s great to write a legal plot, but why does it automatically have to be about religious freedom and so-called persecution that’s not even believable in the real world?  Also, why leave production and acting to be so shoddy in the beginning?  It’s never worth just slapping a movie together just for the sake of having a movie, especially in the new era of Christian film that demands higher quality.  We’ll never begin to understand movies like this.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 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

 

Apocalypse 4: Judgment (Movie Review)

Everything else has happened in this series, so let’s throw Mr. T in here too

Plot Summary

As the ONE has tightened its grip on the world, Christianity is outlawed and everyone must take the Mark of world leader Franco Macalousso, or they will be arrested and possibly executed.  The world must worship Macalousso or be doomed.  But when the world leader feels that excitement about hating Christians is wearing thin, he decides to stage a televised trial for infamous Christian Helen Hannah to get people interested again.  Enigmatic defense lawyer Mitch Kendrick is recruited to ‘defend’ her, even though it’s all staged.  But no one knows that Mitch is searching for the truth himself—will he be able to find it?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As this stupid series finally grinds to a halt, we can say affirmatively that production quality barely changed throughout it.  While camera work and video quality have improved in this final installment, nothing else has.  The audio quality is inconsistent and the soundtrack is quite loud at times.  Sets, locations, and props, in an attempt to look ‘futuristic’, only come off as cheesy.  Finally, like the rest of the series, editing is quite poor.  On the bright side, there’s no more product placements, but it’s unacceptable to have a series this long with such bad production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Was there really a justification for a fourth installment in this series that doesn’t include anything about the subplots that were supposedly continued at the end of Tribulation?  Helen Hannah remains to be the central Christian character of the series for some reason, but otherwise we are introduced to even more characters we’ve never seen before, including Mr. T.  The same ridiculous concepts this series has always pushed are present in this final film as well, but this time transposed on top of a staged legal battle.  Dialogue does nothing for character development as a lot of time the is filled exploring vague and isolating concepts.  It seems like the writers are constantly inventing ways to kill time without actually helping us to get to know all these characters they shove at us.  Finally, though the end is slightly interesting and has some potential, it cuts off with an abrupt transition to the nonexistent fifth film they obviously wanted to make.  Thankfully, their funding was finally cut.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

As Corbin Bernsen and Mr. T join this crowded cast, things really do not improve.  There are too many over the top emotions and shouting sequences.  There is some potential with line delivery, and this cast seems professional on the surface, but it’s just not good enough.  This is another disappointing effort.

Conclusion

Well, it’s finally over.  What did we learn?  When you can’t even create an average production, don’t make four movies.  When you don’t have any plot or character development to speak of, don’t make four movies.  When you can’t focus on a central story or character arc in your series and instead constantly come up with new characters and subplots with each installment, don’t make four movies.  When you cast all kinds of ‘big names’ but don’t bother to coach them, don’t make four movies.  Are you seeing a theme here?  The Apocalypse series is just another blight on Christian film and will hopefully be forgotten one day, but at least we can learn something from it…I hope…

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Suing the Devil (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Luke, a struggling law student, is angry that the drunk driver who killed his mother is now walking free and contemplates killing him.  But he decides against this and instead directs his anger at the devil.  Concluding that Satan is responsible for everything evil in the world and that he needs to pay for it, Luke does the only rational thing he can think to do: file a lawsuit against Satan himself for damages totaling eight trillion dollars.  What could go wrong, especially when the devil actually shows up in the courtroom?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Though this production is not as deplorable as the horrid thing that is Final: The Rapture, Suing the Devil still has plenty of avoidable issues.  Timothy Chey prides himself in having money to make quality films, yet he is content to flush all of his funds down the toilet in some kind of bizarre effort to get attention.  Anything good about this production is drowned out by wild and amateurish cuts and transitions between scenes, inconsistent camera work, wacky camera angles…the list goes on and on.  Loud sound effects constantly annoy the viewing experience as a lot of the audio quality is overdriven.  There is no semblance of coherency when it comes to the editing, yet this is also a plot issue.  In short, just having a pile of money to make a movie doesn’t produce results—it actually has to be applied properly.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)

Guided by constant narration from a maniac, whoever subjects themselves to this torture is forced to witness a descent into utter madness.  Since the entire point of this film is to depict a zany trial sequence, the story speeds to this point and forces you to sit through the world’s most ridiculous legal premise, which is filled with heavy-handed messaging, obvious dialogue, and wacko strawman characters.  Chey chooses the strangest villain concepts to caricature and fills the movie with bizarre theology. The story gets stranger and stranger as it goes on until you feel like you are the victim of the world’s most serious trolling.  To get to the point, Suing the Devil is a juvenile effort and an absolute laughingstock of a movie.  There is no justifiable reason for this debacle to have ever been created.

Acting Quality (-2 points)

But it gets worse.  Emotions are extremely over the top and dramatic.  There are too many sequences of yelling and some cast members get more and more unhinged as the film slogs on.  It’s painfully clear that there was no thought put into any of this.

Conclusion

Is this film a joke?  That’s the only conclusion we can come to.  There is literally no point to this unstable diatribe that is fixated on Satan, oil companies, and big banks.  Sure, all three of these have their share of problems (especially the devil), but are they worth dedicating a movie to?  As Christians, we have too much of a tendency to give Satan more attention that he’s worth, and this movie is sort of an example of that.  But otherwise, Suing the Devil is a collection of incoherent and downright asylum-insane psychobabble that does nothing except further tarnish the name of Christian film.  Whoever keeps giving Timothy Chey money needs to stop, like now.

 

Final Rating: -4 out of 10 points

 

Love’s Complicated {My Life As a Doormat} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Leah lives a very controlled and scheduled life.  She does the same things with her safe boyfriend, tries to write, and lets people tell her what to do all the time.  But something is missing.  When her publisher asks for deeper writing, Leah feels inadequate.  But her life changes forever when her boyfriend signs her up for a conflict management course under the guise that he will be attending with her.  Though she is angry at first, she slowly begins to see just how much her life can change.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As we have said before, Hallmark knows how to invest in a proper production.  In this film, camera work is flawless and video quality is crisp.  The audio quality is good but the soundtrack is standard for Hallmark.  Sets and locations are realistic.  The biggest issues to raise here are the editing problems.  The editing causes the film to be choppy and confusing.  Otherwise, this is a baseline production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Love’s Complicated, which is the Hallmarked title of My Life As a Doormat, is probably as good as a Hallmark plot is going to get, and they only have Rene Gutteridge to thank for her ideas, witty dialogue, and believable characters.  Though the plot still fits into the stereotypical and formulaic Hallmark romance storyline and progression, it is developed to its fullest extent.  The premise vacillates between cheesy and intriguing but is still enjoyable due to some genuine comedy.  However, there appears to be too much missing content as the plot tends to hop from highlight to highlight.  In the end, this is a good plot and makes the movie worth watching.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As usual for Hallmark, the casting totally derails this film from being all that it could have been.  Most of the cast members are over-costumed and generally average in their emotional delivery.  However, their line delivery is very robotic and measured.  The biggest drag is the lead actress, who was clearly not suited to play an introvert.  Though not all is bad here, the acting overall puts a strain on this otherwise fine movie.

Conclusion

Hallmark should really consider having Rene Gutteridge regularly write more of their plots.  She has a true gift of character development, enough for her storyline to survive Hallmarking to an extent.  Love’s Complicated also has good production support to a point, but the acting really holds this film back.  In a romantic comedy, the cast is everything, and this group just didn’t deliver.  Nonetheless, Gutteridge’s plots and characters are always enjoyable and many will find this movie to be so.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

3 Day Test {3 Day Christmas} (Movie Review)

The marauders are coming...
The marauders are coming…

Tina says no!
Tina says no!

Plot Summary

Martin Taylor, an obsessive accountant, is tired of how his family never spends any time together.  Prompted by his half-crazy prepper brother to begin preparing for doomsday by taking the 3 Day Test, Martin sees it as his last chance to get to know his family again.  So he disconnects them from modern amenities and is assisted by local police in convincing his family to endure the three days in the comfort-free world.  But little do they know that they were not at all prepared for what’s coming next…

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As usual for Corbin Bernsen, production quality is slightly above average in 3 Day Test.  The camera work is pretty good and video quality is clear.  Audio quality is fine except for an annoyingly blaring Christmas soundtrack and dumb sound effects.  The sets and locations are slightly limited due to the premise, but they are well designed.  The editing is fairy respectable with only some minor quirks.  In short, Bernsen has always succeeded at production quality, but that’s not even the half of this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Where to start?  3 Day Test is based on a bizarrely forced Christmas apocalyptic survival premise in which you never really know what’s coming next.  Though it doesn’t have to be a Christmas film at all, it takes place during Christmas and contain many sarcastic head-scratching asides and forced comedy moments.  Since the dialogue is either information dump or downright zany, the characters come off a mostly mentally insane and unstable.  As slightly interesting concepts are shoved in your face and packaged in ridiculous ways, many occurrences are highly unrealistic and head-scratching.  The longer the movie goes on, the weirder it gets as the audience is pulled into an over-the-top descent into madness coupled with a wacky Home Alone rip off.  By the time it’s all over, no sense can be made of it and there are unexplained factors and loose ends.  Is it satire or just total insanity?  Your guess is as good as ours.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Sporting some professional cast members and some odd child actors\actresses, this cast is a mixed bag.  It’s sometimes pretty good while other times it’s histrionic and annoying.  Line delivery is actually quite professional, but there are just too many episodes of craziness to warrant any more points than this.

Conclusion

Once again, what are we to make of Corbin Bernsen?  Is he a mad satirical genius or is he just trolling?  3 Day Test is actually less satire than usual for him and more goofy madness.  While we wholeheartedly agree that families need to spend more time together, and not just during the holidays, this does not have to involve a ridiculous false survival premise.  This leads us to wonder if Bernsen is actually advocating for ‘prepping for an apocalypse’.  Who knows what he really believes; we may never know.  The bottom line is that he’s wasting his talents and resources on facepalm-inducing films that no one really cares about when he could be making a real difference.  Will he ever change?  We somehow doubt it.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Beyond the Heavens [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Oliver Henry wonders what is really out there, beyond the stars in the night sky.  Ever since the tragic death of his brother, his family has never been the same.  But that has only made Oliver all the more curious about the true nature of reality.  So when a mysterious man comes to town and reads to the local kids after school every day, Oliver finds himself drawn to the man’s unique outlook on life.  Though his mother is skeptical of everything the strange man does, Oliver looks deeper and deeper into his claims and into how others view reality.  What he finds is not what he expected, but is exactly what he was looking for.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Echolight Studios is known for its quality productions, and Beyond the Heavens is no exception.  The camera work is professional, as is the video quality.  However, lighting is inconsistent throughout, with some scenes being too dark.  Audio quality is fine but the soundtrack is uninspiring.  There is an odd use of special effects and overlays in an attempt to make the movie mysterious.  Unfortunately, this also contributes to the editing being confusing and isolating.  Therefore, once again, Echolight has the potential to go all the way, but does not.  Needless to say, this does not only apply to the production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Beyond the Heavens is a very ethereal and mystical experience, one unlike any other movie we have reviewed.  However, this is not a good thing.  The ‘plot’ is very unclear and murky, consisting of vague and meandering ideas and cryptic dialogue.  It’s like Corbin Bernson is winking at the audience with every scene, waiting to reveal some great secret, but it’s never revealed.  The whole has a very tip-of-the-tongue feel, like the characters know something you don’t but never intend to let you in on the secret.  As the characters wax eloquent and philosophize about the true nature of reality, the viewer is left, in the end, with a more confusing view of reality than before.  Is Bernson advocating for or against Darwinism?  Is he a creationist?  Does he really believe that angels come to earth on the tails of comets?  Is Bernson suggesting that reality is not what it seems?  If so, what is his view of reality?  Only God knows the answers to these questions as Bernson spends 90 minutes toying with his ‘big reveal’ and dancing around whatever his philosophical worldview is.  It’s basically just a waste of your time.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is mostly average in their delivery.  Some acting coaching is present, but some cast behavior is head-scratching.  There are too many unnecessary emotional swings.  However, costuming is appropriate.  Overall, this is just an average performance.

Conclusion

What is to be made of Corbin Bernsen?  What is his place in Christian film?  Is he trolling?  Is he a great mind misunderstood?  Whether it’s abstract musings like Beyond the Heavens or half-hearted satire like Christian Mingle or In-Lawfully Yours, Bernsen’s motivations for making Christian films are very unclear.  It’s possible that he’s smarter than us all and doesn’t know how to show it.  But it’s also possible that he’s just trying to make a quick buck off of Christian audiences.  Reality is probably somewhere in between.  Regardless, Beyond the Heavens really needed to be rethought before anyone spent money on it, because it falls flat and is unable to properly convey whatever message it is trying to present.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

In-Lawfully Yours {Jesse and Naomi} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jesse catches her husband Chaz cheating on her, she immediately files for divorce.  But as they are trying to finalize the details, Chaz’s father dies, leaving his mother in turmoil as she fights against an evil company trying to buy her house so they can tear it down. Jesse feels an obligation to take care of her ex-mother-in-law as her ex-husband tries to hurry her out of her own home.  As she helps her ex-mother-in-law pack up her belongings, Jesse finds herself falling for Ben, the local pastor, who is actually her ex-brother-in-law and used to be married to her ex-husband’s sister.  But as the two of them grow closer, Chaz works to stir up the small town of Bethel Grove against them, possibly threatening to end their relationship forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In-Lawfully Yours checks the box of having a nice surface appearance.  Money was obviously spent on camera work, video quality, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is a silly ‘small town’ composition, but it’s obviously a jab to stupid Hallmark soundtracks.  The sets and locations are pretty good for this type of movie and obviously showcase the ‘small town’ elements this movie is trying to make fun of.  The biggest problem here is the editing.  Even if you’re creating a satire, this does not mean that editing should be ignored.  In-Lawfully Yours is just a random collection of spliced together ‘funny’ scenes with little continuity between them.  In short, this film meets the minimum production standard Christian films should meet, but this does not mean that it’s flawless.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In-Lawfully Yours is obviously an attempt at satirizing a stereotypical Hallmark small town romance film.  The problem is that the satire is not completely committed to.  At times, the satire is painfully obvious, though not always funny, yet at other times, satire is arbitrarily abandoned.  Dialogue is purposely nonsensical, ripe with offhand swipes and nods to cheesy movie concepts.  But sometimes meaning is awkwardly forced into the dialogue.  Characters are noticeably empty, but they don’t live up to their full comic potential.  Satirical scenes and concepts, like the infamous interrupting-church-services bit from Hidden Secrets, are vastly overused to the point of embarrassment.  This aside is actually the entire purpose of this plot, and its overuse is cringe-worthy.  In the end, everything is neatly fixed in purposefully childish ways.  Essentially, In-Lawfully Yours is a poor man’s Christian Mingle.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, satires still need good acting.  Throwing your cast members into scenes without giving them coaching is no better than Hallmark.  Had the acting been better, this film might have actually been funny.  Emotions are either stale or over the top.  Line delivery is mostly lazy.  It’s disappointing that the acting wasn’t better, because I think there was potential here.

Conclusion

Corbin Bernsen has become somewhat infamous for creating subtle parodies of Hallmark movies, but In-Lawfully Yours tries a bit too hard.  Where Christian Mingle was organic satire, this new film wears out the same concepts over and over again and forces comedy down your throat.  It could have been interesting—tongue-in-cheek references to small town movie clichés are perfectly adequate when executed properly.  But when it comes to satire, familiarity breeds contempt.  Silly Hallmark concepts deserve to be made fun of, but this one is just too repetitive to be funny.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

God’s Club {Holy Warrior} (Movie Review)

As you can see, they spent a lot of time on that sign

Plot Summary

When his wife dies tragically in a car accident, Michael Evans falls into a funk.  In order to find new meaning and life and try to keep his wife’s memory alive, he decides to return to teaching and start an after-school Bible club, something she had always wanted to do.  But he is shocked when he is met with extreme resistance both from school authorities and parents.  As the pushback goes from bad to worse, Michael considers just leaving it all behind (after all, there’s no churches in his city).  But his daughter reminds him that her mom would never have wanted him to give up, so Michael sticks with the fight (literally) and doesn’t back down.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

It feels like we repeat ourselves all the time.  There are simply too many Christian productions that are all the same.  God’s Club offers nothing new—clear video quality along with a host of errors.  Between nearly every scene is an awkward fade to black moment that requires a fade-in for the next scene.  In many scenes throughout, especially outdoor scenes, there is shaky camera work, which seems to indicate that someone is holding the camera, which infers that the budget was too small to pay for any other equipment.  The limited funds are also evident in the few cheap sets that there are, as well as in the prop usage.  It seems like the only reason this film is ninety minutes long is because of excessive use of slow motion throughout.  Also, in an attempt to be ‘cool’, the creators crafted a weird soundtrack that sometimes covers for their lack of better sound.  In short, God’s Club commits all the usual production sins, just in different ways than usual.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In an attempts to frame a religious freedom conflict, God’s Club portrays an all out school war, complete with fistfights, brawls, vandalism, arson, and sabotage, all because of a silly after-school activity called God’s Club, also known as Bible Club or Bible Group.  The worst part is that Christian characters aren’t even able to be sympathized with because they deserve half of the treatment they get, as they either pick fights or continue them.  The Christian perspective is also very empty, lacking meaningful depth and espousing odd Christian philosophies as they try to shove the Bible down your throat.  There are very few characters in this plot; some of them we are supposed to appreciate without even getting to know them.  ‘Bad’ characters are very evil in every possible way until they are randomly fixed up.  Dialogue is in-your-face, leaving nothing to the imagination.  God’s Club also sports a growing trend in offbeat Christian films: a disdain for proper counseling and psychology.  Basically, if you are to believe the worldview of this film, churches are disappearing (the town in this plot has no churches), Christians are being persecuted for having after-school activities, it’s okay for Christians to fight back (literally), and reciting Bible verses will fix your life up.  In our experience, none of these things are true in reality, so why portray them in a film?  Because you’re trying to make some kind of quick buck by preaching to the choir.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Why do movies consistently cast Stephen Baldwin in major roles he’s not suited for?  He’s downright creepy in this movie, and when he’s not creepy, he’s lethargic.  It’s beyond me why Corbin Bernsen consistently involves himself in these sorts of messes.  The few other cast members that there are either make no positive impact or remind us why they’re not in any other notable films.  In short, there is clearly no coaching for this cast, thus obvious problems go unchecked.

Conclusion

Was there any thought during the making of this film to attempt to make it realistic and down-to-earth?  We highly doubt it.  At least the persecution subplot of God’s Not Dead is somewhat realistic.  God’s Club is a trumped up preaching-to-the-choir load of nonsense only designed to further inflame Christians against ‘the world’ and give them a chip-on-the-shoulder mentality to approaching non-believers.  None of this movie is reality and it’s a total sham and embarrassment to portray people in this way.  As Christians, our time would be better served using movies to actually reach people for the Gospel and to encourage Christians to go deeper in their faith by using meaningful and realistic plots combined with professional production and acting.  Until Christians are stronger in their faith and until more people are reached with the saving power of Jesus Christ, we have nothing else we need to be discussing.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

Love Comes Softly (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Taken to the unknown Western lands of America by her husband Aaron, Marty Claridge doesn’t know what to do when her husband dies in a tragic accident.  Alone in a strange land, she accepts the offer of a widower named Clark Davis to marry him for convenience until she can go back home to the East.  As she struggles to cope with her own loss and deal with Clark’s spirited daughter Missy, who is still dealing with the tragic loss of her mother, Marty slowly realizes that she will miss the Davis home when she has to leave.  She will have to decide what will prevail—her heart or her head.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, Michael Landon Jr. knows what he’s doing when it comes to production.  This was during the heyday of Fox Faith and Hallmark, and it is easy to understand what set inspirational semi-Christian films like this one apart from movies in its genre before it.  The video quality is clear and outside scenes are filmed well.  The camera work is professional.  Care was taken to make the surroundings and props authentic to the time period.  However, the musical score is stock and the editing is just average.  Too many events take place off screen, things that could have set this movie apart from other romances.  But in the end, the production is likely this film’s greatest asset.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Adapted from the first novel of Janette Oke’s famous series, Love Comes Softly is an intriguing plot.  This film is likely the most accurate to the original story of the whole movie franchise.  A marriage of convenience plot is not that uncommon, yet it was common for the frontier settlement time period.  Other authentic historical factors are captured.  The dialogue is good, but not great, but the characters are at the very least believable.  But with a simplistic commonly used plot, character deepening is greatly needed.  Unfortunately, Love Comes Softly, though it had the runtime to accomplish this, did not do it.  This is why the plot comes out of just average.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This was a small cast and was far better than many Christian film casts of the time, but it still was plagued with errors.  Some characters (as we will see later from Michael Landon Jr.) are too done-up for the time period, i.e., too much makeup and manicures.  But compared to later, Love Comes Softly was great in this area.  Yet other problems remain.  Only two or three actors are truly good.  Katherine Heigl and Dale Midkiff are okay in their roles, but they needed refining.  Once again, in a small-scope, simplistic plot, acting is essential, and this cast was only marginal.

Conclusion

Love Comes Softly marked the beginning of an era for Michael Landon Jr., Hallmark, and popular author Janette Oke.  Oke captured believable, seemingly common historical characters in her novels and brought them to life for audiences to enjoy.  However, the film franchise did not necessarily do this.  Love Comes Softly is a strong enough beginning and demanded stronger follow-ups.  But if you are looking for a well-produced, semi-typical Christian romance, this is the film for you, and you will not be disappointed.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Christian Mingle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Gwyneth Hayden is very lonely in life.  All of her dates so far have been flops and she is tired of seeing people her age getting married while she still has no prospects.  So, in a stroke of desperation, after seeing a television ad for the dating service Christian Mingle, she decides to give it a try.  However, she has to bend the rules, since she has never actually become a Christian.  Her false persona is successful, however, as she receives a contact from a Christian man about her age.  As they meet, Gwyn finds herself actually liking him, thus causing her to sink deeper and deeper into her deception.  In the end, will the truth or love win out?  Or both?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Christian Mingle is a very complicated movie to review.  For starters, the production quality isn’t really that bad.  There are some shades of an independent film feel, but the only real problems pertain to some strange lighting in some outdoor scenes and to some editing issues.  The camera work is pretty good.  Some of the sets could use improvement.  However, some of these errors could be excused if this movie is looked at in a different light.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Box Office Revolution maintains that Christian Mingle is intended to be a satire of Christian films.  Corbin Bernsen is not a Christian filmmaker, so this is a defensible assertion.  It is not branded as a satire, but the dialogue, the plot, the character portrayal\development is too obviously bad for it to be anything but a satire.  The characters are caricatures: the desperate single woman, the nice Christian guy, the Southern Christian parents, the nice Bible study girl, the crazy boss.  There are few Christian themes in the movie, and the ones that are presented are so over-the-top ridiculous that it is satirical.  The dialogue is absurdly comedic and there are off-the-wall tongue in cheek references.  Rather than completely skewer this movie for its horrid nature, BOR chooses to applaud an attempt at satire without completely supporting it.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The acting is so bad that BOR believes Bernsen was either making fun of Christian acting or the actors themselves.  Some actors have lines that completely pointed at themselves in real life, even though this is not the case in the movie’s plot.  The delivery is lackluster, like all the scenes were done in one take each.  Satire or no satire, the acting is still not managed properly.

Conclusion

Some may be surprised at the unusually high rating for this film, but BOR at least found it entertaining.  What is truly sad is that not only are the events portrayed in this film possible due to online dating services, but that a satire of Christian films is even possible or funny.  Christian films should not be a laughingstock, but some of them are—Christian Mingle exposes this.  Let this be a wakeup call for Christian film makers everywhere: Hollywood is watching, and we have not fully passed the test.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points