Invisible Enemies [1997] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jackson decides it’s time to tell his son about a mysterious pair of glasses he came into possession of while in college.  Jackson tells his son of how this pair of glasses reveals the spiritual realm to whomever God has allowed to see it.  Jackson recounts how his discovery of the spiritual realm made his faith real to him and helped him to save his family and friends from certain destruction.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a 1997 production, this one is unfortunately not up to par.  It’s likely that funding was limited for this ‘educational’ drama, but it makes one wonder if it was justified.  Video quality is okay, as is audio quality, yet there are a lot of weird sound effects throughout, as well as strange lighting and wild special effects.  The soundtrack is also cheesy, yet sets, locations, and props are mostly fine.  Furthermore, this relatively short movie has choppy editing that stunts its development.  However, it may have never intended to be a real movie.  But if this was the case, why is it marketed like one?

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Despite its meager origins, Invisible Enemies is actually based on an interesting idea that has potential, yet this story is neither well-constructed nor well-presented.  The characters are too one-dimensional due to stiff information-dump dialogue.  There is not enough time in this plot to do any real story work; it needs a lot of complexity and development.  This film has an overly simplistic portrayal of spirituality and it all culminates in a very cheesy climax that is hard to reconcile.  In the end, this was almost like a test idea that really wasn’t ready to be released to the public, but it’s been twenty years now, so here we are.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting is the best part of this film, as the cast members post mostly average performances.  Some lines seem overly practiced and some emotions tend to be over the top, but on the whole, this is a fine effort.  The good thing is that at least this section demonstrates work towards the semblance of a film.

Conclusion

Films like Invisible Enemies are very hard to quantify.  They are put out there like a movie, so they are reviewed like a movie.  Yet there are many lingering elements that make it an overall odd experience to watch.  I feel like more could have been done with this concept beyond a simple ‘educational’ film.  But alas, budget constraints are always going to be an issue with independent Christian movies.  So once again we have another sub-par film that could have been better.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

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7th Street Theater, Season 3 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

With the new cast of the 7th Street Theater finally settled down, the team begins to face new challenges that they must face.  New social issues are in desperate need of being addressed by the cast through their bland skits.  But more importantly, a new threat arises to their business model as a disgruntled rival theater owner seeks to destroy their work.  With the 7th Street Theater be able to survive the onslaught?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The newest and final (?) season of the 7th Street Theater has really no unique or surprising elements.  The only notable difference is some slightly improved camera work.  Otherwise, everything else is pretty much the same.  Video quality and audio quality are typical.  The Jasper Randall soundtrack is still intact.  There are still no locations and the same old limited sets are utilized.  Furthermore, there is really no editing to speak of.  In the end, if this is the end of this series, it’s an anticlimactic one.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Another season of this series brings another one full of forced drama and fake conflicts as everything in this universe centers around the happenings of the theater with no care about what the characters do outside of it except for a lot of references to off-screen content.  This third season continues to grasp for content as it constantly exhibits the limited and isolationist worldview of the Christiano brothers.  Even more so this season, they adapt a Christians versus the world approach and complain about common cultural problems rather than offering real solutions.  They are still lost in their own world in thinking this concept is actually interesting or even sustainable.  The ending really makes no sense, yet it appropriate for this saga, which remains empty and wanting.

Acting Quality (1 point)

As the same cast members continue to phone in their performances, there is really nothing new to mention here.  Emotions are still plastic and line delivery is still lazy.  There are fewer cast member changes this season, yet it’s really hard to believe that they were able to keep at least half of this cast together for so long.  What were they really getting out of this?

Continuity Quality (.5 point)

It’s very hard to believe there are over sixty twenty-minute episodes in this saga.  That’s a lot of dedication for not much return.  Yet this season’s continuity quality has slightly improved due to some slight attempts at continuation and arcs.  However, it’s not really enough to make any real difference.

Conclusion

It seems like this series is now over, and it has done so in the most non-dramatic fashion.  There is truly no way to understand how and why this series was made for so long except for the fact that it was extremely easy to make.  It’s very difficult to see the true benefit of this saga due to its out-of-touch portrayal of people and apparent lack of understanding of real life and real people.  If a Christian series is ever to be successful, that’s a big if, then reality needs to be portrayed in a way that engages audiences rather than bores them.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

7th Street Theater, Season 2 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

Though the cast of the 7th Street Theater is constantly changing, their messages are still the same.  They continually create plays about Christian topics over and over again and present their plastic worldview to supposedly sold out shows.  Since they are committed to doing the same things all the time, the only drama they have to contend with is constantly changing cast members.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The production of the second season of this series is more stable than the first, but it basically comes out the same.  Video quality is fine and camera work is regular.  Audio quality is also fine, despite a pedestrian Jasper Randall soundtrack.  There are once again no locations to speak of and the same old severely limited sets are utilized in this lazy production.  Editing is mostly off the table as well.  Basically, as if the first season of this series was pointless enough, this second season is even more so.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

There is literally nothing new about this season that hasn’t already been discussed.  The same old one-dimensional characters are paraded around—even when the character changes due to cast changes, it makes no difference.  Every episode feels like a repeat of an old one as they constantly repeat the same ideas, sequences, and conversations.  Still the biggest plaguing issue in this saga is the fact that it lacks true connection to real people as they spin their wheels and grasp for content.  A series can only be sustained through top-level characters and realistic circumstances—it would be nice to have some arcs too.  However, 7th Street Theater lacks all of these skills.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As previously mentioned, the only difference with this bland cast from the first season is the fact that they are constantly switching some of them around.  However, it doesn’t help the fact that these cast members, though they may mean well, are too overly practiced in their delivery.  Emotions are hardly ever believable.  Essentially, there is not much unique to say about this season.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

Once again, there is no continuity in this season as each episode is presented with no real relation to the others, except for a few lame attempts at ‘cliffhangers’ that no one is interested in.  There are still no character arcs and no story arcs.  There was little to no point in making season, much less this series.

Conclusion

While in some way the Christianos might mean well in what they do, they are still not good at communicating the messages they want to communicate.  However, some of the things they do communicate are off-putting and paint an impossibly perfect view of Christians who have no real struggles.  This series doesn’t exist in reality and thus is never going to make any real difference.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 14 points

 

7th Street Theater, Season 1 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

When a Christian businessman decides to invest in a Christian drama theater, he hires a stage director, Rudy, an office manager, Johanna, and five cast members, Travis, Jon, Jamie, Kelly, and Andi, to put together weekly plays centered around Christian themes.  As the actors and actresses write the shows and rehearse them to perform them, they learn life lessons that they intend to teach their audiences.  They also do life together and form a community with each other.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Since this series is entirely based on a bunch of people sitting around in two to three theater sets, you can imagine how cheap and limited these sets are.  There are no locations to speak of, and props are kind of silly, although this concept is also embraced as normal.  A lot of production shortcuts are taken and are justified by the format.  Early in this season, video quality is blurry, but this improves throughout.  Camera work is relatively stable.  Audio quality is fine throughout, but Jasper Randall delivers his same old silly soundtrack that can be found in any given Christiano production.  Finally, editing is almost nonexistent as most scenes drag on way too long to pump the runtime.  Every episode also ends with an annoying freeze frame.  Basically, though this is an average production, it has a lot of work to do.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The Christiano brothers have never been known for their subtlety, and the 7th Street Theater saga is the most obvious messaging ever.  This series is a venue for them to push their forcefully fundamental ideas through extremely scripted and childish dialogue.  It’s full of typical goody-two shoes Christian characters who don’t make any ‘bad’ mistakes, as well as a few strawman non-Christian characters and allusions to ‘bad’ things that can’t be talked about.  This series overall demonstrates just how much the Christiano brothers live in their own little world, especially with the priceless episode that serves as apologetics for that horrid thing called Pamela’s Prayer, which is an entirely different topic that space does not permit a full analysis of.  Basically, this series is everything you can imagine from the Christianos, and worse.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With a severely small cast, over 400 minutes of runtime is too much to see them over and over and over again.  They are extremely bland and overly practiced in their delivery.  They come off as fake, plastic people and even have weird racial undertones.  Though there is some improvement throughout the season, this is a very poor job.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

This saga is allergic to continuity.  As one thing after the next happens, there is an extreme amount of redundancy and repetition.  There are zero story arcs and absolutely no character arcs—everything stays relatively the same throughout this pointless season.  Thus rounds out an unfortunately unsurprising failure.

Conclusion

Though there is probably some part of the Christiano brothers that means well in their entertainment, they have no idea how to subtly communicate a Christian message or even how to relate to real people.  In their world, Christians are goody-two-shoes plastic people who are insulated from ‘bad stuff’ and exist in a bubble where they all tell each other how good they are.  But when you think about it, this is probably just another day in the life for most Christian film makers.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 14 points

 

Remember the Goal (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Courtney Smith-Donnelly, an inexperienced coach, is given the job as the new cross country coach at Orange Hills Christian Girls Private School, many parents are skeptical of her ‘unusual’ training methods.  She insists on not wearing the girls out, but the parents want a winning team.  Under the threat of being fired, Courtney pushes forward and encourages her girls to remember the goal no matter what.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

At least since they have been making films for nearly two decades, the Christiano brothers have learned how to craft a professional production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit silly at times, but outdoor locations and indoor sets are on market standard.  The only real issue to point out here is the slightly poor editing job, which manifests in too many sports montages.  But in the end, at least the production quality of this film is fine.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, after all these years, the Christiano brothers have not been able to figure out how to craft a plot that relates the real people and real circumstances.  They still demonstrate a trite and sometimes childish outlook on life, which includes a silly and plastic handling of otherwise important issues.  The characters are also extremely thin and one-dimensional due to mindless dialogue.  There is hardly any content in this plot except for sports sequences and lingo and there are a lot of disjointed subplots.  But perhaps the most memorable part of this plot—for all the wrong reasons—is the forced and confusing parallels between Christianity and cross-country, as well as the ridiculous persecution the main character undergoes for training her team in a supposedly controversial fashion.  This component dominates the film and is downright laughable, not to mention all of the quick fixes in this film.  Basically, there is still nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the Christianos mostly departed from their usual cast in his film, there are still issues here.  The lead actress is often overly practiced yet unsure of herself at the same time.  Other cast members are fine, but emotions often seem forced.  Overall, this is an average performance.

Conclusion

Remember the Goal is a departure for the Christianos in that they have finally allowed a female character to take a lead role in a plot that does not involve them being confined to the house.  Yet it still contains a lot of their typical shallow elements and their limited outlook on life and faith.  Unfortunately, they’re not going to improve until they learn how to relate to real people and stop thinking that everything is a persecution ploy.  But after all this time, why would they change?

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Perfect Race (April 2019)

Coming April 2019 from the Christiano Brothers

 

Writer(s): Dave Christiano

Director(s): Dave Christiano

Producer(s):

Starring: Allee Sutton HethcoatGoria Cunningham

 

Plot Synopsis:

A female athlete at a small Christian college works hard to overcome long odds and try to win a national title in the 800 meter run. “The Perfect Race” is a follow up movie to “Remember The Goal”.

Pamela’s Prayer (Movie Review)

What would my father say?

Plot Summary

After her mother died tragically, Pamela’s father threw himself into obsessing over how he was going to raise her.  Though they prayed together every night, Pamela’s father micromanaged nearly every aspect of her life and kept her in a fundamentalist bubble.  He determined that God’s will for her life was and wouldn’t let her date anyone until he hand-picks the first guy who comes to work for his archaic film ministry for her to hang out with.  After being brainwashed all her life, Pamela goes along with it, even though this relationship has no substance, because she too must be the guardian of the fundamentalist-patriarchal flame.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

If you’re going to make a movie about patriarchal propaganda, the least you can do is make the production good.  But no, Pamela’s Prayer sports a medieval production quality reminiscent of Bob Jones University’s Unusual Films (that’s not the only reason this movie is similar to those).  It’s very cheap overall, including grainy video and audio quality, very pedestrian camera work, and an extremely clanky soundtrack that sounds like it was recorded in some tiny Bible Belt church (no offense).  The sets and locations are severely limited (just like the minds of the writers), and there is absolutely no editing as the condensed life of an unsuspecting girl raised in a cult-like atmosphere is portrayed in just under sixty minutes.  But that’s not all that’s wrong with this disaster.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Pamela’s Prayer is not a fitting enough title, since this story is entirely centered around normalizing a creepy ideology of patriarchy that seeks to control every aspect of a girl’s life. Using completely empty and one-dimensional characters, including extremely perfect white Christians and very bad ‘worldly’ Christians (like Timothy Chey’s carnal Christians), the patriarchal worldview is shamelessly shoved down your throat.  If you want people to convert to your cause, at least try to depict real people, not cardboard cutouts the spew talking points.  also, try to actually write a realistic story that is accessible to most people, not some alternate universe portrayal of life.  Nevertheless, this film is very legalistic propaganda that aggressively pushes an agenda and has no place in Christian entertainment.  Hence, negative points are warranted.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Once again, the Christiano team shows us how to distribute propaganda in the worst fashion possible.  Choosing the most extremely white and awkwardly stiff cast possible, they fed the cast members lines and made sure they looked like good little white Christians, and that was about it.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are very wooden and robotic, but this was probably mission accomplished for the Christianos.  Yet people wonder why people cringe at the thought of Christian films.

Conclusion

After watching a movie like this, one can only conclude that the people who push this sort of legalism on others also believe that those who are not perfect little white Christians cannot be redeemed or restored.  The type of parenting that is portrayed in this film as good is exactly the reason why young people ‘fall away from Christianity’ or ‘lose their faith’.  God didn’t tell Christian parents to keep their children in little fundamentalist bubbles all their lives or to micromanage every aspect of them, but to create a loving environment where the children learn Who God is (based on actions more than words) and how they can follow Him.  Of course children need to be protected from harm and wrongdoing, but raising them in a cult-like atmosphere is equally detrimental.  We need Christian families that actually care about each other, not dictate lists of specific rules to follow that are geared toward patriarchy and are designed to create little ‘perfect’ robots.  If there’s one reason why a lot of people dislike Christianity, this movie embodies every aspect of it.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

 

End of the Harvest (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Matt, Scott, and Jess are college buddies just trying to work for the Lord in the oppressive world around them.  The atheists seem to have all the fun—they even have their own philosophy club (not God’s Club).  Scott decides to challenge them to a debate when he discovers a groundbreaking paper written by a former student decades before that could upend everyone’s worldview.  It tells of how the end of the world will come and though no one believes him at first, that’s about to change somehow.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

As a late 90’s production, End of the Harvest is very underwhelming.  While camera work is okay, the video quality is very grainy and audio quality is less than inspiring, including weird sound effects.  The soundtrack is loud and annoying.  The sets are severely limited and cheap-looking.  There is also no editing present as the entire story is presented at face value, with useless panning and zooming sequences.  Essentially, with such low quality, there is little justification for this film being made, except for the fact that the Christianos needed an outlet to push their odd agenda.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The first half of this film depicts characters sitting around talking about what’s going to happen in the second half of the film—thus, nothing much happens except for the same old rehashed conversations over and over again.  The entire movie is less than sixty minutes long, so there’s not really much of an idea at all here.  The second half of the film externalizes the bizarre worldview of the Christiano brothers that is mostly ripped off from Hal Lindsey and focuses on trying to predict the end of the world based on stupid Bible ‘codes’ and loose associations.  They pick random verses here and there to use to their advantage but then passive-aggressively say they don’t really know if that could be true or not.  Besides the fact that these stupid ‘scare people into Christianity’ arguments and absurd Biblical insinuations will convert no one, the characters are juvenile and the portrayal of atheists is embarrassing.  This is the kind of garbage that makes people (including professing Christians) roll their eyes about the term ‘Christian movies’.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As this film utilizes the typical lineup of David A. R. White, Kevin Downes, Brad Heller, and Lance Zitron, the acting quality is as good as can be expected.  They seem like they are barely trying as their line delivery is rambled, slurred, and generally incoherent.  Emotions are inconsistent and random.  With such a small cast, there’s really nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

As previously mentioned, there is no point in this film except pushing an agenda that is basically propaganda.  This view of the end of the world is ridiculous and indefensible.  It adds nothing to what should be the mission of Christian entertainment and only further detracts from it.  The problem is that movies like this one are not from just some random, fly-by-night movie creators.  The Christiano brothers are regarded as pillars in the field, for some reason.  It won’t be easy to change this image of Christian film, but hopefully it is happening sooner than later.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Unidentified [2006] (Movie Review)

Strange invaders…

Plot Summary

Keith and Brad work for a magazine that is more prominent its own mind and when they are sent by their supervisor to investigate some UFO claims in some obscure small town in Texas, they can’t believe it.  They think it’s all pointless, especially when the locals refuse to talk about the sightings.  But when their friend Darren invites them to take a different look at the UFO phenomena, their whole world is turned upside down.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Sometimes the Christiano brothers put together a respectable production, but not in Unidentified.  The okay camera work is the only positive quality to speak of.  The video quality is quite cheap and there are too many cheesy special effects littering the film.  Though the plot goes all over the country, the sets and locations are fairly limited and mostly focus on the office set.  Finally, the editing is extremely choppy in a failed attempt to be dramatic.  In short, there are not enough redeeming qualities to make up for the rest of the nonsense in this movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

The Christiano brothers might as well have not even tried to make this a fiction plot, because it’s mainly a docu-drama filled with regurgitated UFO documentary talking points.  There are tons of disjointed subplots that are nearly impossible to follow and that are based entirely on coincidences.  Things happen because they need to as the dialogue is filled with information dumps and consists of long and drawn out conversations.  There is also tons of off-screen content.  A clear agenda is being pushed here, placing this plot in the propaganda category.  Even though there may be some truth to what is being said here, it comes off as disingenuous and is mostly clouded with legalism.  As usual, opposing worldviews are treated offensively, thus warranting negative points.  Finally, this film has the weirdest end since Decision that you have to see to believe.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Except for a few small positive elements, this cast is very unprofessional.  It’s not only a very awkward cast, but they are not coached very well at all.  Their line delivery and emotional delivery are overly practiced and robotic.  Some cast members come off as lofty.  In short, this rounds out a very embarrassing effort.

Conclusion

It is clear that the Christiano brothers have a legalistic agenda to push both in this film and in others like Time Changer and A Matter of Faith.  The sad thing is that spiritual issues like the ones alluded to in Unidentified need to be discussed on Christian film, yet people like the Christianos are the only ones who seem to do this, and always in the wrong way.  There is some truth to the UFO phenomena, but no one is going to learn it from this film.  Unidentified only serves to further solidify a Pharisaical and sometimes bizarre image in Christian film, especially Christian sci-fi, which is a needed genre.  Who will stand up to reverse this trend?

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Me and You, Us Forever (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Dave is left behind and divorced by his wife, he begins to think about what could have been.  As he begins to pine after an old high school girlfriend of his, one of his friends advises Dave to go to a church support group for divorced people.  There he meets a creepy woman who takes it upon herself to vicariously live Dave’s life and to help him in going back to meet the old girlfriend he’s pining after.  As Dave finally plans to go meet her, the suspense builds as he drives back and forth outside her house and borderline stalks her.  Will he ever get to talk to her again?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This awkwardly-titled film has one good merit, and this is some production quality.  While the video quality and camera work are good, as well as some of the sets, it’s beyond us why anyone would spend money on such a useless piece of entertainment.  Audio quality is also okay, but the soundtrack is snore-inducing.  There was clearly no editing in this film as tons of useless and empty footage was included, probably in an effort to make this painful slog longer than it was.  Besides a few production high marks (which should be standard), this movie is all downhill from here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In perhaps the most useless and pathetic plot we have ever seen, immature conflicts dominate the silly dialogue as a bunch of middle aged people whine about what could have been in high school.  As the scenes progress from melancholy to melodramatic to boring, nothing really happens as we are forced to witness Dave drive around, go to work, talk on the phone, go to support group, and hang out with a creepy and desperate woman.  Sometimes there are huge gaps without a single spoken word as characters just stare at things while the piano music plays.  Besides all this, there is no way to make this sort of plot interesting or palatable, so why make it at all?

Acting Quality (0 points)

As usual for Christiano casts, the cast members are overly practiced in their line delivery.  The emotions are empty and they generally leave much to be desired.  Unfortunately, the cast is so small, there is really no potential here.

Conclusion

What was even the point of making this plot?  The idea literally has no potential and is so absurd that we have to question whether going after (married!) old flames should even be encouraged among Christians.  Was this really all the Christiano brothers could come up with?  We would expect something much more sanctimonious and pious than this.  Where is the potential in watching a middle aged man pine after his old girlfriend, who’s now married?  Don’t even get me started about using divorce support groups as a dating service.  We can’t even comprehend the motive behind this film and must just leave it as a useless movie you shouldn’t waste your time on.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Power of the Air (October 2018)

In Theaters October 2, 2018

 

Writer(s): Dave Christiano

Director(s): Dave Christiano

Producer(s): Dave Christiano, Melanie Davies

Starring:  Nicholas X. Parsons, Patty Duke, Michael Gross, Tracey Goode, Karyn Williams, Wendell Kinney, Sallie Glaner, Veryl Jones, Scot Smith, Michael Shippy, Todd Squires, Trenton Fiscus, Breezy Sharp, Jaydelise Volquez, Rob Miner, Brian Brightman, Lauren O’Quinn

 

Plot Synopsis:

An African Missionary shares with a Christian man in the United States how he feels the church in America is in great danger. The Christian is very convicted by what he hears and then sets forth a plan to reach his city with the gospel.