Finding Grace (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Alaska Rose has been a troubled youth ever since her mother left her life. Allie has gotten in and out of trouble, but now that she’s 18, the stakes have risen since a judge has ordered her to complete community service and to avoid run-ins with the law in order to avoid prison. Hence, Allie has been tasked with volunteering at a nursing home, which she immediately hates. However, as time goes, Allie discovers things about herself and about those around her that change her perspective on life.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

All throughout, Finding Grace is uneven in the production department, including some shaky camera work and poor audio quality, such as obvious background sounds and a generic soundtrack. While the sets, locations, and props are mostly okay, some of the lighting in scenes in inconsistent. Also, there is a lack of logical transitions between scenes and quick, abrupt cuts that make for a choppy editing experience. Although there is some improvement as the production progresses, it doesn’t do enough to get past the halfway mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From start to finish, Finding Grace has a mostly typical premise and is based on very stereotypical characters due to vanilla dialogue and predictable circumstances. Most things done in this film have been done and seen before, yet it’s hard to understand what the purpose of some of the characters is. Many of the scenes are very vague and black such that they don’t properly present the story in way that the viewer can clearly understand. This makes it difficult to comprehend the actual point of the narrative and the focus of the plot since it just feels like a random collection of instances strung together for the sake of making a movie. The storytelling is all over the map since some characters have erratic personality changes and lack justification for some of their actions. However, after some sermonizing and meandering, the final third of the film tries to pull itself out of the nosedive by inventing important character motive out of thin air. It’s unfortunate that the idea behind why the characters act the way they do is actually very believable and well-concealed until its reveal since it was completely wasted on a train wreck movie that many audiences will give up on after about twenty minutes. Further, the screenplay concludes with some rather suspect legal procedures, which caps off a wasted effort.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Besides the other concerns with Finding Grace, many of the cast members force their emotional and line deliveries throughout the movie, and many lines actually come off as mumbled rather than clearly spoken. While it’s likely not their fault, a lot of the actors and actresses don’t seem to really understand what type of characters they are playing as they post lackadaisical and disingenuous performances that demonstrated boredom for the whole experience. However, based on the hacked-together script they were given, it’s very difficult to blame them. There is some potential in this section, which keeps it from being zero, but it overall puts the icing on a very bad cake.

Conclusion

While it’s evident that this film’s creators had an interesting idea concealed somewhere in this mess, this was one of the worst possible ways to package it. Even the best concepts can be greatly ruined by bad storytelling, which is the tale of Finding Grace. This fact, combined with the unforced production and acting errors, make for a very disappointing experience and can only be used as an example of how not to make a movie.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

All Saints [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Michael Spurlock leaves the sales world under less than honest circumstances, he decides the most natural thing for him to do is become a pastor so he can have more time for his family and so he can give back to the world rather than take from it.  Thus, he is assigned by the parish to head up a dying church in small town Tennessee as a training ground under the church closes up.  Then Michael is promised to move on to better things.  However, the longer he is at the small church, the more Michael sees that there is purpose for it, especially since it is serving hundreds of Burmese refugees who have no one to turn to.  With God’s intervention, they begin to see miracles happen right before their eyes.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In keeping with the traditions of Affirm Films, All Saints is a good production on the surface and has no obvious errors.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all on the professional standards they should be on.  The soundtrack is effective and is culturally relevant.  The sets, locations, and props are all well-constructed and realistic.  However, this film needs some serious editing work.  Time is spent on all the wrong things and the plot overall lacks flow and continuity.  However, Affirm has likely done enough to meet minimum market standards.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is a very intriguing true story that had a lot of potential, this potential is not reached.  There are so many things that could have gone into this film that did not finish developing.  The story is too dominated by the whining, unsure main character.  Unfortunately, there is very little focus or purpose to this plot, even though there were plenty of opportunities to have this.  There are a lot of disjointed and unrelated sequences that fill up the runtime and stunt character development by crowding out any scenes of meaningful dialogue, of which there are few.  In the end, it’s sad to see how this story turned out because it had so much going for it.

Acting Quality (2 points)

John Corbett really puts a damper on this cast since he comes off as very fake and unsure of himself at the same time.  Yet if you can look past him, the other cast members post some good performances.  There is especially good multicultural casting and acting, even if we don’t get to see enough of them.  Overall, this is a good section and makes this movie at least palatable.

Conclusion

Most people will probably be fine with this film, but it’s still a very disappointing experience.  Why can’t we at least see some flashbacks of the Karen people in Burma?  Their subplots are barely developed or explored as John Corbett dominates the runtime with his awkwardness.  In short, though there was a chance for some interesting stories here, it barely materializes and wastes an amazing opportunity.  We believe it’s time for Affirm Films to step out in faith and take a chance on a new genre of Christian film rather than churning out run-of-the-mill films like this one.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

The Veritas Project: Hangman’s Curse (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Veritas Project consists of the Springfield family—their job is to work with local law enforcement undercover in order to discover the origins of unusual happenings in small towns.  Their next job is to go undercover at a high school that seems to be haunted by the curse of a teen who hung himself inside the school one night.  Seemingly random deaths keep happening that are tied back to the hanging and to dark happenings at the school.  Will they be able to get to the bottom of it before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Like many early 2000s productions distributed by Fox Faith, Hangman’s Curse has its high points and its issues that keep it from being all it could be.  For example, the video quality is unnecessarily grainy and there is poor lighting throughout.  However, the sets, locations, and props are realistic and appropriate.  Audio quality is fine except for the cheesy soundtrack and the cheap sound effects that are dubbed on top of the normal audio.  There are also a lot of very juvenile horror-related special effects that are actually quite annoying.  Finally, the editing is fairly choppy as scenes end abruptly, off-screen content is referred to often, and transitions do not flow well.  In the end, it’s possible that this production team’s budget was not ready to handle a sci-fi\horror film, so they might should have rethought this effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though Frank Peretti knows how to craft an interesting enough Christian horror\sci-fi plot, Hangman’s Curse crams too much content into a short amount of time.  This stunts character develop and forces dialogue to be rushed and packed with information.  Sometimes the premise of this ‘horror’ concept is hard to believe and is even a little silly at times.  We are supposed to treat the issue as serious, but it is difficult to do so because it all seems too shallow.  There are too many very cheesy half-attempts at horror that are more annoying than effective.  Like too many sci-fi plots, this one relies too heavily on the ‘twist’ and the concept revealed near the end rather than actual character development.  It’s hard to care about what’s going on when it all rushes by so fast all in the name of solving the mystery in under two hours.  In the end, some will find this story interesting, but it does not appeal to every audience.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The casting and acting of this film are definitely its strong suit.  Though there is nothing truly dynamic about the cast members’ performances, they are also not detracting or negative.  Their emotions are mostly believable and their line delivery is professional.  This should be the baseline for acting in Christian film.

Conclusion

Frank Peretti has always been a genre pioneer in Christian entertainment.  He went where other Christians were afraid to go and opened up a whole new world for both writing and movies.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with his work, this particular film does not capture it well, and this could be due to the early days of Christian productions.  Perhaps if this film were made today, it would be better.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 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 did not used to be a Christian filmmaker, and it’s possible that this film is based on his experiences within the Christian realm.  It is not overtly 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 (some of which are actually a bit funny).  The biggest problem is its predictable ending that doesn’t fit with the rest of the narrative’s themes, but rather than completely skewer this movie for its horrid nature, BOR chooses to applaud an attempt at satire without completely supporting it.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

After a second look, the acting of Christian Mingle is actually quite ingenious since it adequately portrays how the characters are supposed to be.  Some of it is a bit over-the-top and half-hearted, but this is somewhat purposeful.  Quite of the few of the cast members actually assume their absurd roles well, but there are also some unrealistic emotions and lazy line delivery throughout that keeps this section from being all that it could be.  However, this rounds out an overall above-average effort.

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.  It also shines light on the fact that some have experienced disingenuous behavior among Christian circles as well as unfair expectations to act certain ways in order to be accepted.  Despite its formulaic ending, Christian Mingle does offer a fairly good model for how to highlight issues in Christian society through the use of comedy.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points