Paul, Apostle of Christ (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Paul had completed many full years of missionary work across the continents of Asia and Europe and after carrying the Gospel of Jesus Christ to thousands of people, both Jews and Gentiles, he appealed to stand trial in Rome before Caesar, but this decision only caused him to suffer further for the cause of Christ at the hands of cruel Romans.  With the church in Rome on the brink of total annihilation, Priscilla and Aquila house many wanted Christians in their home, and Luke is sent to tend to Paul in prison.  As many Christians begin to question the words of Christ, Luke begs Paul for a fresh word to strengthen the church in her dark times, yet Paul is plagued by his thorn in the flesh–namely the lives of all he killed while he was a religious zealot.  With darkness seeming to close in on Christ’s people, the story of Paul’s life carries the same message that saved all followers of the Way: where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Gone are the days when ‘Bible plays’ like The Book of Esther are socially acceptable as Christian films.  We are in a new era of Christian productions, and Paul, Apostle of Christ is another hallmark of this era.  Similar to recent Biblical depictions, such as Risen, this new look at Paul’s life is gritty and authentic and has no fear of being painfully realistic.  This is evident in the excellent and historically authentic sets, locations, and props.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are also what a professional production should be.  The soundtrack is very engaging and thought-provoking, and the editing is quite creative and effective in presenting the story.  The only drawback to this production is a collection of very dark scenes that may be realistic but do not make for great viewing.  Nevertheless, this is a top-notch production that we should see over and over again in Christian films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

While most standard Biblical plot fare is very flat, face-value, and vanilla, Paul, Apostle of Christ rejects this mold and upends the Biblical genre once and for all.  By inserting extremely creative and well-crafted psychological elements into the core of this storyline, Andrew Hyatt and his team have created a point of no return for films based on Biblical events.  Much like their work in Full of Grace, which showed the potential they have always had, their portrayal of Paul’s thorn in the flesh and the trauma he went through in his life is revolutionary in this genre.  This is exactly what needs to be done to show the humanness of Biblical characters through the exquisite use of effective flashbacks and through processes that demonstrate real motive.  Elsewhere, dialogue is rich and meaningful, and the other subplots are intertwined very well as each character is very well-developed.  Care is given to demonstrate great historical accuracy, and while there are some slightly slow scenes and areas that could have been fleshed out with further dialogue and flashbacks, this storyline is a breath of fresh air in a world of very poor Biblical screenwriting.  To top things off, the ending sequence completes the film excellently and is well worth the wait.  In short, this film is a job well done in nearly every area.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

While there were a few missteps with cast members that are not entirely culturally authentic, they are trained to appear culturally authentic, which is leagues better than having a fully BRITISH cast.  Elsewhere, there is plenty of culturally authentic casting to make this section great, and there is clearly a presence of professional acting coaching.  There are very few errors to point out here, and costuming and makeup are also extremely realistic.  In summary, there are many positive elements to point out in this breakout effort.

Conclusion

This film receives a full x-factor point for its effective use of poignant psychological elements as Paul, Apostle of Christ takes its rightful place among the greatest Christian films of our time.  Andrew Hyatt and his team are clearly going places, and even though their sophomore effort was somewhat muted by the blockbuster release of I Can Only ImaginePaul is a signal that a new force to be reckoned has finally arrived in Biblical films.  It will be exciting to see what this team puts together next, but for now, we can enjoy this great movie.

 

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

 

Soul Surfer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ad avid surfer living the dream in Hawaii, Bethany Hamilton always sought to know God better and to improve her technique on the waves.  She had her life planned out fairly well: surf and compete.  What she least expected was having her arm horrifically bitten off by an unforeseen shark one day while surfing with friends.  After being rushed to emergency care, Bethany began a slow recovery process, but in the midst of this, she discovered that her life would never be the same again, for her passion—surfing—was suddenly next to impossible for her.  She is forced is come to grips with both her faith and her dreams and discover what her true purpose in life is.

Production Quality (2 points)

With an obviously large budget and professional production teams at work, Soul Surfer looks great on the surface.  Its marketing campaign was backed up by beloved Hawaiian scenery, captured by professional camera work and clear video quality.  There is no question that the sets and locations are professional, and the scenery is diverse.  Sound quality is excellent, especially in the many outside scenes.  The soundtrack is intriguing and attempts to capture the local culture.  The biggest issue with this production is the one that plagues the entire film: poor editing, which is coupled with a blurry and confusing storyline.  With this level of professional production crews, the editing should be far better than it is.  Scenes are largely understated and meaningful segments are cut short to jump to more Hawaii landscapes.  The editing makes it hard to follow the actual purpose of this film.  There are too many time jumps and wasted scenes.  Overall, the production is clearly professional, but the editing unfortunately holds this movie back from being all that it could be.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Based on a great true story of Bethany Hamilton, whom we maintain is an excellent Christian role model, Soul Surfer falls short of capturing the depth and meaning of the true story.  Realistic events obviously happen throughout, but we cannot help but think this movie would have been less realistic were it not bound by real life events.  In the midst of Hawaiian beaches, surfing lingo, wave scenery, and surfing competitions, the characters are left shallow and wooden.  The audience cannot connect with them as real people—they are just characters that are swept along by the plot.  Dialogue is stiff and procedural, leaving much to be desired.  The plot ebbs and flows, sometimes hitting high points and missing them other times.  The Christian message is vague at first, then becomes very clear and meaningful, and then fades away again.  The ending is interesting enough, but it just ends up washing away like the tide (pun intended).  The audience is left thinking that they should like the movie because it’s a Christian movie based on a true story, but Soul Surfer is actually quite forgettable and disappointing.  True stories are usually undiscovered treasures when it comes to the big screen, but Soul Surfer is just another average film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Someone thought that putting together a collection of semi-big-name actors and actresses would make this movie work, and there is really nothing glaringly wrong with this cast, but like the rest of the movie, they leave much to be desired.  Their professionalism only carries them so far—they needed to perform better.  Line delivery is mostly good, but emotions are hard to connect with.  A lot of the acting comes off as stiff and procedural, just collecting a paycheck.  With big name talent comes big responsibility.

Conclusion

As we have mentioned before, true stories should be among the best of Christian movies.  Whether viewers or creators realize it or not, audiences everywhere connect better with a movie that’s about real people like them who experience real stuff.  But after experiencing Soul Surfer, the audience doesn’t really learn anything else about Bethany Hamilton except that she surfed and stuff.  This is no discredit to her as a person, since she is likely a nicer person than we are.  But we remain opinionated as always: while still an average movie, Soul Surfer disappoints expectations.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

When the Game Stands Tall (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The De La Salle High School Spartans football team accomplished the seemingly impossible when they won a record 151 games in a row and won multiple championships during that timespan.  However, everything came crashing down the day they finally lost a game.  The team began to splinter and tragedies hit close to home.  Due to health concerns, Coach Bob Ladouceur takes a leave of absence only to discover how disconnected he has become from his family.  When the dust settles, a second chance emerges for Coach Ladouceur, his family, and his team to redeem themselves and begin a new legacy.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The production quality is not as bad as some movies this caliber, but it is not the best that it could be.  The camera work is the strongest element, as the scenes are filmed well, especially the football action scenes.  However, the editing is very choppy, probably due to the fact that there is a large amount of content.  Time marches quickly without much warning and important scenes seem to be missing from the final cut.  Finally, the movie is replete with product placements that were evidently needed to fund this movie.  Box Office Revolution realizes that independent Christian films are difficult to fund, but overt product placements give the movie a cheesy feel.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Tracking back to the large amount of content in the movie, it seems like the creators bit off more than they could chew, so to speak.  This is a large scale story that spans multiple football seasons, and in the wake of covering a lot of time, character development is sacrificed.  In an epic, the dialogue is precious and must be used to its full potential.  When the Game Stands Tall does not do this and instead wastes dialogue by making it shallow and\or forced, thus affecting the characters.  A lot of people were affected in this true story, but there are too many characters in the movie, some of which only have a handful of scenes.  It is noble to attempt to make an epic that spans multiple years, and it is possible to be done, but this movie doesn’t stand up to the challenge.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While there is not much meaningful dialogue for the actors to work with, the delivery is vanilla.  Believable emotion seems absent from many of the actors.  Jim Caviezel is pretty good in his role, but that is the extent of the dynamic acting.  Again, the acting is not terrible, but it is just not compelling.

Conclusion

Many poignant issues are dealt with in When the Game Stands Tall, but they are not packaged well.  The audience is alienated and lost in a sea of movie content, which unfortunately could have made for a good movie.  Since a real life story is followed, there was a lot of opportunity for a realistic and believable movie, but this movie was not successful in capturing this.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points