One Stop Away (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Richard and Eddie became close friends while in college, and they have maintained their close relationship even though life has taken them each in different directions.  Eddie is battling a terminal illness in the hospital while Richard struggles as a young teacher in the school he was raised in.  Richard tries to do what he can to help Eddie and his family, but Eddie’s brother is having struggles of his own in the school where Richard teaches.  They will each have to return to the faith they were raised in to find a way forward.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

On the surface, the strangely-titled One Stop Away (there’s never any explanation for that title) has a fairly professional production, as evidenced by good video quality and camera work.  Lighting is mostly good except for a few instances of unnecessary darkness.  The soundtrack is a bit generic, however, and the flashbacks have a purposely odd quality about them.  As for audio, there are too many obvious voice-overs and unnatural sound tricks.  Sets, locations, and props are professional-looking, but the editing poses a substantial problem as it is somewhat disorienting due to a lot of choppy and cut-off scenes.  Overall, this is mainly an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The choppiness bleeds over into the plot, unfortunately, as the storyline is very disorganized.  It depicts random characters doing random things without any clear continuity; it is very difficult to discern which character is which due to the confusing use of flashbacks.  The random time jumps that happen with no warning certainly don’t help things.  Usually, non-linear and out-of-order plots using flashbacks are great ideas, but in this case, One Stop Away is presented very poorly, which seems to indicate that the intended plot is fairly unsubstantial and the premise is too thin.  Elsewhere, dialogue is too empty and expositional, which leads to wooden characters.  Thus, it is very difficult to see the point or purpose of this story as it has one too many boring, lagging, and pointless scenes.  In short, whatever was trying to be conveyed in this film is totally lost on the audience.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the acting of this film is mostly okay, but there are one too many awkward moments.  Line delivery is fine, but the emotional is a bit flat, and there are a lot of scenes that come off as overly practiced.  Costuming is better than usual for this sort of film, but this section is unfortunately not more than average.

Conclusion

Basically, while the effort may be commendable in films like One Stop Away, they will unfortunately be easily forgotten and overlooked.  Their messaging is too vague and confusing to each most audiences, even if there was a good idea in here somewhere.  Non-linear, flashback-based plots need deep character development through poignant dialogue and realistic scenes that demonstrate character motive and accessibility.  This is something we have been talking about for a while, but Christian films continue to show a lack of understanding of real people.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

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Healed By Grace 2: Ten Days of Grace (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jessie really wants a horse, but her mom hates horses, so it’s probably not going to happen.  However, her father decides to send her to horse camp for the summer while her mother secretly gets treatment for the cancer she’s hiding from Jessie.  Unfortunately, the summer camp is full once her father gets there, which causes him to divert his plans to asking his wife’s long-lost father, Gauff from Healed by Grace, whom he has never met, to watch Jessie for a while.  Will their family be able to reconcile because of this?

Production Quality (.5 point)

For a 2018 production, Healed By Grace 2 is a major letdown and is actually a decrease in quality from previous Blended Planet films, with the exception of Disconnect Reconnect.  The poor production of Healed By Grace 2 is manifested in very poor audio and weird sound effects, as well as poor lighting and strange video quality.  The camera work is mostly fine, however, which is the only positive element in this production.  A lot of the audio seems overdubbed, and there are weird sequences of dead air, as well as a generic soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly limited and uncreative.  There are also a lot of awkward and strange cuts and transitions, including unexplained portions that may or may not take place in the minds of the characters.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Where the first installment of this ‘series’ had a tiny amount of potential, this sequel bears little to no potential at all.  The dialogue therein is extremely vanilla and pedestrian thus creating empty characters.  A lot of the plot elements seem to completely disregard the previous film, as if it really matters.  Some characters seem purposely off-the-wall or even ‘magical.’  There are also a collection of cringe-worthy ‘comedy’ sequences that are like fingernails in the chalkboard.  As this plot meanders with little to no purpose, there are also other odd elements included, such as odd suggestions about people getting cancer due to lacking forgiveness.  Overall, there is very little content to work with in this extremely forced and basically purposeless sequel, which suggests that it was misguided from the beginning.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The acting from the original movie was partially awkward in its own right, but the acting of this second film is much worse.  There are many very awkward moments, as well as blank emotions and half-hearted line delivery.  Many cast members appear to be trying far too hard to make their mark, and there is basically no coaching present.  Unfortunately, there was really little to no point in making this film.

Conclusion

Do we really need another horse film?  Until somebody produces a substantial, creative, and non-regurgitated film in this genre, we really need to have a moratorium on inspirational horse movies.  Besides this fact, productions and acting this bad are no longer acceptable in this era of Christian film, so it’s more than likely that Healed By Grace 2 will soon be forgotten.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Christmas Shoes (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

With his mother dying of cancer at Christmastime, Nathan Andrews just wants to buy his mother one last present before she goes to heaven.  However, his family doesn’t have enough money do to the healthcare treatments.  His path crosses with disgruntled lawyer Robert Layton, who wants nothing to do with Christmas since his marriage and family are seemingly falling apart.  Will Rob take the opportunity to spread holiday cheer before it’s too late for Nathan’s mom?

 

Production Quality (3 points)

As a Hallmark production in their movie ‘heyday,’ The Christmas Shoes is basically a textbook example of a professional one.  Though many elements of it are typical, including plenty of Christmas décor and props, there are no real errors to point out here, which is a rarity.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all predictably good.  The soundtrack is a bit too Christmasy, but what it can be expected.  Sets and locations and realistic and professional.  Editing is also fine.  Overall, this is certainly a production to be proud of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As a Hallmark movie based on a popular Christian Christmas song, one can see the obvious pitfalls here.  For one, the story is told in narration before it even begins.  Even so, it is still a typical Christmas story about a busy and cold character who hates Christmas for some reason but learns to care again for some reason or another.  This is also mixed in with a diseased character at Christmastime, plus a literal save the farm plot to boot.  Also, don’t forget the Christmas pageant!  Overall, this is a touching idea, and the characters and their struggles can somewhat be related to.  However, they still tend to fit into their stereotypical and seemingly predetermined molds.  There are good issues raised about common family problems, but they are resolved way too easily.  This story fights being sappy and even plastic at times, which is unfortunate, because this could have been something.  In the end, many audiences will like this story, but it’s just one too many.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Once again, this section is highly professional and well-cast.  The only issues to raise here pertain to some minor drama and moment of yelling.  But on the whole, emotions are realistic, and lines are delivered well.  This rounds out an above-average effort of a film that many will enjoy.

Conclusion

Movies like this one are problematic because they are popular and have plenty of good elements.  However, they are also fairly limited in scope and creativity.  If a predictable storyline is going to be used, the least that can be done is to make the characters very deep and rich due to superb dialogue and an effective use of flashbacks.  However, Hallmark likely isn’t in the business of creativity, so carry on, I guess.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Blossoms of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Betsy McLean’s sister suffers a stroke less than a month before Betsy is to be married, and the stress of it all comes down on Betsy.  She feels like she cannot go on with life and wants to break off the engagement because of all the loss she has suffered in her life.  But she must learn how to rekindle her faith even in the darkest moments.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Even though this is a 2016 production, Blossoms of Faith struggles to get its head above water.  Video quality is mostly fine, but there is some shaky camera work throughout.  There is also some odd lighting throughout.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is lacking.  There are really no locations in the film, and sets therein are limited, even though the props are realistic.  Furthermore, there is no real editing in the film as everything is presented at face value.  In the end, this is a below average production.  It might have been better to wait for increased funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With very little content to speak of, the characters are not enough to carry the storyline of this film.  Even at that, the storyline is very hard to follow as it has strange undertones and becomes fixated on the oddest thing, like the ever-present flowers.  It also offers a strange brand of Catholicism and Christianity that is somewhat isolating.  Thus, the Christian message of this film is questionable.  Though the circumstances depicted are somewhat realistic, the characters are not enough to make the audience appreciate the film.  The ending is formulaic and predictable.  Unfortunately, there isn’t really anything good to say here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting in this film is actually a brighter spot than the rest, even though it is mostly average.  At times, the cast members can be underwhelming, and at other times they are too blank and vanilla.  There are also some overdone emotions throughout, but there are also plenty of good moments.  Most cast members also show improvement throughout, which rounds out an average performance.

Conclusion

It’s still very unclear what is trying to be accomplished in this film.  It carries a strange message and doesn’t have very high quality production.  The acting is average, but it’s not enough to bring this film out of the nose dive.  When making a new film, it’s better to know where you are going and how you are going to communicate that to your audience.  Otherwise, it just flies over their head and it’s another wasted effort.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Redemption Way (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jenny and Autumn were best friends growing up, but life took them different directions.  Jenny is now a Christian, working as a hospice nurse.  One day, her path once again crosses with Autumn’s as she is assigned her as a hospice case, which she had to refuse.  However, Jenny still goes to visit Autumn since she feels guilty about leaving her behind.  Jenny wants to save Autumn before it’s too late, but she will have to learn that only God can save people.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It’s probably not the best idea to make two movies in one year.  This puts a strain on the creative team, and it shows up in the production.  Though video quality, camera work, and audio quality are okay in Redemption Way, the soundtrack is basically pedestrian and the lighting is too inconsistent.  Sets and locations are quite limited as well.  Furthermore, the editing is quite bad as there are some very long and lagging scenes that pump the film’s run time.  It is extremely difficult for this movie to hold the attention for this reason.  However, this is a first-time production shows some slight potential for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While there is a good idea behind this film, it is certainly not communicated well at all.  Everything is too drab and dour.  I would say it’s melodramatic, but then again, it’s just not dramatic at all.  The messaging is too dry and simplistic as the story plays out like a long funeral.  It is difficult to relate to the struggles of the characters because they are so one-dimensional and because the plot is so narrow-minded.  The dialogue is also very dour and pedestrian; thus, it is not inspiring.  There are no twists and turns—just one long and sad story that fails to connect with the audience.  In the future, this team needs to work on making their plots more engaging.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the acting shows potential and though the cast members are certainly trying, their performances are just too overly practiced and robotic to be dynamic.  Some care was given to line delivery, but believable emotions are almost non-existent.  Basically, the acting is too textbook and not natural enough, but there are enough good moments to keep this section average.

Conclusion

This film really contains an incomplete idea that needs deepening, especially since grief plots are already quite hard to do.  It can be easy for plots like this one to fall into the slog that it fell into.  In order to understand what the characters of this plot are going through, we need to be able to connect with them as people.  Also, the cast members need to be coached to be more interesting, yet they also need better lines to help them out.  In the end, this film is mostly just a rough start, so it is possible that this team could improve down the road.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

New Life: Nouvelle Vie (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Ben and Ava first met as kids and next door neighbors, they never thought they would one day be married and be trying to start a family of their own.  But it happened and just when they can’t believe that things could get better—they get worse.  Not only does Ava miscarry, but she also receives devastating news that changes her life forever: cancer.  Will their relationship be able to survive the roller coaster disease?  Will Ava’s dreams ever be fulfilled?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a newer production, it is clear that New Life is professional on pretty much every front.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all top-notch.  The soundtrack is actually creative and enhances the film.  Sets, locations, and props are well-funded and diverse.  The only minor issue to raise here, as usual, pertains to some small editing problems, such as choppiness and lack of clarity.  But in the end, this is a nearly model production that we will hopefully see more and more of in the coming years.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

So Erin Bethea wrote a cancer movie.  It’s actually not as bad as it may sound on its face, despite the forced awkward comedy from Erin Bethea and Jonathan Patrick Moore.  There is also way too much heavy-handed narration from Moore’s character and way too many montage sequences.  Yet despite these issues, New Life is actually a fairly realistic portrayal of life events encapsulated in a somewhat interesting storyline.  Though the characters and their dialogue need to be deepened, there is a lot of potential here.  The massive time jumps are also a drag, but the realistic ending is worth the wait.  Though this movie’s message is not explicitly Christian, it is still meaningful.  In the end, there are definitely a lot worse stories than this one, so you might find it to be worth your time.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

What could go wrong when you put Erin Bethea and Jonathan Patrick Moore in co-starring roles?  A lot, actually, as they exhibit very over the top emotions and forced, awkward line delivery.  However, the rest of the cast is actually pretty good despite their antics.  If pretty much anyone else was put in the co-starring roles (except for maybe the Whites or the Camerons or anything involving Tommy Blaze or Matthew Florida), this cast could have been perfect.

Conclusion

Had Erin Bethea not starred in this film (and probably not Moore either), this could have been a Hall of Famer.  There is a lot of good here, more than I expected there to be, but it needed to be written for someone else to act in.  Regardless of her past mistakes, it’s possible that Erin Bethea did learn a thing or two from the Kendricks, so it will be interesting to see if she has any plans for future film projects.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Let There Be Light [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dr. Solomon Harkins is the rising atheist star bent on destroying the faith of many because of a personal tragedy he endured that tore his family apart.  However, one night while driving drunk, he wrecks his car and has a near-death experience that rocks his worldview and alters his life’s course.  Will he be able to grapple with the new reality he has experienced or will he turn his back on God forever?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Because Sean Hannity has put his money behind this film, its production quality is almost automatically professional.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all flawless.  However, the original soundtrack is a bit much at times.  Nonetheless, sets, locations, and props are all realistic, adequate, and appropriate.  Everything demonstrates great funding and execution—the only nitpicks to raise here pertain to some minor editing concerns, as the film is presented in a choppy fashion.  But in the end, this film goes to show what funding can do to even the worst of Christian films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, big money from a Fox News personality means big message-pushing from that personality’s unusual worldview.  Though there is a tiny amount of potential in this film, it is quickly squashed by Sean Hannity’s ego and his attempts to combat ISIS with a cellphone app.  Dialogue is mostly absurd as characters are required to make a certain number of ISIS references, not to mention advertise Sean Hannity’s ratings.  Besides this, there is too much of a strawman-atheist-has-a-conversion feel to this film and the character arcs are way too steep for reality.  Though there could have been something to this, it just boils down to a hair-brained idea thought up in the Fox News echo chamber.  This is pandering at its finest.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this cast is mostly professional, it is hurt by over the top theatrics and forced emotional sequences, especially Kevin Sorbo doing his best David A. R. White as an atheist impression.  Granted, some of these lines leave the cast members hamstrung with no hope of making anything good out of it (“Like a selfie for God”).  Overall, the Sorbos do a decent job with this, and it’s great to see them star opposite each other for once.

Conclusion

What is one to do with Sean Hannity?  Struggling film makers need his money to make their films great again, but with money comes long strings attached.  We believe that the original idea of this film meant well—before Fox News product-placed it to death.  This is the age-old dilemma of Christian films (and ministries for that matter).  But money or no money, an idea as absurd as a cellphone app that hijacks your phone’s flashlight feature in order to combat ISIS (even in North Korea!) should never, ever be placed on the big screen.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

A Question of Faith [2017] (Movie Review)

Have you donated your organs today?

Plot Summary

When David Newman’s son dies tragically from a texting and driving accident, the doctors come around looking for his son’s organs to harvest so they can save a dying white girl who has a budding musical career ahead of her.  David is trying to take over head pastor duties from his Scripture-reading-robot father, but the pressure is too much, especially when his wife fully embraces advocating for organ donation in the schools.  Kate Hernandez feels like she has no hope left when her daughter is thrown into jail for texting and driving, but somehow, all of these characters come together in the end in an underserved church sing-off so they can feel good about themselves again.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Despite past production snafus, Kevan Otto has found himself more financially successful in A Question of Faith due to PureFlix’s assistance.  This newfound funding has paid off, as there are very few errors in this production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all professional.  The soundtrack leaves something to be desired, but it’s not that significant.  Sets, locations, and props are all appropriate and well-constructed.  The biggest issues to point out here are some small editing issues due to the confusing plot presentation.  Yet when you compare this great production with the plot that accompanies it, it’s like daylight and dark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Kevan Otto has not lost his unusual storylines of old, yet A Question of Faith manages to somehow be worse than WWJD, Lukewarm, Online, and Decision.  Even though it seems like on its face that this movie is going to be a ninety-minute public service announcement on the dangers of texting and driving, the plot actually has a very sick and twisted obsession with organ donation.  Don’t get me wrong—organ donation is fine if you want to do that, but trying to force the issue like this is downright strange and off-putting.  Combine that with the plastic and empty portrayal of Christians (as usual) and basically no substantial dialogue, this plot is a real doozy.  Time is wasted on meandering ideas that have no real purpose or focus except to be threaded together by that annoying guy who’s always slapping Bible verses on everyone’s problems.  Tragedies are treated very lightly and callously, thus warranting some of the characters to ask other characters if they even care, which is a valid point.  In the end, the only purpose to this film is to push public service announcements and strange causes and culminates in a ridiculously endless sermonizing concert sequences that rivals God’s Not Dead.  Needless to say, Kevan Otto still hasn’t learned anything.

Acting Quality (1 point)

A lot of these cast members are fearfully lifeless, but then again, they really don’t have much to work with in the line department.  Emotions are bland and most performances are very stock.  T. C. Stallings always posts above average performances, but everyone else seems lost and confused.  It seems like the idea here was to paste a bunch of ‘big name’ cast members into this movie and hope it stuck.  It didn’t work.

Conclusion

These days, all you have to do to get a large budget signed off on your film is a random cause, some recognizable cast members, and maybe a big musical number.  Don’t get us wrong—it’s extremely important to promote great causes in films—but this isn’t the way.  Even if this was a palatable cause, it’s not presented well at all.  None of these characters are able to be related to as people; they’re just pawns in an obvious money-making game.  Any opening weekend hype surrounding this film is sure to die away as Christian audiences once again quietly wonder where all the good Christian movies are.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

A Time for Heaven (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ronald Mitchell lays dying in his own bed as his organs are shutting down, so home healthcare nurse Julie is called upon to make him comfortable as he passes into the next life.  However, she doesn’t just want to make her patients comfortable—she wants to leave a lasting difference on their lives.  Ron is all alone, so Julie sets out to find his long-lost children, whom he gave up for adoption.  Little does she know that the search will lead her to surprising results.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As usual for Faith House’s newer productions, there are a few good production elements, but not enough.  Video quality is fine, as is audio quality, yet there is some randomly shaky camera work, and the soundtrack is Faith House’s usual silliness.  Sets, locations, and props are okay, but they are very limited and cheap.  Lighting is also sometimes an issue.  Furthermore, the editing is poor, including lagging scenes and awkward fade-outs.  Basically, at the rate that Faith House puts out these dumb movies, there’s no way they can be quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It never fails that the Faith House team can come with a childish, silly story that’s based on a flimsy premise and unrealistic occurrences.  Do they even research the situations they want to portray in film before making them?  Their stories are based too much on coincidences and leaps in logic, not to mention the fact that the characters therein are ridiculous.  Faith House also writes the strangest dialogue, and all of these goofy elements are present in A Time for Heaven.  There is no sense of reality in the pursuit of forcing a childish conclusion with a cheap Christian message.  Basically, much like Before All Others and their other wonders, A Time for Heaven is another pointless film that never needed to be made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Constantly casting Mitch Etter and Julie Van Lith in your films is not a good idea if you want to have a good cast.  Not only is this cast very small, but it’s not really any good.  Every cast member just does their own thing with no much direction.  There are quite a few obvious line errors and emotions are laughable.  In the end, this is once again a newer film that had no reason to be released.

Conclusion

Though we know that outfits like The Asylum are purposely creating parody films, it’s very difficult to know if companies like Faith House, Stronger Foundation, Tender Shoot, etc., are actually serious.  Films like this one are funny for all the wrong reasons and only further serve to continually muddy the waters of the Christian film market.  Whoever is funding these nonsense films needs to seriously stop and demand some quality.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Two Steps from Hope (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rebecca and her family have always lived a so-called perfect life and have all the money and success they could want, but when tragedy strikes their family one night, they immediately turn against each other in their pain.  Rebecca, mistreated by her mother, turns to alcohol and contemplates suicide, but she is stopped by a childhood friend who won’t give up on her.  He invites her to a Christian camp, where her life is changed forever.  Will her family be able to work through their pain and find hope as well?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Although this is a 2017 production and although there were plenty of people working on this project, the production is still low quality.  Resources were not as limited as most independent films are, yet there are still a lot of issues, such as shaky camera work and odd lighting.  Video quality is fine, but this is really the only good element to point out here.  The soundtrack is uninspiring.  Sets, locations, and props are too cheap and limited.  Finally, there is no editing to speak of since the story appears to be presented at face value with no real twists or turns.  In the end, with the amount of people that were involved here, the quality should have been higher.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The same principle goes for the plot—when there are more than five screenwriters on the film, the plot should be high quality and complex.  Yet once again, this is not the case for Two Steps from Hope.  Though the story has a good message and seems to mean well, it has too much forceful and heavy-handed messaging.  It is too melodramatic and it unfolds one tragedy after another, even though it does deal with some unfortunately realistic issues and circumstances.  Dialogue is okay throughout, but it needs more development and less drama.  Thus, the characters are also unfinished.  Furthermore, there is one too many montages in this film and the ending leaves something to be desired.  In summary, this creative team definitely has the tools to succeed, now they just need to apply them better.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The acting is the biggest detractor in this film.  It’s painfully obvious that no coaching was present here as there are a lot of truly awful performances.  Emotions are very forceful and over the top.  Line delivery is sometimes whiny and unsure, and other times it is stilted.  Essentially, this cast needed a lot more assistance.

Conclusion

It’s commendable to make a project like this utilizing the skills of a lot of different people, yet their skills are not completely manifested because the talent is not fully tapped.  What they likely would have benefitted from was a lot of consultation and mentorship from more experienced film makers.  In order to make a great film, there is no shame in asking for help from the more experienced.  The finished product being quality is always worth it in the end.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Somebody’s Child (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Though Constance is going through dialysis and is waiting for a kidney donor match, she knows that God has been good to her.  Her son Douglas always takes care of her and she loves her grandson.  However, she harbors a secret from her past that hardly anyone knows about.  Yet little does she know is that God is about to set into motion events that will reconcile the past and bring redemption to them all.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Gary Wheeler is always reliable in crafting a professional production.  There are very few errors to speak of in the production of this film.  Video quality is excellent, as it camera work and audio quality.  The soundtrack is good, even if it’s a little pedestrian.  Sets, locations, and props are professional and appropriate for the film.  The only small error to point out here pertains to some minor editing issues that cause the plot to be confusing.  Yet in the end, as a made-for-television movie, this production is what it should be.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, as a made-for-TV movie, Somebody’s Child lacks creativity in an attempt to be safe and marketable.  Though the idea behind it is interesting and though the circumstances the characters experience are realistic, this story is still too underdeveloped.  Dialogue is very generic, thus making the characters one-dimensional.  This is a character-based plot, which means we need deep characters, yet this is not the case here.  There is too much wasted time in this plot and not enough scenes that develop the characters—it feels like they are just swept along in the plot without any feeling.  Finally, the ending is very rushed and seemingly unfeeling.  Unfortunately, though this movie had everything going for it, the story fails to come through.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

As a professional cast with obviously good coaching, there are very few errors to speak of here.  Sometimes emotions aren’t what they should be, but they mostly are.  Line delivery is always on point, even if the cast member doesn’t have a very good line to work with.  Overall, Somebody’s Child is a professional film that falls short of greatness.

Conclusion

Many audiences will enjoy this film, but we are always looking for films that take that next step out of mediocrity (even professional mediocrity) and become a great, difference-making film.  With this type of funding and platform, this was possible here, but the plot needs a lot of beefing up in order for this to be case with Somebody’s Child.  Hopefully in the future opportunities like this will no longer be wasted.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Scarlett [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chase and Scarlett and two architects who are in love and are engaged to be married.  They love God and want to help people, which is why they open their home to a pregnant victim of domestic violence on the run from her evil husband.  But their lives are also changed when Scarlett discovers that she has an aggressive form of cancer.  Will they be able to hold on to what they believe despite tragedy?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though Scarlett has a smaller budget, it shows that Strong Foundation Films has finally learned how to put money to good use by having a semi-professional production.  Video quality and camera work are on standard, and audio quality shows marked improvement.  The soundtrack is also better as it flows more smoothly.  Sets, locations, and props demonstrate more professionalism than in the past.  The only negative to discuss here is the bad editing that keeps this production from being all that it could be.  Yet nevertheless, Strong Foundation has finally found a good production style.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there is some heavy-handed narration and though this story is just another repackaged downtrodden character plot, there is some better dialogue throughout that keeps this plot from being as bad as past efforts.  Yet the characters still need further development as they are only halfway there.  There is a lot of melodrama surrounding the disease plot and there are laughable product placements for The Prophet’s Son.  Yet it seems like the Strong Foundation team is trying, even though they suggest of a lot of childish fixes for problems.  There is at least some hope for this team.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The creative team did find some better case members and better coaching for this film, yet Josiah David Warren’s unsure performance is still front and center, and is thus distracting.  The presence of Stephen Baldwin is also an automatic detractor.  Some emotions are believable while others are not.  Line delivery is mostly okay.  In the end, this rounds out of a much-needed improvement.

Conclusion

We would much rather see a company start with a 4-point movie and progress beyond that, but it’s better late than never for Strong Foundation.  They have certainly had an odd existence, but perhaps they are finding their way now.  Josiah David Warren still needs to look over his past performances and see how he can improve so he doesn’t keep doing the same thing every time.  They also still might want to consider hiring a different writer.  Who knows where they will go as a company next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

A Golden Mind (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Seth’s father leaves under the guise of getting a new job, he never returns, which leaves the family in their financial straits.  Then Seth’s mother dies from selling her blood too much, which leaves Seth to take care of his little sister.  He decides that he needs to go to college and invest in gold so that he can become rich.  But he will have to decide what he thinks about his late mother’s faith in order to move forward.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though this film had a decent budget, it still does not have a good enough production.  Video quality and camera work are once again the only good elements.  Audio quality is quite poor and the soundtrack is very generic.  Sets, locations, and props are very cheap and limited.  There are a lot of montages and dead sequences, which reflect the terrible editing work.  Basically, we haven’t figured out where the Stronger Foundation team gets their money from, but they are squandering it at a rate only rivaled by Timothy Chey.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, it seems as though most of Strong Foundation’s plots are utterly pointless.  This so-called story is reminiscent of a FaithHouse creation due to its childish and empty characters and its extremely juvenile dialogue and premise.  The main character is very downtrodden and there is a lot of laughable and forced melodrama.  The Christian message is also, of course, extremely plastic and off-putting.  It feels like this story was written by a five-year-old as everything is fixed in the end and just generally has a juvenile feel to it.  It’s very difficult to understand how movies like this are made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Josiah David Warren and his typical cast comrades are at it again in this film, with very unsure and sometimes whiny performances.  Emotions are either over the top or nonexistent and line delivery is stunted.  Basically, this cast is in need of some serious coaching.

Conclusion

We are interested to know who gives Strong Foundations Films a basic blank check to allow Sun Hui East and Josiah David Warren to do basically whatever they want.  The stories they come up with really seem like they came from a bunch of kids making up stories while playing with their toys, combined with a cheap Christian message.  We are greatly unsure as to what the ultimate goal with these movies is, but we hope to forget they even exist.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Redemption Ride (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Colter Reese tests positive for performance enhancing drugs, he thinks his professional cycling career is over forever.  His son is dying of cancer and he has seemingly no purpose in life, so he begins to train again in the hopes of earning enough money to pay off his hospital bills.  Will he be able to find redemption in his cycling?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, Redemption Ride is a relatively cheap production.  Though video quality is fine, there are some odd camera angles and shaky camera work.  As for audio, there is too much dead air and not enough soundtrack except in musical montages.  There are also a lot of loud outside noises.  Sets and locations are quite limited and props leave something to be desired.  Finally, as usual for films this low quality, the editing is poor and adds nothing to the film.  In the end, it’s hard to see the justification for this movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Redemption Ride really just boils down to a formulaic story about a troubled athlete character returning to his hometown, and this is only combined with a sick child plot and a sports redemption plot.  There is also a typical romance rekindle subplot to pad the runtime.  Besides this, there are tons of dead scenes and empty sports montages.  The characters are very quirky and the dialogue is too full of dry attempts at humor or nothing substantial at all.  Overall, this story is incredibly boring and little to no point at all due to its predictable nature.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is definitely not the strongest cast.  A lot of the time, their performances are very flat and seem unmotivated and lazy.  Yet other times, they are overly demonstrative and over the top.  Overall, this is not a very good casting or coaching job, which tops off a disappointing and empty film.

Conclusion

Movies like this likely mean well, but it’s difficult to understand how they came to be.  With a such a low budget, one would think films like this wouldn’t make it to even limited distribution, much less become a feature-length film.  The Christian film field really needs a lesson in quality over quantity.  Please don’t make a film just for the sake of having a film—it’s just not worth it.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Closer to God: Jessica’s Journey (Movie Review)

Grandpa’s angry

Plot Summary

Jessica is struggling in her battle with cancer while her mother struggles to hold it all together emotionally and financially.  The last thing her Jessica’s mother expects is for her father—Jessica’s grandfather—to show up at their house unannounced in the midst of it all.  Her mother has no choice but to let Jessica’s grandfather watch over her daughter while she is at work.  Through it all, will they be able to mend their broken family ties even in the midst of the battle with cancer?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Closer to God is another one of those productions that has good effort behind it but not enough funding or creativity to sustain it.  As is usual for these types of productions, video quality and camera work are fine.  Audio quality is good, but there is virtually no soundtrack.  Sets and locations are quite cheap and limited to a few houses and vehicles.  Another common element for this sort of production is blasé editing, which is also true for Closer to God.  There are a lot of lagging scenes and confusing transitions.  Overall, this is an average production that could have been more.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While based on true events, Jessica’s Journey follows the predictable progression of a simplistic disease plot.  It is less dramatic than this type of story usually is, but it is instead filled with a lot of activities of daily living and meaningless sequences.  The characters are somewhat flat and one-dimensional due to uncreative and non-starter dialogue.  Perhaps the most identifiable element of this film is the creepy grandpa character depicted above.  A majority of the story is him wandering around the house spouting unusual dialogue.  While there is a vague recollection of meaning in the ending of this film, the rest of it is simply too much for it to matter.  We are unsure what was trying to be insinuated by the grandfather character, who dominates most of the movie, but perhaps they had no control over this actor…

Acting Quality (1 point)

It seems like the grandfather actor has been set loose on this set with no real direction except to use annoying and overly-enunciated line delivery.  He overshadows the other cast members, some of which are fine.  However, casting Ben Davies as a character older than he is simply does not work at all.  Some emotions are overdone throughout this cast, but there is some positive here, yet not enough to compete with creepy grandpa.

Conclusion

Films like this are very safe and marketable, but they have no staying power.  They don’t make the difference they hope to make and they rarely return the money that is wanted.  They are especially bad when they are remembered for weird offbeat characters like the grandfather in this film.  Elements like that are all that is remembered of these types of films because they have no dynamic elements to truly affect the market.  Once again, this is another one to throw on the pile.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Reading Kate (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Michael O’Neil is down on his luck and all alone, except for this daughter.  But when he receives word that his estranged separated wife, Kate, is dying of a chronic disease, he jumps at the chance to discover how much money she has.  Yet in meeting her again and reconnecting with her, he begins fulfilling her final wishes and discovers that the two of them still have something in common.  As Michael reads Kate books to honor her, their conversations turn to eternal things and nature of the afterlife.  They must both make significant decisions that will impact their lives forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

After several years of struggling productions, the Kelly’s Filmworks team has finally discovered a winning formula.  Though this film is entirely black and white, it definitely adds to the experience and makes it a unique standout.  Video quality and audio quality are majorly improved from past films.  Camera work is still artistic at times, but Jefferson and Kelly Moore have finally embraced their true artistry.  The original soundtrack is very interesting and creative.  Sets and locations are somewhat limited in this film, but that is justified given the story.  The biggest issue here is the editing, as there are one too many montages.  Yet in the end, the production of Reading Kate demonstrates real improvement and gives great hope for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

After several years of dead-end plots, Jefferson and Kelly Moore have finally discovered who they truly are as film makers, and this is reflected in the characters they play.  They have embraced their personalities and have let them flow into the dialogue of these characters.  This dialogue builds them into realistic people that we can connect with and relate to.  However, the overuse of montages keeps us from getting to know these characters at a deeper level, which is sometimes we would have liked to see happen in this film.  Yet nonetheless, Reading Kate is an honest, character-driven story that draws on the true talents of Jefferson and Kelly Moore.  There is some dry comedy throughout, yet some of it is funny.  It offers a unique Christian message and intriguing psychological elements that make the viewer think.  Though the ending is somewhat abrupt, yet also thought-provoking.  In the end, while there is still a little work to do, we are excited about the direction the Moores have chosen to go with their plots.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Though this film utilizes many of the typical Kelly’s Filmworks actors and actresses, there demonstrate significant improvement in their performances.  This is actually the most improved category, as Jefferson Moore sheds his old personas and trades them for an embracing of his true self.  Kelly Moore also finally demonstrates her acting talents that we never had a good chance to see before.  Two-character conversation films are hard to effectively act in, but the two of them work well together.  Though there are some minor line delivery issues that keep this section form being perfect, this is still something to be excited about.

Conclusion

Sometimes it takes film companies a little longer than others to find themselves and to find where they fit in the industry.  Though we have been critical of the work of the Moores in the past, the good thing is that they did not give up and kept trying.  The progression of 1 Message, Pieces of Easter, and now Reading Kate demonstrates concerted improvement, which is all we ask of film makers.  Now that the older days of low-quality films are behind them, we can’t wait to see what the Moores have in store next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

1 Message (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Becca Norris had it all—money, success, and a boyfriend—until her doctor discovers that she has breast cancer and requires a major operation to save her life.  However, the operation leaves her changed forever, thus causing her boyfriend to become uninterested in her.  His departure sends Becca into a reclusive depression that no one, not even her family, can shake her out of.  Yet when her brother gets interested in internet research, Becca meets a man online who is interested in her as a person and who makes her think twice about shutting herself off from the world.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

1 Message falls into the typical mold of a Kelly’s Filmworks production.  With good video quality and overly artistic camera shots, this film is classic Jefferson Moore.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is a bit off.  There is basically only one set in this film, but the props are good.  Though this production tends to improve as it goes on, there is little to no justification for it being two and a half hours long.  There is a serious lack of editing in this movie that will cause many audiences to give up by the first hour.  In the end, this is an average production that needs some more fleshing out and cutting down in order to make it more professional.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously mentioned, it is mind-boggling that this film is two and a half hours long when there is certainly not enough interesting content to sustain this runtime.  The first hour or so of the film is incredibly boring and melodramatic as it confusingly conceals parts of the story for the second hour.  The first half includes a fixation on breast cancer and ‘genie-ologies’, as well as weird attempts at humor.  A majority of the ‘dialogue’ is people verbatim typing and reading stuff on the computer over and over again, which is incredibly boring and does nothing to build the characters, even though there are few of them.  Time is also wasted and filled with activities of daily living, including the characters lying around and sulking, which further stunts character development.  However, if you have the time and stamina, the story comes down to an interesting point if you can slog through two hours of useless content.  Basically, this film needs a serious redo, because as it is, nobody is going to give a care.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With such a small cast, most errors stand out, unfortunately.  Though there is some good to be found here, there is also a lot of bad, including some very boring and dry emotions, ridiculously over the top attempts to be dramatic, and very measure line delivery.  Unfortunately, Kelly’s Filmworks films seem to consistently struggle in this department.

Conclusion

With a movie this long, there should have been plenty of positive things to say.  However, rather than making this a deep character exploration plot, time is filled with fluff and fake drama that ruins the good idea that is behind this plot.  We can appreciate the work of Jefferson and Kelly Moore, but they often get too lost in the artistry of film making.  They would do well to collaborate with different story writers so they can more effectively create films.  We believe that they mean well—they just need to take that next step.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Walk By Faith [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Corey Montgomery must live every day with sickle cell anemia and even face stigma for it.  But he feels like he has a chance to live a normal life when he receives word of a possible but risky cure to his disease.  As he continues to hide his disease from some, he tries to convince his mother to try to cure, even though her friends are skeptical of it.  In the end, they will all have to learn to walk by faith.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

From start the finish, the production of Walk By Faith is generally horrible.  Video quality is underwhelming and camera work is very shaky.  A lot of the shots are very tight to hide a lack of extras and resources.  The audio is most often overdubbed due to lack of proper equipment—the scenes that due have live audio recording are full of outside sounds.  The soundtrack is also very loud and annoying.  Many of the scenes look like they only contain one character talking to the air, and the sets and locations therein are extremely limited.  As for the editing, the transitions are very choppy and there are quite a few continuity errors.  In summary, due to lack of funding, resources, and general expertise, this production contains so many errors that its creation must be questioned.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s very difficult to determine what message the writers of this film are trying to convey.  Sometimes they attempt to create a bizarre dichotomy of persecution between Christians who are for and against technology and medical advances.  They also sometimes advocate for ‘faith healing’ but other times they do not.  Thus, the story constantly sends mixed messages of what they actually believe and what they think other people should do in this situation.  The plot is almost non-existent as this is just a random collection of useless scenes that are constantly obsessed with talking about sickle-cell anemia without even trying to develop any of the characters.  Literally nothing happens throughout except for a bunch of unusual and hard-to-follow conversations that do nothing to build up the characters or the subplots.  Also, the ending makes no sense.  Basically, it’s very hard to grasp what the motivation behind making this film was.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As a small and inexperienced cast, these cast members were in severe need of coaching.  However, this was not present, thus causing line delivery to be very stilted and measured.  The overdubbed lines wreak havoc on everything.  Also, emotions are very awkward and ingenuine.  Unfortunately, from start to finish, this film is an absolute train wreck.

Conclusion

It’s one thing to want to create a movie depicting the struggles of people with chronic illnesses, but this is absolutely not the way.  No attempts were made to make these people seem remotely realistic or accessible.  What is the point to giving screen time to obscure and bizarre worldviews or toying with their ideas without actually advocating for them?  In the end, the funding for this film should have been saved for another effort because it was certainly wasted here.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Jackson’s Run (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jackson is a troubled teen with a terminal illness who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble.  Ever since his father died, Jackson cannot find any direction in life.  His mother is at a loss for what to do with him as he continually gets in trouble, so she sentences him to a troubled youth work program at a local church.  Jackson balks at first but soon finds a mentor he desperately needs and begins to wrestle with what is truly important in life.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though this production is overall average, at the beginning, all production aspects are fairly cheap, almost like the introduction was a beta test.  Video quality and camera work are inconsistent throughout but do improve by the end of the film.  Audio quality is also poor at first and better later.  The soundtrack is somewhat interesting, however.  Sets, locations, and props are standard.  Yet editing is quite poor as transitions are choppy and the general flow of the film lacks direction and clarity.  In the end, it seems like more time could have been spent on this part of the movie, especially since the plot is so forgettable.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Jackson’s Run (not to be confused with Jackson from Decision) follows a typical and formulaic troubled character plot with no real surprises or twists until the end, and even so, the main ‘twist’ is quite cheesy.  There is really nothing creative to note here—characters are very one-dimensional and shallow due to uncreative and empty dialogue.  A lot of meandering ideas are present in this incoherent storyline that never really come to fruition.  It’s almost like the writers had to come up with a bunch of content to fill in the middle of the story because they just wanted to jump to the end.  Writing the end first can be helpful, but writing a plot only for the sake of the end reduces your chances of the audience actually making it that far.  Overall, Jackson’s Run seems like an incomplete idea that needed more fleshing out before going into production.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With ‘famous’ Christian actors Rusty Martins Sr. and Jr. and T.C. Stallings, it seems like it was assumed that this cast would be automatically good.  There are some bright spots, but there are a lot of moments where the cast members appear to either be not trying or to be unsure of what they are doing.  Sometimes it seems like they are phoning it in and they overall lack direction in the absence of proper coaching.

Conclusion

Jackson’s Run falls into the massive pile of low quality, forgettable Christian films that have no impact on anything whatsoever.  Though there may be a good message in a lot of these films and they are ‘family-friendly’, they are not making a difference.  Why are they not making a difference?  Production is not what it should be, the plots are lacking creativity and development, and casting is underwhelming.  What if all the money that was poured into these myriad forgettable films was pooled for a few truly dynamic movies?  The entertainment world would be turned upside down.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Sacred Vow (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Doug and Amber married when they were young, in college, and hopelessly in love.  However, as they grew older, they slowly but surely grew apart.  Then Doug does the unthinkable: he becomes involved with another woman who makes him want to get out of his current marriage.  But Amber refuses to sign the divorce papers until they both give their marriage a chance.  With secrets between them and their faith in tatters, will they ever be able to repair what is broken?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the production of Sacred Vow is good.  Video quality and camera work are on par.  However, audio quality is sometimes poor, which seems out of place in this production.  The soundtrack could also use some work.  Sets and locations are acceptable, but the reality-television confessional style presentation seems counter-intuitive.  It’s very odd to have characters tell you things like this—it would be better for these things to be shown rather than told.  Thus, editing is somewhat lazy and relies on these odd confessionals.  Overall, this is an average production, but it feels like it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The confessionals also hamper with the plot structure.  Are we supposed to pay attention to the characters telling us about the story or to the story itself?  The “interviews” serve as a crutch for actual dialogue and character development.  Besides the interviews, there are also flashbacks that are fine but need more development to make sense rather than constant voiceovers.  Though this story has a good message and point, it is sometimes too shallow and simplistic, and at other times, it is too edgy.  It’s really hard to know who these people are outside of their interview spots.  There are also a few too many cheesy elements that hold this idea back.  In the end, what started as a likely good idea became too clunky to work well.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, this cast screams amateurish.  Sometimes their performances appear to be overly practiced, while other times they are quite awkward.  Some line delivery is too breathy and measured.  Also, costuming and makeup are very odd and off-putting.  Overall, though it seems like they meant well, it’s not really good enough.

Conclusion

Films like Sacred Vow start off as something interesting but all too quickly and easily fall short of their original intentions.  Though some decent money was spent on this film, it wasn’t applied in a way that makes it worthwhile.  The story is too underwhelming and the cast is not adequate enough.  In the end, unfortunately, Sacred Vow is just another one of those random Christian films that easily gets tossed aside and lost in the shuffle.  What we need is more dynamic films, not more five-dollar-bin fodder.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Birdie and Bogey (Movie Review)

EVERYBODY’S HAPPY!!!!!!!!

Plot Summary

Pro-golfer Danny O’Connor loves his daughter Birdie, which is why he makes the unorthodox decision to make her his caddy in a tournament.  She begins to have a positive effect on his game, and he inches closer to his dream of playing on the PGA tour.  However, their dreams are tested when a disease threatens their relationship and puts their faith to the test.  Will they be able to withstand the trials before them?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

It is very confusing as to why this film was ever produced, because despite the big names behind it, the quality is quite low.  Video quality is grainy, especially in bright outside scenes, and camera work is shaky.  Audio quality is medieval, including loud outside sounds and a clanky soundtrack.  Sets and locations are underwhelming.  When it comes to the editing, there are far too many sports and scenery montages.  It seems like hardly any effort was put towards this production due to its cheap quality, which begs the question, was this film a necessity to make?

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Birdie and Bogey follows the predictable storyline of a typical sports plot and is saturated with golf content that isolates most audiences.  Other than golf references and training sequences, not much really happens in this story.  The premise of the film is very thin and flimsy, and the Christian message is very plastic and shoehorned in.  What little dialogue there in in this movie is very childish, and the characters therein are so over-the-top happy and sappy it’s enough to make you sick.  The end is very predictable and anti-climactic, if you make it that far.  Basically, we are unsure of what this film’s creators were really trying to convey here, but whatever it was, it never came through in a way that made any sense.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Just like the overly sappy characters, these cast members also act as fakely Hallmark as they can.  Their performances are very juvenile and over-the-top, obviously lacking in proper coaching.  Emotions are plastic and overly enthusiastic.  Also, the makeup jobs are atrocious.  In short, this is another example that causes us to ask why.

Conclusion

There are simply too many films on the Christian market like this one that have already been forgotten by most audiences and remain forever locked in the basement of Christian film.  We’ve said this before and will unfortunately continue saying this: making a film for the sake of making a film is never a good idea.  Just because you have a little bit of funding doesn’t mean you need to use it up on a knee-jerk movie.  Take your time, think about what you’re doing.  Make sure you have a good plot and the proper equipment and a cast who can at least be coached.  It’s simply not worth it to rush things.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Letters to God [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Tyler Doherty is fighting for his life against the cancer inside of him.  But rather than feel sorry for himself, he seeks to reach others for God by writing letters to God and sharing them with other people, especially his new mail carrier, who has a troubled past he is running from.  As Tyler’s family wrestles with what is happening to him, little do they know that God has great things in store for all of them.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a more ‘mainstream’ Christian film, Letters to God has good production quality, demonstrating that time and money were spent on it.  Video quality is clear and camera work is professional.  The opening sequence is interesting and grabs the attention well.  Audio quality is standard, but the soundtrack is slightly generic.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and appropriate.  The biggest drawback to this film’s production is the choppy editing that tends to only hit the high points of the storyline.  But overall, this is a respectable effort and one that should be commonplace in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As another cancer film based on a true story, Letters to God does better that most in its genre at being realistic.  Though the plot is simplistic, it has a meaningful message that it presented by believable characters that endure realistic struggles.  However, there is some information dump dialogue and there seem to be one too many silly\filler scenes that tend to waste time.  Thus, the plot is somewhat incomplete.  Though the characters can also tend to be heartwarming, we wish we could get to know them a little better through deeper dialogue.  As it is, some of their arcs are too steep and simplified to be appreciated.  However, on the bright side of things, flashbacks are utilized well.  In the end, this plot left a lot on the proverbial playing field that could have made it far better, yet many viewers will enjoy this story and its message.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As a semi-professional cast, these cast members are mostly good when it comes to line delivery and emotions.  There are a few head-scratching moments and awkward displays that detract from the overall score, yet there is not much to complain about here.  This is a demonstration of mostly good casting and coaching.

Conclusion

Letters to God checks the necessary boxes for being marginally successful in the Christian entertainment world: spend time and money to make your production look good and make sure you have a professional cast that makes minimal or not too noticeable errors.  If you can accomplish these two feats in a Christian movie, you are unfortunately far ahead of the game.  Being average is great, based on the low standards that have been set by and myriad of basement-dwelling films on the market.  But we still want movies to take that next step into greatness rather than hover around the middle.  When high quality becomes more widespread in Christian film, then the entire movie industry will never be the same.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Johnny [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Johnny is a foster boy with cancer who sees it as his mission to show people the truth and love of God even though he is suffering.  When he encounters Dr. Carter, little do they know that both of their lives will be changed forever as a result.  Dr. Carter and his wife are still hurting from the death of their young son, and though they are not ready to believe that Johnny could offer healing for them.  However, God has other plans for all of them.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In keeping with most recent PureFlix productions, Johnny is most fine.  Video quality is on standard, but there are some unexplainable moments of shaky camera work.  Audio quality is mostly what it should be, but the soundtrack is extremely uninspiring and sometimes it seems like the audio is overdubbed.  Sets, locations, and props are professional.  However, there are far too many montages in this film that serve as a crutch for actual content.  Thus, the editing work is poor.  Overall, this is an average production that should have been better than this, considering the funding it had.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there is a somewhat good message behind Johnny, there is far too much melodrama that distracts from it.  It is very difficult to connect with the struggles of the characters because they come off as very manufactured and plastic.  The main character is very cheesily sappy and perfect, almost to the point of embarrassment.  A lot of the dialogue from all the characters is very obvious and forceful in moving the plot along rather than developing the characters.  Thus, the story follows a predictable progression that is obvious from the start.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with the plotline itself, the way it is presented and the lack of authenticity really derails this film.  Also, things are fixed too easily, which doesn’t really help us learn anything.  In the end, these sorts of movies are very formulaic and are unfortunately designed to make money.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though this cast is intended to be professional, there is really no coaching present.  While it is not all bad, there are far too many over the top emotions and yelling sequences.  Everything is overly dramatic, which makes for a very distracting experience.  This is not the way to make a meaningful film.

Conclusion

Johnny is one of those films that uses a generic and predictable plot structure to churn out a made-for-bookstore film that can be easily sold on the shelves.  It contributes nothing to the field and only serves the purpose of generating revenue for the production company.  A few weeks after the release, it is totally forgotten and eventually turns up in the cheap Walmart bins and in thrift stores.  Christian film should not be about profit ventures, even though PureFlix has done this for about a decade now.  However, hopefully that tide is turning.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Miracle of the Cards (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Craig Shergold was a healthy eight-year-old boy until he began having mysterious headaches.  The doctors ran tests and found that Craig had a brain tumor, so Craig’s parents immediately began taking steps to combat the disease inside their son’s body.  As they walk on the journey together, Craig’s mother continually has premonitions and visions about her son’s future.  Craig also receives millions of get-well cards, prompting media attention to his story and talks of a world record.  Could it be that the cards are instrumental in Craig’s healing?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, as an early 2000s made-for-television production, The Miracle of the Cards is not what it’s cracked up to be.  Video quality is relatively cheap-looking, although camera work is fine.  Audio quality is also fine, except there is a cheesy stereotypical soundtrack to go with it.  Sets, locations, and props are decent enough.  There are one too many cheesy special effects that attempt to go with the ‘magical’ themes of this film.  Finally, the editing is quite choppy as time skips around to hit the high points—in doing this, the audience is left confused.  In the end, not enough time was spent on this production to make the movie worth it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously mentioned, there is not very much plot content in The Miracle of the Cards as time travels too quickly, thus leaving characters underdeveloped.  Dialogue only serves to report what is happening as time spends by—in doing so, the characters are left shallow  and one-dimensional.  Though this is a true story, it is seemingly based on too many coincidences; a sense of realism is missing from this plot, especially considering the number of childish magical and sensational elements.  The presence of these elements is frustrating because it’s hard to take this movie seriously when they are there.  Unfortunately, they weaken and cheapen the Christian message that is included in it.  In the end, at least this film is based on a true story (its only redeeming quality in this category), but it’s hard to see that there were any motives behind this film except making money on an easy-to-market television movie.

Acting Quality (2 points)

With a professional cast (even though it includes Kirk Cameron), the acting is by far this film’s strongest suit and keeps it from being left in the basement of Christian film.  There are few errors here pertaining to emotional and line delivery.  This just goes to show you that a good cast with good coaching can make all the difference in your movie.

Conclusion

What is one to do with kids-with-cancer films?  They are easy to get people to watch, especially if they’re on TV.  But despite true stories behind them, their plots are still formulaic and predictable.  Just because you use a real idea doesn’t mean you need to ignore character development.  Without realistic characters, the realism of the story is undermined.  In the end, many will view this film as fine, and it’s definitely not one of those embarrassing films, but we still feel it could have been better.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Until Forever {Undying Faith} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Michael Boyum was full of life and joy when Michelle first met him.  They grew to love each other and then the unthinkable happened: Michael began having health problems and was diagnosed with leukemia.  But they vowed to walk the journey together and to pray for God’s healing.  However, the longer it went and as the cancer kept coming back, they began to wonder what God’s real plan was.  Was God really listening or was there something they were missing?  Ultimately, they found that God’s plans were much higher than their own.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s very clear that much thought and care were put into this meaningful film that is based on true events.  This is evident in the wisely-spent production budget that yielded big results.  Camera work and video quality are flawless.  Audio quality is professional and the original soundtrack is creative and engaging.  Sets, locations, and props are extremely realistic.  It’s sad to say, but there are some minor editing issues that keep this production from being all that it could be.  But otherwise, Until Forever is a model production for independent film makers—you can hardly get any better than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Based on true events—you probably already know that we prefer this sort of plot because of realism—Until Forever demonstrates honesty and authenticity.  The struggles of the characters can be appreciated and connected with, yet they are not as deep as they could be.  This is likely due to under-developed dialogue, an overuse of narration, and too much silent dialogue that is covered over with musical montages.  There are also some peripheral characters and subplots that needed more exploration instead of that extra musical montage.  However, this film still demonstrates a great exploration of tough issues, including a fair and balanced philosophical conversation with the opposing point of view.  Even though the storyline follows a vague progression of time, the messaging is highly effective, as is the ending.  This is a touching story and is definitely worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast clearly means well, they begin in a very awkward fashion—we are unsure as to how purposeful this is.  Nonetheless, it doesn’t really come off right, but they are saved by the fact that their performances do improve as the movie goes on, which is possibly due to improved coaching.  Emotions are realistic and easy to connect with.  On the whole, this is an above-average performance.

Conclusion

Until Forever should be a standard film in Christian entertainment, not an exception to the rule.  The market should be flooded with films like this, not the usual Christian-labeled garbage you stumble upon on video streaming services.  This film tells a real story in the most honest and meaningful way possible and spends time, effort, and money in doing so.  All we can ever ask from film makers is that they do the best they can with what God has given them, and the Linn family did this with Until Forever.  We can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Before All Others (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a woman is struck with a rare and unexplainable disease that is sure to temporarily paralyze her, she is left with no choice but to go live under the care of her elderly grandmother who barely gets out and can hardly walk around.  As the two of them hobble around and try to talk about family secrets, the grandmother finds her advice from her dead husband, whom she frequently talks to in the garden shed.  That is, until some random guy starts hanging around all the time fixing stuff and the grandmother decides to grab the first guy she found to marry her granddaughter off to.  What could go wrong?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Despite clear video quality, Before All Others is another poor Faith House production.  Camera work is very shaky and amateurish, even though easily 75% of the film takes place in one cabin set.  It should be easy to film in this environment, but not for Faith House.  For that matter, the audio quality shouldn’t be this bad, but it is.  The soundtrack also blares constantly and sometimes covers up dialogue.  Finally, as is commonplace in Faith House films, there is really no editing as long sequences of random footage are included.  Seriously, this is a 2016 film and they still can’t get production right.  Does anyone else see anything wrong with this?

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Once again, there is literally no purpose to this story as two pathetic characters limp and hobble around a primitive cabin and talk to dead people.  Despite having so few characters, they are so empty and lifeless due to utterly inept dialogue.  There is very little actual content as viewers are forced to watch awkward activities of daily living over and over again.  The mysterious illness’ progression is extremely convenient, depending on whether the plot needs the character to be well or unwell at the moment.  There is also a very awkwardly forced and juvenile romantic subplot that only serves to waste time.  All drama is completely manufactured and the shoehorned Christian message is completely mindless.  Basically, Before All Others is just more of the same.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Despite having different cast members than usual, this cast is still very small and very wooden.  One cast member is laughably eccentric while another is embarrassingly lifeless.  There is zero coaching present and no believable emotions.  As a side note, makeup is also terrible.  But this is apparently business as usual for Faith House.

Conclusion

As previously mentioned, this film was made in 2016, yet fundamental movie making elements are still not grasped by this team.  A film of this low caliber has no place in Christian entertainment anymore as the bar is being set higher, especially when it comes to production quality.  But yet, here it is, available for all to see.  After this long stretch of reviewing their films, we have to wonder what is really going on at Faith House.  Is it just one big scam or do they really have no idea what they’re doing?  We honestly have no clue and wonder if they do either.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

A Calling of Courage (Movie Review)

Fauston’s brain machine

Plot Summary

Sergeant Major Kurt Roberts is called home from his duty when his teenage daughter, Zoey, is in a car accident that leaves her in a coma.  Since her prognosis is unknown, Zoey is allowed to go back home to stay until she comes out of her coma.  Under the care of her parents and an in-home nurse, Zoey lays in a coma for months.  Then her nurse decides to bring in an old friend to experiment with his new brain machine that can communicate with people who are in comas.  What could go wrong?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

It’s unbelievable that so-called productions like this are even funded.  Even so, what did they spend the money on, because there is no quality whatsoever here.  Camera work is very shaky, video quality is underwhelming, and lighting is poor in most scenes.  The sets are limited to basically one house and some outside scenes.  Audio quality is also inconsistent and the soundtrack is generic.  There is no editing as pretty much all of their empty ideas are included.  Essentially, this is not a production that needed any funding, especially since they wasted it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

What is happening here?  The story starts as a half-baked idea about a girl laying around in a coma and three other characters caring about what happens to her and then suddenly transforms into an off-the-wall sci-fi concept, complete with Fauston’s special brain machine that can communicate with someone who’s in a coma.  Before this point, hardly anything happens and there is a lot of off-screen content.  The medical premise is strange and has a lot of plot holes.  Despite the fact that there are basically five characters in this plot, they are extremely empty and wooden.  Dialogue does nothing to develop them, even though they sit around talking all the time.  Basically, besides being bizarre and childish in an attempt to be creative, A Calling of Courage was barely justified as a plot as there is really no content to speak of here.  Thus, there is no point in any of this.

Acting Quality (0 points)

With basically five to seven cast members, one of which lays in a bed a majority of the film, there is not much to work with here.  The cast members are robotic and empty in their line delivery and in their emotions.  We can’t relate to them as real people.  Also, there is an odd portrayal of military service members.  In short, like the rest of this horrific mess, the acting has nothing to offer.

Conclusion

As we will see this week, the theme of Faith House Pictures is having the bare minimum resources required to slap together a half-baked movie just for the sake of making it.  Their model seems to be to acquire the funds necessary to have basically one set, less than ten cast members, and the cheapest possible production equipment, and combine this with a tiny plot idea that includes some eccentric element(s).  There is no justification for Faith House Pictures to exist, and yet they do.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Miracles from Heaven (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Anna Beam is diagnosed with a rare digestive disorder, her parents, especially her mother, are thrown for a loop.  They question their faith as they are swept up in the chaos of medical treatments and tests.  In the face of adversity, the Beam family must pull together and dig deep to discover what they truly believe, because a miracle from heaven could be just around the corner.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

With top level production budgeting and resources, Miracles from Heaven is clearly a high quality production.  Everything looks great—camera work, video quality, sets, props, and locations.  Audio quality is professional, but the soundtrack is standard.  The only flaw to point out here is some lazy editing—there are a lot of montages and footage scenes that seem to pad the runtime.  But otherwise, this is the kind of production that should be the norm in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

It’s undeniable that this true story touched the Beam family in more ways we can imagine, and it’s always great to portray real life on the big screen.  This is obviously an amazing story, but we can’t help but feel that it could have been portrayed in a better way.  For one, though these are real people in the story, they don’t feel real, which is probably due to the fact that time speeds by in this plot.  There’s obviously a lot of ground to cover, but the pace of the storyline leaves little room for meaningful dialogue or character development.  This is a collection of snapshots—good snapshots, mind you—but snippets nonetheless.  In the end, many will find this movie enjoyable, but we just would have liked to get to know the characters a little better.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

This is clearly a professional and quality cast, as lines are mostly delivered well.  The main drawback to raise here are some over the top emotional deliveries.  But otherwise, each character is cast well and each cast member delivers professionally.

Conclusion

Stories like the Beam family’s story are powerful and deserve recognition in Christian entertainment.  They are meaningful and can be very powerful for those who watch.  Movies like Miracles from Heaven will have a lot of impact with a lot of audiences.  However, we would have liked to see the characters of this movie deepened so that its impact would have been maximized.  But as it is, many people will enjoy this film and it’s certainly something worth watching.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points