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

 

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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

 

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