Heaven’s War {Beyond the Darkness} (Movie Review)

Image result for heaven's war
The magic of the cosmos…

Plot Summary

Senator Jonah Thomas is a rising political star who wants to be the good guy in Washington, but evil individuals, both human and spiritual, have their own plans for him. Jonah’s political career is pushing his family to the brink, and he doesn’t realize the evil devices that await him in one fateful meeting. As his soul hangs in the balance, he will be given one last chance to battle for his eternal destiny in a very poorly-animated CGI world.

Production Quality (0 points)

Imagine you have this great idea for a complex sci-fi plot that requires a lot expensive CGI and animation tools. Would you go ahead and make it even though you didn’t have the funding to make it on a level we see in theaters today? Essentially, Heaven’s War is a poorly funded attempt at a possibly good idea that will fall totally flat due to how bad the production is. The extremely cheap special effects and the cheesiest possible animation and CGI draw so much attention to themselves that they negate any possible good elements in other parts of the production. They affect everything and make it an unpleasant experience whether via disorienting editing, cheap flashback quality, weird sound effects, or wild and quick cuts between scenes. Even if other elements of the film are fine, the special effects failings are the types of issues that infect everything, which keeps this production rated at zero.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Besides this, the plot is fairly confusing and hard to follow. Even though it’s an interesting idea to explore the spiritual realm, everything is too focused on American politics, which begs the question why the major spiritual battles highlighted here center around raising taxes and finding a vaccine for cancer. If this isn’t the intention, it comes off that way through expository dialogue and devices that move the plot forward, such as news reports and phone conversations. As the story wildly jumps from one random idea to the next, the slightly interesting flashback\psychological vision elements had something going for them, but the way they are presented is a disservice. Poor delivery and unclear direction doomed this plot from the start, not to mention the extremely cheesy portrayal of the spiritual realm that is almost a laughingstock. After lots of disorienting battle sequences and explorations of alternate realities, problems are suddenly quickly fixed at the end with no feeling or reality behind it, and by the time it’s all over, you suddenly realize that this film barely had any actual content in it. Hence, no points can be awarded in this section either.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Surprisingly, as bad as it is, the acting is the strongest point of this movie because it’s the only section that gets any points. Even still, the acting often comes off as un-earnest, overly practiced, and robotic. For the most part, emotions are black, forced, and unnatural. There are some good moments for some of the cast members that are basically just average, but as a whole, the acting is cardboard and the casting poor. This rounds out an unacceptably bad film in the new era of Christian entertainment.

Conclusion

Danny Carrales’ intentions to make different types of Christian films are definitely noted, but their application is way off the mark. It would have been better to make Heaven’s War fully animated so that more time could have been spent on making a real plot. Relying only on special effects of any quality level is never a good idea because they can’t write the story for you. Even the best sci-fi idea will fail if the characters can hold it up for you because the audience has no real connection to the concept without feeling like real people are experiencing it. Basically, better luck next time.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

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My All-American {Courage} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Freddie Steinmark was trained all his life to play college football.  When he finally gets his chance at the University of Texas, he takes the opportunity to let his work ethic stand out.  He tries to make a difference with everyone he meets, all the while planning his future with his girlfriend.  But as Freddie drives to be better and better, although the team improves around him, his health begins to deteriorate.  He tries to shake it off, but the day finally arrives when he can no longer ignore his poor health.  Freddie will have to make tough decisions and remember why he got to where he is.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

With obvious funding and professional equipment, My All-American sports clear video quality, great camera work, and good audio quality.  The props that are used look very realistic and specific to the time period.  The sets and surroundings are fairly diverse, if somewhat too varied, as scenes jump all over the place.  The soundtrack is okay for a generic inspirational sports film.  Action sequences are executed very well, but choppy editing plagues this movie.  As previously mentioned, the film jumps all over the place and leaves the audience extremely confused as to what is going on or what may happen next.  This will be discussed in depth next, but the main point here is that a lot of money was spent to make this film look good, but it’s clear that the effort was only ever meant to go skin-deep, so to speak, as the project has little substance underneath the pretty lights.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This was a very good idea for a film based on a true story, but far too much content is crammed into a small time frame.  Trying to cover a character’s several years before college plus his four years in college in less than two hours calls for dizzying time jumps and information-dump dialogue that creates cardboard characters.  One minute, characters we barely know are in high school, then they are teleported to college one fall, then suddenly it’s spring, then we watch an interlude to discuss the historical time period in an obvious fashion, then it’s back to fall and all over again.  Thus, there is far more telling than showing, since there’s not enough time to show everything the writers want to shove into the plot.  The main focus of the film is sports action sequences, which definitely have their place, but their constant presence leaves little room for character development.  Non-action sequences of characters talking are head-scratching in that we are not provided enough context; we cannot appreciate them or their struggles because of the breakneck pace of the storyline.  As a side note, there is minor inappropriate language throughout for some reason.  The bottom line is that the creators never intended to make this a movie of substance—they just hoped to make a quick buck off of the inspirational audience.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Despite the presence of ‘big name’ actors and actresses, no care was given to coach them or guide them.  Some cast members show potential, but they are not properly developed in their skills.  Emotions cannot be felt or appreciated.  Line delivery is sloppy and forced, probably because there’s not much time to say things in preparation for the next scene.  Like the rest of the film, this area is half-hearted for a reason.

Conclusion

With the rise of successful inspirational films, mainstream creators are trying to dip into the cash pile.  My All-American is one of these movies that is strictly designed to make money at the box office by marketing it alongside more popular inspirational films.  They invest only in production quality and one or two ‘big name’ cast members and let everything else fall by the wayside.  In their opinion, audiences only care about a nice looking feel good movie, but we beg to differ.  Movies like this one are a waste of your time and only designed to get your money.  But Christian film makers can take note: unless your production quality is as good as half-effort films like this one, you’re also wasting your time.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points