Evangeline and Juliet, once they were abandoned by their mother after their father was drafted into the Vietnam War, were raised by their grandparents in a small Texas town. However, the sisters always wondered when they would see their mother again even as she sent them gifts and letters. As time went on, the two sisters grew apart due to various circumstances and family secrets. Now that they’re adults, will they be able to reconcile their differences to help their family?
Production Quality (2.5 points)
It’s no surprise that a well-funded film like When We Last Spoke has high production qualities. Video, camera work, and audio all meet industry standards. The sets, locations, and props demonstrate attention to historical detail, which is important for a period drama. The soundtrack is mostly average but fits the time period. The only flaw to note here is the somewhat choppy editing, but this seems to be a consequence of the plot. Therefore, a high score is warranted for this section.
Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
Despite having source material, When We Last Spoke has one of most bizarre story presentations of recently released works. The past and present narratives are often blurred as the writers push one thing after another on the audience. As a stream-of-consciousness plot, it feels like a collection of disconnected and completely mindless scenes, most of which lack clear direction or purpose. There’s an unusual amount of unnecessarily edgy content that’s explained away in strange manners, and whatever Christian message was supposed to be portrayed is extremely vague. In attempts to create so-called twists, the viewer is purposely led in one direction only to be taken in another, thus making them feel extremely forced and shoehorned. In what’s supposed to be a character-based story, dialogue and conversations are basically meaningless, doing nothing to adequately develop the characters but instead wasting the audience’s time. Because of various problems and no real potential, this area can’t be given any points.
Acting Quality (1 point)
There are some moments of good acting in When We Last Spoke, and some cast members are better than others. However, there are some instances of uneven line delivery and generally unsure performances. Elsewhere, obnoxious and shocking emotional outbursts mar certain scenes. Despite a dose of positive, this section is overall below average.
This film is just another well-funded and heavily publicized creation that’s gone down the tubes. At this point, Christian audiences are growing tired of being told that screenplays are good only to be disappointed by them. There’s little patience left, and the number of consistent viewers is ever-shrinking. Just because you have money and recognizable cast members doesn’t mean your movie is automatically good. The funding for When We Last Spoke could have been used to bring an actually transformative book to the big screen, but instead, we just have a waste of time.
Ram Goldstein and several other genius scientists are working on a top secret project for a multimillionaire named Ahmed. At first, they’re completely cool with being locked in a room with armed guards patrolling the halls, but when they use their super hacking skills to discover that Ahmed is coordinating with government leaders from Muslim-controlled nations to create time travel, they begin to grow concerned. Ahmed intends to use the mystical power of time travel to return to the past and kill Jesus before He’s resurrected so that Christianity will cease to exist! However, time travel is a bit tricky, and when multiple timelines are created due to the tampering, many different versions of the same characters are apparently created. Also, if they don’t erase the extra timelines before it’s too late, they will all converge into an APOCALYPSE! Can Ram and his friends stop this wicked plot before it’s too late?!?!?
Production Quality (-3 points)
Even though it seems like there was a substantial budget spent on Assassin 33 AD, the funding didn’t pay off as it was wasted on extremely cheap CGI and ridiculous special effects that overtake and overpower all other production elements. They have direct connections to the sets, locations, and props and make it clear that this team had no idea what they were doing when they slapped this project together. While there are some notable positives in this production, they are covered up by the myriad concerns created by the CGI and special effects blunders. Also, the editing has a handful of issues, but this could easily be chalked up to having to deal with one of the worst plots in the history of Christian entertainment. Overall, the glaringly obvious negatives throughout this film overshadow any slightly good elements that could be noted.
Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)
Where to begin? Assassin 33 AD has achieved the unthinkable feat of being as incoherent and offensive as Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas. This is not a title to be lightly delivered, but there plenty of ways Assassin goes further than even Timothy Chey has gone (yet). First of all, the entire premise behind Assassin is totally off-base from the get-go. Messing around with time travel and how it relates to Jesus is an absolute no-no when it comes to story-boarding, so there’s no reason to even broach the subject. Then, to take this a step further and actually make a purportedly Christian film about modern day soldiers being able to shoot Jesus with a pistol in the Garden of Gethsemane is borderline insanity. As if this isn’t enough, to create multiple timelines that both alter Scripture and try to twist biblical history into including the movie’s characters in the actual canon is just the end. I literally cannot comprehend the inanity of this proposition, which by no indication is being done in jest. Besides these glowing red flag problems that are part of the story’s very fabric, there are so many other movie faux pas committed in Assassin that space will likely not permit a full exploration. Nonetheless, here is a very quick rundown: characters are poorly developed via expository dialogue and unnatural lines that are designed to force the plot forward, key plot points are supported by unexplained “science” and convenient technical devices that lack basis in reality or logic, the villains basically stepped out of a conservative fever dream about Muslims taking over the world, wild time jumps are only supplanted by the maddening nature of the multiple timelines created by time travel, basically every character has a minimum of two different versions of themselves (“past” and “present”), some of these copy characters end up having conversations with each other, the protagonists can seemingly do whatever they want in a supposedly high-security facility with armed guards all around them, the Jesus character seems just as confused about what’s going on as the viewers are, etc., etc., etc. Did I mention that the writers took a crazily arrogant creative license to replace Biblical characters (like the thieves on the crosses beside Jesus and the man who fled the Garden of Gethsemane with no clothes on) with modern-day characters from the “future” timelines? This notion is only made complete by the scene where two copy characters (the same cast member) are discussing how the modern-day Bible is changing right before their eyes due to the timelines being altered in the past. Further, as if all of this wasn’t an epic trainwreck, the film’s epilogue completely turns everything on its ear by negating the “past” timeline that set the movie’s events into notion in the first place. Therefore, taking all of this evidence into account, this section is awarded the maximum negative score, and this also affects other aspects of the film.
Acting Quality (-3 points)
The horrid nature of the plot bleeds over into acting and causes this section to suffer even though it may not have been as bad if it were paired with a different narrative. Much of the line delivery is robotic and not earnest, and emotions are hard to believe. Some cast members, especially those who are portraying villains, overplay their roles while others seem bored or confused, which may have been justified. In the end, the major negatives at the core of the project drag the entire thing down into the depths of Christian entertainment.
Assassin 33 AD also receives to honor of scoring a negative x-factor point to round out an effort that joins Saving Christmas as one of the worst films of all time. Whenever a creator sets out to make a movie about how biblical accounts and Jesus’ life on earth in general could be altered via time travel as well as how the Bible could be rewritten based on the changing of previous timelines, they are already way off the road and should entirely ditch the project. Going through with such a travesty raises some serious questions about the true motivation behind its creation. There’s literally no way to redeem this awful concept, so the best thing that can be done is to encourage audiences to stay away from it and to help future film makers avoid these types of monumental blunders.
Cast: Jason Castro, Heidi Montag, Donny Boaz, Morgan Roberts, Geraldo Davila, Lamar Usher, Ilsa Levine, Cesar D’La Torre, Jacob Hashem, Jonny Rey Diaz
Plot summary: Ram Goldstein and the greatest minds across the world are employed to create a matter transfer machine. But the Institute is really a covert organization funded by Extremists. Ram accidentally stumbles upon the secret agenda, but the same day, he succeeds in transferring matter and accidentally creates the world’s first time machine. Ram refuses to share the code so the extremists kill Ram’s parents and threatens to torture his friends. Ram gives in and agrees to build the time machine. As soon as it is finished, Extremists sends a group of assassins on the ultimate Jihad by killing Jesus and his disciples before his resurrection. Ram along with his genius team; commandeer the time machine and race back in time in an attempt to change time back before it rewrites itself. They fail to change the assassination of Jesus and must return to the future were they are killed, but not before they warn their original selves in the previous timeline. Now the original Ram and his team must transfer to back 33 A.D., to kill the assassins, save Jesus and restore the timeline.
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.
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.
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.
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.