The Potential Inside (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chris Carmik is a successful professional cyclist and is an extremely competitive athlete.  However, his great success on the track has caused his family life to suffer.  His wife and daughter barely know him or see him.  But one night, a tragedy changes their family forever and leaves them reeling in the aftermath.  With the rise of a new cyclist who wants to be trained by Chris, will he be able to pick up the pieces and turn back to God before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As usual for Scotty Curlee and the Liberty University team, production is certainly not a major issue in their early film The Potential Inside.  Video quality and camera work are professional, as are audio quality and the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are adequate and appropriate, especially the sports scenes.  The biggest issue to point out here, as usual, is the fairly choppy editing job.  It’s difficult to follow the story due to this fact and makes the experience uneven.  In the end, while Curlee and team are masters of production quality, they often get lost in film school and forget about real plot content.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The Potential Inside is the same song, different verse for the inspirational sports genre.  This story follows the rock bottom journey of a typical downtrodden and troubled athlete character who needs a comeback to save his career and his family.  All the typical melodrama ensues, even though these characters are circumstances are mostly believable.  Yet it’s difficult to get to know these characters as real people rather than as cardboard cutouts.  As the story jumps all over the place and wastes lots of time, there are way too many sports\training montages to pump the runtime.  Due to this fact, the message of this film is fairly unclear, even as it introduces unwarranted quick fixes to patch things up in the end.  Unfortunately, there’s really not much good to say here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the Liberty University team usually assembles semi-professional casts, coaching isn’t their forte.  The performances of this cast are mostly okay and passable, but there are some forceful emotions and yelling sequences that get annoying.  Line delivery is mostly on point.  In the end, a lot of parts of this film seem to be checking boxes.

Conclusion

This film was early in Curlee’s career, so perhaps he will only grow from where he has been.  He and his team have all the potential in the world—as well as an amazing amount of resources that some film makers only dream about.  Now it’s time for them to marshal these resources properly and to truly make a film that can turn the industry on its ear—because they definitely have the ability to do so.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

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The Frontier Boys (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a tight-knit group of high school basketball players and fans is directly affected by a seemingly random drive-by shooting, they band together to discover the truth behind the evil deed.  However, unbeknownst to the others, one of them is holding a terrible secret that would affect his very life if he disclosed it.  But as the trail grows cold, will be speak the truth and risk it all to save his friends?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Frontier Boys starts off as a very raw and rough production, which is not characteristic of Echolight Studios.  Camera work is quite shaky at first and video quality is inconsistent.  However, audio quality is always good and the soundtrack is creative.  Sometimes lighting is randomly poor, but this and other productions elements at least improve as the movie goes on.  Sets, locations, and props are stable throughout the film, but for some reason it takes until the middle of video quality, camera work, and lighting to improve.  However, the editing is bit odd as it leaves too many lagging scenes and unexplained sequences.  Overall, this production is a roller coaster and probably should have been redone.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The Frontier Boys is a rare circumstance in which the creative plot saves the film from total mediocrity.  Though it begins in a confusing fashion, the story becomes more interesting as it goes, even though it does take a while to get to the point.  Regardless, the characters are surprisingly well-developed through unique dialogue and realistic circumstances.  However, there are some typical sports and mystery story elements and sometimes it seems like the creativity of this suspense idea is not reaching its fullest potential.  It feels like this film was just a beta test because a lot of factors are too downplayed and not taken seriously enough.  Had they been taken more serious, this would be a whole different ballgame.  But in the end, though things tend to be fixed too easily in this plot, it is still a commendable effort and one that demonstrates story-writing talent, which is hard to come by in the Christian movie field.  Perhaps this talent will be utilized further in the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is some off-putting and unusual at first, they work well together and assume their roles very well.  Line delivery is on-point and emotions are believable.  This is a professional casting job and one that should be replicated in the future.

Conclusion

There’s really not a movie out there that’s like The Frontier Boys.  It actually follows a non-typical plot structure and dabbles into an untapped genre.  If the production were upgraded and the plot even slightly improved, this would have been a Hall of Fame film.  Perhaps with the backing of Echolight, this creative team has a chance to really make a difference in the field, if they put their mind to it.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Welcome to Paradise [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Debbie Laramie makes a mistake that causes her to lose her current pastor job, she is demoted by her superior to become the pastor of a struggling small town church in Paradise, Texas.  She tends to be a rogue when delivering her sermons, so she brings her unique style to the stuck-in-their-ways small town in an attempt to shake things up.  Though plenty of gossip goes around about her, she forges ahead and tries to make a difference.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unlike other Echolight-affiliated productions, Welcome to Paradise does not have the usual professional quality.  Camera work is unprofessional and there is some inconsistent lighting, although video quality is fine.  Audio quality needs some work, as does the random soundtrack.  However, sets, locations, and props are adequate and appropriate.  The editing could also use some improvement, but it is not that bad.  Overall, this is a confusing production because it’s hard to understand what they were trying to do.  They don’t appear to be that limited on budget, so it’s hard to know why quality is inconsistent.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This story was taken from the pages of a proverbial stock plot playbook.  It is the extremely stereotypical tale of a character who is forced to live in a small town and save the church therein.  Thus, every character stereotype imaginable is included, driven by pointless dialogue and very cheesy and forced comedy.  As the story meanders along in a useless fashion, it is driven by laughable coincidences and things that happen because they need to.  There is little to no justification for making this formulaic film because it has been done a million times before and after.  If you’re going to use a typical storyline, at least develop the characters properly.  However, this was not done in this film.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is a semi-professional cast, they are trying way too hard to be funny.  Though they have their good moments, they are trying too much to exhibit quirky stereotypes.  It’s hard to feel like emotions are taken seriously in this cast.  Overall, this film is a big disappointment.

Conclusion

Welcome to Paradise feels like a dumb TV show or a reject Hallmark movie.  It could have very well been marketed by Hallmark, as long as it was fit into one of their seasonal molds.  Nonetheless, it’s difficult to justify the creation of these types of films.  Is this really what the Christian market needs?  We beg to differ.  Christian film makers can do better than this by a long shot.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Sweet Sweet Summertime (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After experiencing the tragic death of his beloved mother, Caleb Burns just wants everything to stay the same.  Everything does stay the same for a time, until Caleb’s father announces that they will be moving from Franklin, Tennessee to Atlanta, Georgia after the summer is over.  Thus, Caleb and his friend Blake launch a summer master plan to not only do the things they want to do before the move, but to also try to convince Caleb’s father to change his mind.  Caleb and Blake also start a club dedicated to Caleb’s mom that does good deeds all around town.  Over the course of the summer, they learn more about themselves than they anticipated and discover just how much of a difference one summer can make.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

In keeping with their past reputation, Echolight Studios, along with its partners Triple Horse Studios and Abington Ridge Films, is certainly dedicated to building high-quality Christian productions.  Nearly every production element of Sweet Sweet Summertime is flawless.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all highly professional.  The original soundtrack suits this film.  Sets, locations, and props are also very appropriate for this film and demonstrate quality.  The only negative production element to raise is the editing, as there are one too many montages and the advancement of time is a bit too rapid.  Yet, as always, this is a top-notch production that should be commonplace in all Christian films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Also in keeping with past trends, Echolight and their team tend to leave much to be desired when it comes to their plots.  Sweet Sweet Summertime is a fairly predictable and formulaic coming-of-age film that basically writes itself from beginning to end, yet the writers did the best they could with what they had, which is all we can ask.  There is too much unnecessary and heavy-handed narration that stunts character development, yet there is also dialogue that assists in making the characters realistic and accessible.  While this story has been done before, this rendition of it is certainly not as cheesy as it could have been and many audiences will find it enjoyable.  The ending is very rushed and tidy, yet there are plenty of viewers who will like it.  Overall, while we would have liked to see more creativity, at least this team put their best foot forward.

Acting Quality (3 points)

This is the sort of cast that we should see in every Christian film.  They are highly professional and well-coached.  Line delivery is flawless and emotions are very believable.  It is rare that you see a film with no acting errors in it, but Sweet Sweet Summertime is one of those films.

Conclusion

Echolight has solidified themselves as a reliably professional studio when it comes to production quality.  They also know how to assemble a respectable, error-free cast.  Yet time and again, Echolight plots tend to leave something to be desired by choosing pre-written storylines that lack creativity.  While films like Sweet Sweet Summertime will have some impact on its target audiences, it will unfortunately be easily forgotten in time.  In order to have a lasting impact in film, the plot must be dynamic.  The day that Echolight uses a dynamic plot will be the day that the Christian film world is turned upside down.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

https://offers.pureflix.com/sweet-sweet-summertime-trailer

77 Chances (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jason Shaw is a photographer who always wants to capture the right moment.  But what happens when the same moment repeats over and over again?  After meeting Mackenna, his life is never the same as the day of their meeting continues to repeat itself.  Jason tries to change the fate he is left with, but is unsuccessful.  Will he be able to come to grips with the truth God is trying to tell him before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

EchoLight Studios and Liberty University clearly have the resources and know-how for crafting a top level production.  This is evident in the professional camera work, video quality, sets, and locations of 77 Chances.  However, there are some minor audio issues, such as an overbearing soundtrack.  Also, editing issues plague this movie as there is too much wasted time and incongruence.  But otherwise, this production is above average—we just feel that it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

At this point, it’s likely that the Groundhog Day plot concept is a little worn out.  There is little that can be done with this idea, and the story only ends up being filled with montages and copied or varied scenes.  Therein, there is too much ‘silent’ dialogue covered up with music, which stunts the development of the few characters there are.  Nevertheless, some of the ideas and psychological elements presented in 77 Chances are interesting and intriguing, albeit sometimes too mystifying and confusing.  After establishing the repeating day and subsequently playing around with it for about an hour, a unique and creative concept is introduced with about ten minutes left to go.  Due to time constraints, this idea is not fully developed or completed, thus leaving the audience with a half-hearted effort.  This is frustrating to watch because there is actually a lot of potential here.  But alas, we are left wondering what could have been.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Erin Bethea, Andrew Cheney, and Rachel Hendrix have all had their better movies, but this is not one of them.  They come off as stiff, awkward, and flat.  Scotty Curlee and Stephan Schultze are supposed to be Kendrick prodigies, yet their acting coaching comes up short here.  Though not all is bad, this is another disappointing element.

Conclusion

We know that EchoLight has the ability to create a quality film, but the Liberty University team has even more potential they are sitting on that they are not properly using.  Tracy Trost, Curlee, and Schultze all have the training and the talent necessary to take the next step into greatness, but they are stuck in mediocrity.  As a side note, we would like to see this movie have a remake, if possible.  The bottom line is that this creative team has more resources than many film makers dream of—they just need to use them properly.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Vanished: Left Behind Next Generation (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In one instant, millions around the globe disappear, leaving everyone else to wonder what just happened.  Four friends find that all they have in the world is each other as they embark into the wilderness to search for one of their own.  As they journey into the new landscape, they are forced to take refuge at a survivalist compound that seem safe on the outside, but is it really all it appears to be?  In this new world, can anyone be trusted?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

EchoLight has always had a commitment to quality productions, but in Vanished, the quality slips slightly.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are all professional except for some dizzying action shots.  The soundtrack is pretty good but is sometimes used to fill time.  Sets and locations are on par.  However, there are some cheap-looking special effects, as well as weird ‘dramatic’ sound effects.  There are also too many bouts of silence and too much slow-mo.  Finally, there is tons of wasted time as this film is designed to set up for the inevitable next one.  In short, EchoLight knows how to make an above-average production, but with Vanished, one has to wonder if it was worth it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

After an opening sequence that dumps all kinds of information on the audience, things start happening at a rapid pace for the first twenty minutes before you can even catch your breath.  After throwing a bunch of random characters together and trying to force you to get to know them too quickly, the plot soars off on a predictable apocalyptic progression that’s been done before and tries to hurriedly construct an isolating dystopian premise.  Then when everything is set, things slow way down to let you be immersed in a half-hearted teenage love triangle.  As previously mentioned, there’s not enough dialogue as one-dimensional characters wander around and make apocalyptic references and things happen because they need to.  The entire storyline is based on coincidences and trumped up conflict as time progresses vaguely towards a cheesy climax and uninspiring end that is supposed to make you want another movie, but fails epicly.  In short, there is little justification for this movie being made.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While it’s clear that this film was professionally cast and the cast members therein know what they’re doing, there’s still a handful of problems.  Some emotions are too forceful and some line delivery is half-hearted.  It also goes without saying that there is little chance the mainstream actors and actresses used in Vanished will come back for a supposed sequel.

Conclusion

Do we really need to re-hash this same old apocalyptic plot sequence over and over again?  How many more times do we need to repackage and reboot the same worn out Left Behind concepts and characters?  This time, it’s clear the creators were pandering to young adult audiences.  Maybe it’s time to stop constantly trying to redo Left Behind, because this movie would have been better if it had just created its own dystopian premise and abandoned Left Behind altogether.  Had the survivalist concept been expanded and the apocalyptic landscape been made a little more creative and mysterious and less copied, we could be looking at the start of a truly great saga.  But instead we are left wondering what could have been.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Christmas Candle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The people of Gladbury have always looked forward the Christmas when an angel comes and blesses a candle at Haddington Candlery.  The tradition of the Haddington family has always been to give the blessed candle to someone in need, since the candle has special powers to give that person what they needed.  This Christmas, with a skeptical new pastor in town and more requests than ever for the fabled Christmas Candle, the Haddingtons feel like they’re in over their head.  This only gets worse when Edward Haddington trips the night the angel blesses a candle and causes all of his candles to scramble in a mess on the floor.  Now, with no way of knowing which candle is the blessed one, Edward and his wife Bea decide to give a candle to everyone on the request list and hope for the best.  But little do they know that there is far more in store for them this Christmas than they could have ever imagined.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

Echolight Studios has always put together top-notch productions, and The Christmas Candle is no exception.  The video quality is very clean and the camera work is extremely professional.  Audio quality is excellent, including an epic original soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and historical props are very realistic and appropriate.  The editing is flawless and presents the plot seamlessly.  In short, Echolight has always thrived with productions, but this is perhaps their crowning achievement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Adapted from a beloved Max Lucado novel, this plot is far better than one might expect from a Christmas storyline involving angels touching candles.  It is extremely character based and driven by excellent dialogue.  Though there are numerous characters and subplots, they are handled extremely well and are threaded together wonderfully.  There are some excellent points raised throughout, including a balanced view of miracles versus good works.  The issue of the angel blessing the candle is actually presented in a palatable and even believable way.  The only problems to highlight here are some convenient plot coincidences and one too many silly magical elements.  Otherwise, this is a masterpiece storyline and stands as an example of how non-Biblical Christmas plots should be written.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The Christmas Candle utilizes a very professional cast, yet their ‘big names’ do not give excuse for lackluster acting.  There are virtually no acting errors here, as each member of this very well-rounded cast is coached well and delivers their lines and emotions superbly and effectively.  As a side note, each actor and actress is also cast appropriately for their characters, which is a rare feat to accomplish.  In summary, this rounds out a job well done.

Conclusion

With The Christmas Candle, Echolight has finally found their way home.  For years they have searched for a great plot to combine with their excellent production quality, and they have finally achieved this.  Max Lucado has also taken his career to a new level, as this film actually improves upon his original work of fiction.  It’s refreshing to know that there are quality Christmas movies in the Christian field instead of all the usual garbage that is forced upon us.  As we come around to Christmas Day, let’s just enjoy the fact that there is still hope for Christmas films.

 

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

The Redemption of Henry Myers (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Henry Myers never wanted to kill anyone, but since he got caught up with the wrong guys, he feels like he has to fight to survive in the wild west.  When a heist goes awry and leaves someone dead, Myers isolates himself from the world.  However, he can’t keep his demons from haunting him.  On the run from his old partners coming to collect, Henry becomes wounded and suddenly wakes up in the care of a farming family.  They have no idea who he is or what he’s done, and he fears that his past will come back to haunt him if he sticks around too long.  Little does he know that he has just been given a second chance.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Echolight has always had a commitment to quality productions, and Henry Myers is no exception.  The action-based camera work is done very well and the video quality is clear.  Lighting is consistent throughout, including outside shots.  Realistic historical surroundings are showcased through well-constructed sets and locations.  The soundtrack is highly appropriate for the genre and mostly stays away from mediocrity.  The biggest problem to highlight here is that there’s not enough editing.  There are too many wasted scenes and silly musical montages.  Nonetheless, Echolight sets a consistent standard in quality productions that should be in every Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this film opens very strong with an attention-grabbing and action-packed prologue, it quickly fades to disappointment as we are handed the highlights from the Love Comes Softly series, the Erin Bethea remix.  As previously mentioned, far too much time is wasted on ‘inspirational’ scenes.  Too many things happen off screen and are not well explained.  This predictable western plot is copied and pasted from Stock Plots Incorporated and the characters rigidly fit into stereotypical molds.  There’s the bad guy trying to be good, the really bad guys who only do bad, the young Christian widow, the grumpy son who misses his father, the overly happy daughter, and of course, the sheriff.  Things happen just because they’re supposed to and characters are swept along by the plot towards an inevitable and vague conclusion.  What’s more, silly western slang dialogue peppers the script and is quite distracting.  The one redeeming quality of the plot, besides the strong beginning, is its potential to be something great.  This could have been an epic film, but it simply wasn’t.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This is actually a decent acting from Erin Bethea, but still had her cringe-worthy moments. On the flipside, the costuming is very professional and we are spared ridiculous makeup and hair jobs present in most Christian westerns.  However, there are too many mumbled lines and emotion are often too extreme.  This really could have been a better acting job.

Conclusion

The greatest sin in Christian film, besides making too many useless movies, is leaving potential on the table.  This movie was branded as a western epic, and if you watch the beginning sequence, you can believe it.  But as you continue to watch the film, you become more and more disappointed.  Epic need twists and turns, deep characters, and a landmark climax.  Henry Myers has a great message, but it’s just not enough.  If you want to go all the way as a filmmaker, don’t leave anything on the field.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Hoovey (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeff and Ruth Elliot are living their ideal life on a Midwestern farm with two great teenagers before everything starts to change for them.  Their lives are forever altered when their son Eric “Hoovey” collapses during basketball practice, thus leading to a medical examination revealing a brain tumor.  Hoovey is not given long to live at first, but he is given a second chance by having the tumor removed, leaving him a fraction of what he used to be.  Unable to play basketball anymore due to danger and having to relearn motor skills, Hoovey and his family are also suddenly faced with possibly losing their dream farm to the bank.  As a family, they will have to pull together in order to face the challenges ahead.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Echolight Studios has a commitment to producing quality Christian films, and Hoovey is no exception.  The camera work is clearly professional, along with the video and sound quality.  Disability plots are difficult to pull off because they require unique props, but Hoovey does it with ease.  The only negative points to raise here are slightly isolating editing and some generally inauthentic surroundings.  For the most part, the editing is good, but there are some parts that are confusing.  The same goes for the surroundings—sometimes it seems like this film is taking place in a realistic Midwestern setting, while other times it does not.  But in the end, there are only minor issues and Hoovey passes the production bar.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Stories based on true events are almost always more complex than an average inspirational plot.  Hoovey proves this.  Believable events happen to the characters and unexpected twists occur.  Not everything turns out neat and tidy.  However, since this is a character-based plot, the deepening of the characters throughout the film is important.  Unfortunately, this does not occur to the extent it needed to.  Dialogue is pretty good, but it rarely delves below surface conventions into deeper character development.  The plot uses narration as a crutch far too often.  Also, the Christian message is not very clear—in the end, the audience is just left with a feel good story rather than a life-changing message.  In summary, the plot of Hoovey is average—it started out with a lot of potential on its side, but it only found part of all it could have been.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is clearly a professional cast and they are coached fairly well.  Emotions, for the most part, are believable.  However, sometimes line delivery is slightly lackadaisical.  Some of the casting choices don’t seem to fit very well.  But these are just small issues—the important thing is that Echolight followed through on their commitment to produce quality Christian films.

Conclusion

Every Christian studio should be committed to rolling out quality movies on a very regular basis.  Some are willing but not able, while others are able but not seemingly not willing.  Hoovey broke into mainstream markets, which makes it even more of a shame that it did not carry with it a stronger Christian message.  Had it delivered a meaningfully obvious but not preachy Christian message, Hoovey likely would have made it in the Hall of Fame.  But regardless, it is still an enjoyable film and is worth a watch.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Seasons of Gray: A Modern Day Joseph Story (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Brady Gray was always the favorite son of his hardened father, much to the dislike of his jealous brothers.  Not only that, but Brady always had a special gift of knowing what is going to happen in certain people’s futures, based on dreams they have.  However, his brothers grow tired of his special treatment one day and finally decide to do something about—force him to leave the family ranch and tell their father that Brady died.  With nowhere else to go, Brady hitches a ride with an unlikely friend who takes him in and gets him a job at a prestigious business.  However, Brady’s life continues to take unexpected negative turns one after another.  Through the adversity, he is forced to truly look at what he believes about God and about life.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For a first time independent film, Seasons of Gray is quite good.  The camera and sound quality are both clear.  The camera angles are above average.  The sets and costuming have a slight indie-ish feel to them, but they are actually quite good considering the circumstances.  A lot of time and effort were obviously put into this movie to make the production good.  There are some minor editing concerns, but otherwise, this film is proof that first-time independent Christian films do not have to be low quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Adapting a Biblical narrative to a modern setting is not a bad idea, but it is also not the most creative idea.  However, for a freshman movie, it may be one of the better options.  This particular adaption is done well, but Box Office Revolution would have preferred it if the Biblical adaptation had been kept secret until later in the film.  Nonetheless, the plot is still above average.  The characters needed more time spent on them, yet the dialogue is passable.  Enough thought was put into this plot for it to be professional.  One other caveat to raise is the movie’s rushed and anti-climactic end.  But in the end, Seasons of Gray has a well-crafted plot that makes for an enjoyable movie.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Andrew Cheney is solid in his leading role, as he usually is.  The supporting cast puts on above-average performances, but we cannot shake the feeling that there is more they could have done.  The core cast is coached well and deliver emotions well, but they are not quite to the dynamic level yet.  Some of the background actors seem inexperienced.  Granted, this is an excellent start and far more commendable than many performances.

Conclusion

In the end, we are more than happy to watch a movie like Seasons of Gray, since it stands out among a desert of mediocrity and poor quality.  Even though it was not all it could have been, it is still a film worth a round of applause.  The Stehlik team is definitely not a crew to ignore—we expect to see even greater things from them in the future.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points