A Christmas Wish [2011] (Movie Review)

A Christmas Wish

Plot Summary

Martha Evans has been abandoned by her husband, so her only option is to pack up the kids and start a new life somewhere else. However, money is tight, so she’s forced to look for work along the way. She settles in a small town working at a struggling diner, but times are hard for everyone. Martha’s oldest daughter is intent on her mother finding the true meaning of Christmas, but will it be too late before Martha sees the light?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s clear from start to finish that A Christmas Wish has a well-funded production. Video quality, camera work, and audio are all on par with industry standards. Locations and props are good while sets only have a few minor concerns in them, such as being a bit too cluttered and cramped. Further, editing is fine save for a few small issues. Overall, however, this is a top-notch production worthy of a high score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

For a Christmas film, this plot actually contains accessible characters and struggles that can be easily related to. The people feel authentic and have believable motivations through good dialogue. Nonetheless, conversations could be a bit better and less expository, which would allow for deeper personalities in the characters. Similarly, the backstories need more comprehensive explanations, and there’s so much content that some of it takes place offscreen. Scenes and sequences aren’t as efficient as they could be, which is an issue when there’s so many characters and subplots to deal with. Side tangents distract from the main themes, making this feel more like a series than a movie. Wastes of time like these make it hard to understand why some of the characters quickly develop such close and personal relationships with one another, and some things randomly change without good reasoning. Despite some cheesy Christmas elements, the story contains a very accessible message about praying and not giving up no matter what. There’s still plenty of potential here even though the rushed conclusion fixes everything without logical buildup. Thus, at least one point is warranted here.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

In keeping with the well-funded nature of this screenplay, the acting is professional. Many of the cast members assume their characters very well, even if there are a few overdone performances. Despite a few awkward moments with lines and emotions, the acting is good enough to receive a high score.

Conclusion

As a whole, A Christmas Wish is a better version of a small-town plot due to the accessible quirkiness of the characters. It’s actually a shame that it’s not longer than it is. This begs the question why this wasn’t the pilot of a recurring TV series. The characters were enough to justify at least one season, and a Christmas special like this film could have garnered interest for it. However, instead of this idea, we’re just left with a good screenplay that’s awkwardly stuck between the terrible parts of Christian entertainment and the truly memorable creations.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Christmas Oranges (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rose is an orphan girl who lives in Mrs. Hartley’s orphan home.  However, when Mrs. Hartley and some of the children die of illness one fateful month, all of the orphans are sent to other places.  Rose and some of her friends are sent to live in the orphanage of the angry Mr. Crampton, who has strict rules and doesn’t want children messing around with his stuff.  However, the more Rose learns about Mr. Crampton, the more she learns that he is hurting during the holiday season and needs someone to love him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As usual for John Lyde and his creative teams, Christmas Oranges is a professional production.  This is evidenced by good video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is somewhat generic, but it is fine for the genre.  Locations are mostly fine, even though there are few of them, but the sets are limited in scope.  There are also some random scenes that are poorly lit for no clear reason.  However, on the flip side, the editing is surprisingly effective.  On the whole, this is a high quality effort that has become commonplace from this group.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

In a different turn from other stories from John Lyde and company, Christmas Oranges has a uniquely substantial plot that contains the accessible struggles of relatively believable characters.  Though there is narration that hurts things, the child characters are actually pretty good, even if the orphan premise is slightly cheesy.  There are also some silly ‘kids’ sequences and montages, along with some strawman characters.  However, for the most part, the dialogue and the ideas therein are mostly meaningful and do their best to avoid cliched Christmas concepts involving orphans.  Probably the best element of this storyline is its use of realistic character backstories to humanize the ‘bad’ characters.  On the whole, while this movie did not go as far as it could have, it is still enjoyable and is worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While most of the cast members are definitely professional, this section still tends to be a mixed bag.  Some cast members seem to be overdoing their performances just a bit.  However, on the whole, emotions are realistic, and line delivery is on point.  As a side note, costuming is historically authentic.  Overall, this rounds out a very professional effort.

Conclusion

The Covenant Communications\Paulist Productions\Mainstay Productions collaboration has been working for years to make respectable films, and for the most part, they have succeeded.  However, they have been plagued by an inability to get over the last proverbial hill that stands between them and film greatness.  Nonetheless, they have all the tools necessary to do so.  Thus, we believe that sometime in the near future, they will finally break through and make that dynamic film that has alluded them for years.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Redemption: For Robbing the Dead (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jean Baptiste is a French immigrant who secretly robs dead bodies of their clothes.  Once he is finally caught, the judge sentences him to exile on a local salt island.  Sheriff Henry Heath is tasked with keeping up the with prisoners on the island and making sure they have what they need as they work.  However, he takes special interest in Jean Baptiste as he seems different from the others.  Together, this unlikely friendship teaches the two of them that God even offers redemption to those considered to be the worst of sinners.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Redemption begins with very odd lighting, which is the most noticeable production elements.  The presentation comes off as very dark, drab, and depressing, perhaps by design.  Though most production elements are fine, including video quality and audio quality, and though there are lighting improvements throughout, this beginning is significant and may deter people from going any further.  There are also a lot of boring, lagging scenes and sequences in the first half of the film that don’t hold the attention.  On the upside, sets, locations, and props are all very realistic and well-constructed.  There are also a lot of realistic gritty elements throughout.  Basically, this unique production is a mixed bag, thus warranting the average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though there is an interesting idea someone lost in this confusion, the plot lacks clear direction and purpose.  This is evidenced by the number of confusing and seemingly useless subplots and characters that are never fully explored.  At the same time, however, the story is also very limited in scope and based off of a very isolating concept.  Hardly anything happens as the same two or three characters just go back and forth doing the same things, combined with too many cheesy Western clichés.  Much like the production, there is a dark and brooding feel to this story, as well as some misguided artistry.  There is probably one interesting scene in this film that tries to explain some things, but it’s really too little too late.  This story needed a lot of vetting and consultation before it was released.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Besides some of the obviously fake accents of the cast members, there are a lot of bland and vanilla performances here to go along with the dark nature of the film.  However, this small cast has some good, honest moments as they tend to improve their performances throughout.  They become more human in the end and less of Western clichés, so that is enough to warrant an average score here as well.

Conclusion

This plot had the potential to be a different, interesting, and creative character-based epic showcasing second chances for flawed people, but this idea was unfortunately wasted.  Given Rance Howard’s presence in this film, it’s not very surprising that it is a dark one, yet even this element could have been interesting had it been used properly.  Alas, Redemption: For Robbing the Dead joins the growing list of Christian movies that desperately need a remake.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points