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 Princess (Movie Review)

Image result for christmas princess up movie

Plot Summary

Donaly Marquez is glad her foster family adopted her and her siblings, but she will carries inside of her the stigma of being a foster kid, and she still can’t shake the painful memories of her drug-addicted mother that continually make her feel inadequate. However, she’s always wanted to try out to be a Rose Bowl Parade Princess, so when she gets the opportunity, she jumps at the chance. Will she be able to overcome the past that wasn’t her fault or will she not allow herself to shine?

Production Quality (3 points)

In keeping with most UP Entertainment films, Christmas Princess exhibits a highly professional production, starting with great video quality and camera work. The audio quality is also on-point, and the soundtrack is effectively composed. Also, the sets, locations, and props are very much well-constructed and well-utilized, which contributes further to the professional of the film. Further, the editing is flawless, which rounds out a basically perfect production that should be the standard for made-for-TV inspirational films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

It’s always clear that using source material from true stories that allow the audience to connect with believable and realistic characters is the key to having a good plot. Christmas Princess, though the title suggests otherwise, is a great example of what can be done when real-life events are depicted in the context of a movie that seeks to build accessible characters through great dialogue and an exquisite use of flashbacks and other psychological elements. The conversations do a lot to build character motive and personality, which in turn makes them feel like actual people that audiences can relate to. It’s rare to see such a consistent use of flashbacks to build the storyline in this type of film, but it’s extremely refreshing, especially in a Christmas film about a topic that could potentially be very sappy. Instead of this, however, the writers took the professional and realistic route that allows many different people to relate to this true story, so it’s definitely worth your time. The only drawbacks to mention here relate to some slow parts and montages, but as a whole, this is the best that could have been done with this story, which is all we ever ask.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Though this is not a ‘blockbuster’ cast, each cast member does a great job assuming his or her respective character role, and the cultural authenticity is refreshing. For the most part, line delivery is on point, and emotions are believable, even though there are a few weak moments. Even so, this acting and casting work is very professional and rounds out a very surprisingly worthwhile Christmas film.

Conclusion

Sometimes good films come from the most unexpected of places, but it still remains that true stories make some of the best films. When the writing is left to a talented writer or to real life, the production team can focus on maximizing the other elements of the film, and it’s clear the UP TV is outpacing other inspirational channels with quality content like this film. As this Christmas season comes to a close, this is another movie to add to your collection.

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

Different Drummers [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When an unlikely friendship develops between David, a boy with muscular dystrophy, and Lyle, a boy diagnosed with ADHD, David sets out to show Lyle that God really does exist.  As they collaborate on a science project contest that Lyle is determined to win, they form a close bond, and David finds a new purpose in life.  Though they get into various escapades and scrapes that are not easy to get out of, their coming of age journey is one that they will never forget.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, Different Drummers is a fine production that has a lot of high marks.  These include great video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  Though the soundtrack is a bit generic, it is not a detractor.  Sets, locations, and props are all what they should be and are utilized effectively.  Overall, this is a professional production that is only hurt by some awkward cuts and transitions.  However, this is not enough to keep this section from having a respectably high score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Different Drummers, in many ways, is too much of a ‘silly’ kids story, as it is a coming of age plotline.  As such, there are a lot of seemingly unnecessary goofy sequences that tend to just fill time.  However, this storyline also presents a realistic and believable portrayal of special needs people, as well as an honest look at the dangers that come about when children are over-medicated.  However, the Christian message is a bit too vague, even though dialogue is fairly well-constructed.  Even so, there isn’t much substantial content to work with here as the story tends to hop from one thing to the next without much focus, but this could be an extrapolation of the main character’s ADHD, so it may be excusable in some ways.  In the end, this story has a realistic ending, and it will be mostly enjoyable for many audiences, so it may be worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The casting and acting of this film is mostly fine, considering the number of younger cast members.  Though there are some awkward performances (perhaps purposely) and some over the top emotions in some scenes, for the most part, this cast is professional.  Each cast member tends to be cast well, and line delivery is solid throughout.  This rounds out an above average film all around.

Conclusion

Films like Different Drummers should be more commonplace in Christian film than they are.  Funding is used well, the story is at least halfway interesting, and the acting is adequate.  Though there some clear steps that could have been taken to make this film a higher rating, as it is, many audiences will enjoy it.  Still, we can’t help but wonder the potential these sorts of films could have had.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

The Carpenter’s Miracle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Though John Camdenis is just an average carpenter who doesn’t think much of himself, when his touch appears to bring a dead boy back from the dead, the small town he lives in immediately becomes ground zero for media attention and controversy.  He appears to perform more miracles, but he has no idea what to do with his newfound abilities.  John wants to go back to the way things were, but now it’s no turning back for him or the boy who came back to life.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though this is a made-for-TV production from UP, there are some surprising production errors here.  While video quality is fine, there is a high amount of shaky camera work throughout this film, probably for dramatic effect.  However, it doesn’t come off right.  There are also some awkward camera angles that give off a feel of the camera being moved around manually.  Nonetheless, there is a lot of great attention to detail when it comes to sets, locations, and props, especially the medical elements.  The soundtrack is also very interesting, as the audio quality is also good.  Finally, the editing is mostly fine, and overall, this production is above average, despite the odd oversights.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

At first, the plot of The Carpenter’s Miracle is hard to understand, but it doesn’t get much better from there.  The plot is presented in a very confusing fashion, and it is very unclear what is meant to be learned from this story.  It is only very vaguely Christian as the underlying message is mostly unknown, except for several obvious Easter themes.  Sometimes it seems like the story is hiding some great secret from you, but no clarity is ever offered.  Is the main character supposed to be Jesus or not?  Did he perform miracle or get involved in coincidences?  Besides these unanswered questions, the characters are too one-dimensional due to stilted and under-developed dialogue.  Furthermore, the ending is very head-scratching, thus completing a very unusual experience of a film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast tends to be professional and mostly means well, there are a handful of awkward moments, especially in the beginning.  However, there is a lot of potential here, and the acting overall improves as the film goes on.  Emotional delivery is particularly believable and realistic.  In the end, however, this punctuates a unique experience that is difficult to quantify.

Conclusion

One can understand why UP would want to make another made-for-TV film to tap into a Christian audience, but this is an unusual choice.  Why not make the message more obviously Christian or at least try to offer some clarity as to what the underlying point of this story is?  Instead, we are left with more questions than answers, yet many people probably won’t ever know this film exists.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points