Starring: Marion Ross, Erik Estrada, Karyn Williams
Plot Synopsis: Gloria Dais, named as such because of her parents love of Bruce Springsteen, has always lived in the city. After her mom and dad divorce, Gloria is forced to move to the tiny town on Wishem, Kentucky, against her wishes. As she begs her mother to let her go home to her friends, she unexpectedly ends up in the adventure of a lifetime. Along the way she meets people that will change her forever, and learn lessons in life and love. “Gloria Dais” is an adventure story for the whole family, where Gloria discovers that “True Adventure Takes You Home.”
Malibu Dan and Holidae Sinclair run the southern California early morning show Good Morning Malibu. Dan is always getting himself into comedic scrapes, while Holi is always looking for a better media offer. They work with a goofy but likeable crew, but most of all, Dan considers himself to be a devout family man. What else could go wrong in Tommy Blaze’s latest zany comedic endeavors?
Production Quality (1.5 points)
Much like Hitting the Breaks, Malibu Dan the Family Man is a sitcom with an average production, which means it comes with that annoying laugh track again. There are also other sound effects used now, however. Another annoying aspect of the sitcom genre is the use of ridiculously fake backgrounds and cheaply limited sets, as well as a total lack of actual locations. Props are fine, however, as are other standard production elements, such as camera work and video quality, which keep this production from being totally worthless. However, the editing also suffers from lack of creativity as it is quite choppy. In the end, however, these few production positives are the only ones that exist in this unnecessary series.
Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
If Tommy Blaze and company were so desperate to make another sitcom, why not just make another season of Hitting the Breaks? Malibu Dan is really no different—just some rearranged characters and different cast members. Who would have noticed if some cast members changed for a new season of Breaks? As it is, Malibu Dan includes the same old tired and ridiculous messages Blaze and David A. R. White have been hanging out to dry for years, such as an absurdly stark gender divide, their patronizing view of Generation Y, and the endless pursuit of media fame and stardom. As usual, David A. R. White is the bemused husband\father who gets himself into a comedic venture that solves itself in twenty minutes or less. Everything is the same, and there is nothing new in PureFlix.
Acting Quality (0 points)
With the same old egotistical PureFlix cast members—the Whites, Brad Heller, Kevin Downes, Gregg Binkley—Malibu Dan throws in a few more, such as comedy staple Victoria Jackson and Erik Estrada with a few more plastic surgeries since the last time we saw him. Regardless of the changes, the zaniness and the over-the-top non-subtlety is still present and still makes for an eye-rolling experience as the leadership of Blaze continues to push ‘Christian’ comedy to the limits of absurdity. The other cast members are swept along in the wave of nonsense and must wonder how they got stuck with this crew.
Continuity Quality (0 points)
Sitcoms are not made for continuity. There are no story arcs or character arcs as each episode exists within its own twenty-minute bubble in which all conflicts introduced are promptly and easily solved in time to tack a trite Christian antidote onto the end. Thus, no points can be awarded here.
As long as the PureFlix faithful continue to garner funding for these frivolous projects, they will keep making them to satisfy their longings to parade themselves around like idiots in the name of Christian entertainment, ever in the pursuit of fame and stardom, just like the characters they portray. They are as shallow as the comedy they create, but as un-ignorable as David A. R. White’s bombastic displays of idiocy. They project themselves as the leaders in Christian film and the saviors in a dark world of Christian persecution, but if this is all we have to lead us, it’s no wonder so many people scoff at Christian media.
When Faith gets too close to a ‘boy’ she met online but never met in real life, she never imagined the trouble it would cause her. In one fateful moment, the stalker behind the fake profile kidnaps her as Faith’s hometown descends into panic over the incident. The local sheriff has a bone to pick with online stalkers, so he immerses himself into the case unlike any other. What they find is a vast human trafficking scheme bigger than their small town. Will they be able to find Faith before it’s too late?
Production Quality (1 point)
As an early production for Liberty University and team, the quality of Finding Faith isn’t really what it should be. Video quality is okay, but camera work is randomly shaky. Audio quality is also poor, even though the soundtrack is trying to be suspenseful. Sets are okay, but locations and props are somewhat limited. Editing is mostly average and still leaves something to be desired. Overall, with many other people involved in this film, Liberty University took a step back with this production, and it’s hard to see how it was justified.
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
Full of heavy-handed narration from Erik Estrada, the messaging of this story is certainly not subtle. Yet at the same time, it’s also full of dead air and wasted sequences. It’s a shame too, because this is an interesting and different idea with a meaningful message that needs to be shared. However, the characters are so empty due to bland and vanilla dialogue that it’s hard to relate to them as real people, only as cutouts playing a part. There was so much that could have been done with this story—with better characters of course—but the writers only barely scratch the surface. It’s unfortunate to see ideas like this one fall so short of the mark.
Acting Quality (1 point)
Though this is a relatively large cast, they lack adequate coaching. The cast members post very stiff and blank performances, but then again, they didn’t have many lines to actually work with. They also have their good moments, and it’s not all bad, but any cast that includes Erik Estrada is always dominated by his odd demeanors and personas. In the end, this film as a whole is mostly a disappointment.
The Liberty University team and the JC Films team always had big ideas and ambitions that rarely follow through and meet the expectations that are set for them. They have plenty of resources and connections, but little to no creative screenwriting. It seems to be consistently difficult for them to portray real people on the big screen, so it might be time for them to invest in some better writing. Only then will they make the difference they want to make.
When Aaron Chase’s brother dies in a school shooting, his family moves to a new area in the hopes of starting over. He ends up going to Rosewood High School, whose arts department budgets have been slashed due to overall budget cuts. The students in those departments are disappointed and seek to put on their own show. Aaron gets involved and decides to stand up for the faith he has been hiding, even though an evil atheist teacher is trying to stop him at every turn.
Production Quality (2 points)
For what it’s worth, Liberty Counsel and JC Films made sure Uncommon looked good on the surface. Video quality is clear and camera work is professional. Audio quality also meets industry standards, although the soundtrack is bloated and full of cheesy songs. Sets, locations, and props demonstrate that time was put into them. Yet editing is quite poor, as there are far too many musical montages and filler scenes that appear to just be filling up the runtime rather than imparting real content. Essentially, care was put into making this production look good, which is fine, but it’s just not enough when it comes to substance.
Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
As is to be expected, Liberty Counsel and JC Films construct a false reality where religious persecution is rampant in public schools—to a degree that is unrealistic and requires half-truths to be told—and which is full of heavy-handed propaganda messaging and narration to drive their points home. Atheists are extremely offensive strawmen, while Christians are downtrodden and overly perfect. Dialogue only forces the plot along, which is actually quite boring and melancholy when all is said and done. There is an attempt to be complex and different with some of the plot elements, but it’s not enough to make up for the outright twisting of reality that has to be done to make this movie’s message work. Basically, when all is said and done, Uncommon simply boils down to a sophisticated version of God’s Club.
Acting Quality (2 points)
Another interesting element to Uncommon is that time and care were also put into the casting and acting. This is a semi-professional cast, yet they appear to be coached fairly well. There are some awkward moments and unrealistic emotions, but on the whole, this is actually not that bad of a performance by this cast. If only this truth could translate to other films.
Uncommon is an anomaly. Usually movies that have small-minded plots like this one are terrible in all areas, yet time and care were spent on production and acting. It proves that anything can be done if you put your mind to it. Just think if this type of effort was put toward other movies that have better plots than this. But in the end, Christians overall need to steer clear from these types of plots for like forever, unless they’re going to portray real persecution that happens anywhere except the Western world. We need to change the mentality that ‘the atheists’ are always around the corner trying to snipe us and just live out our faith the way God wants us to. Jesus didn’t constantly gripe at or sue the Pharisees or Romans for religious persecution, and He had plenty of His ‘rights’ violated. God’s work can proceed whether or not you have your Bible club in a public school. People need to know that Christians care, and with stuff like this being put out there, it’s really hard to see that Christian leaders care about anything except ‘getting back’ at atheists.
After Simone Burner is attacked by the grandson of a powerful man, she is arrested for the grandson’s murder and mostly everybody in the city turns against her for no particular reason. Therefore, she has to seek out the help of an estranged attorney who doesn’t really like her as her last resort. Meanwhile, there are tons of others subplots are all going on at the same time as other random characters are briefly introduced who have very loose connections to the original point. With so much going on, the question is not what will happen, but will anyone understand what is happening?
Production Quality (2 points)
Virtuous has a professional and adequate production, as evidenced by clear video quality, good camera work, acceptable audio quality, and an intriguing soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props are professionally chosen and presented. On the surface, it seems like Virtuous checked all the necessary boxes to receive a passing score. However, the major detractor here is the horrific editing. Somewhere in post-production, someone needed to sit down and have a serious talk with the JC Films team about whether or not it’s justified to have a 150 minute film that has next to no continuity. This was the editor’s job; however, this was not done, and thus, it leaves a gaping hole in this film.
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
As previously mentioned, this perhaps the most convoluted and non-continuous plot in all of our viewing days. With hundreds of subplots that have very little connection to one another, there is no way to make sense of what is going on as the story hops from one random thing to the next. There’s all kinds of intrigue with this local judicial and law enforcement system and how corrupt businessmen are trying to control stuff, plus some stereotypical down-on-his-luck who takes on a seemingly impossible case that has some ties to a non-profit involving Erin Bethea, and this doesn’t even cover the random guy in the hospital and the nurse who takes care of him who also has a questionable position on the jury of the original trial. This previous run-on sentence doesn’t even cover all the points Virtuous tries to expand on. It’s like twelve different people all had ideas and decided to shove them all together into one bloated film. With so much going on, there is no hope for character development as dialogue is stunted and all over the place. The only characters that stand out are strawmen villains, unfortunately. Yet despite all of this massive blending of concepts, there is a really interesting idea somewhere lost in the fray that would be better served in a miniseries format. It’s disappointing to see good ideas go to such waste, especially when it’s like this.
Acting Quality (1.5 points)
With so many cast members, it’s really hard to keep up. This is an unusually large cast for a Christian film, thus making the performances inconsistent and random. Sometimes line delivery and emotional delivery are good, while other times they are not. Overall, it comes out as fairly average.
When you’re in the process of making a film that is over two and a half hours and you actually have the budget to make a film this long, perhaps you need to stop and consider: with so much content, I should make this a series! People love series: just look at the unexplainable success of When Calls the Heart. Why not, instead of making a cumbersome film like this one, try something different and create an interesting genre-busting Christian series. It would be a huge hit. Yet once again, we are left wondering what could have been.
Ethan, Catherine, Luke, Ryder, and Alexandria, friends through college, have finally reaches graduation and are ready to go out and change the world. However, the world they find outside of the college classroom is not the one they anticipated. Catherine and Luke seem to be following their lives’ purposes when they embark to serve the Lord in India. Catherine and Ryder are set on making an impact in the business world. Ethan feels stuck working for his lonely father’s restaurant, even though he dreams of going to graduate school. Each person has a different path to follow and each friend must discover God’s purpose for their lives.
Production Quality (2 points)
Unlike most PureFlix distributed films, This is Our Time has good production elements. The camera work and video quality are both pretty good. The sound quality is inconsistent at times. The sets and locations are pretty good, considering the story takes place in America and India. The editing is unfortunately sub-par; there are too many scenes that appear to be filler. Some events take place off screen and confuse the viewer. Overall, This is Our Time has a pretty good production effort, but it is not quite there yet.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
This is Our Time has a very unique plot structure that is not typical to most inspirational plots. Usually, when more than three subplots are crammed together in a movie, it comes off as choppy, but in this instance, it works fairly well since the subplots are all related to characters who graduated together. The topics discussed in the film are accessible to average viewers. There are some interesting twists throughout the film. However, there are just too many negative factors in this plot. Some situations are very trumped up and contrived. Most of the dialogue is empty and thus, the characters are left wanting. The worst part is that it didn’t have to be this way—we feel that Lisa Arnold has more potential than this. There are several important messages in this film that are lost due its low quality. In short, we believe that a larger, more dedicated crew would have greatly improved this movie.
Acting Quality (.5 point)
This cast had potential, but they are obviously not coached well. A lot of the line delivery is very forced and the emotions are not believable. Once again, we believe that it didn’t have to be this way. There was simply too much left on the proverbial field.
This is Our Time joins a collection of Christian films that desperately needed a rewrite and\or a redo. Had Lisa Arnold had a better team surrounding her in the production of this movie, it could have reached its full potential. Quality control is the real issue here—the tools are there, but they are not placed in the right hands. In the future, we hope to see Lisa Arnold recruit people who can help bring her intriguing plots to life.