Modern Prodigal (Movie Review)

Modern Prodigal (2019) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Brian Sanderson is an investigative reports who’s addicted to painkillers and never ceases in his quest to solve the mystery of his son’s untimely death to the same drug he’s hooked on. Even though his obsessions cause him to lose his dream job, Brian will stop at nothing to discover the truth of what really happened while also wrestling the demons inside his head. Ultimately, Brian will have to confront his dark past in order to face the future.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

After an odd opening sequences that seems to suggest Modern Prodigal is part of a crime series, weird gray lighting seems to dominate much of the film. Audio quality is also an issues as there are some obvious background sounds as well as too much dead air, even if the little soundtrack therein has some potential. Sets, locations, and props are are bit cheap-looking, and there are some unnecessarily tight shots and instances stationary camera work. Furthermore, the editing leaves something to be desired with awkward cuts and transitions, but the good news is that the production takes a turn for the better in the film’s second half that amends a lot of the earlier errors. However, this is only enough to raise this section to the halfway mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the characters are one of the strongest aspects of Modern Prodigal as some of them possess subtle characteristics that make them come off as relatable and human; their dialogue is also not all bad since it establishes them as imperfect people. However, while some conversations are quite good, others are too obvious and over the top. Nonetheless, the narrative makes fairly good use of mystery concepts throughout the plot progression and does a reasonable job at concealing important facts and revealing them bit by bit throughout the film. While there are plenty of positive aspects, there are also nagging concerns with this story, such as the fact that it’s trying to cover too much ground in one screenplay. Much of its content would have been better suited for a series, and a sudden massive time jump at the movie’s conclusion leaves the viewer somewhat confused. Nevertheless, Modern Prodigal offers a lot of hope for this writing team’s future potential.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, the good aspects of this film’s plot are detracted from by a lot of over-acting in many of the screenplay’s important scenes. This includes quite a bit of overdone emotional performances and forced line delivery. While there is some good in this section, such as some good supporting cast members and better acting in the less dramatic scenes, better coaching could have lifted Modern Prodigal to a better level.

Conclusion

This film joins a sizable collection of Christian creations that had a lot going for them but never made the next step in to greatness. Much of this shortfall is due to financial constraints, but a lot of it can be blamed on a lack of collaboration or a tendency to force something to happen before it’s time. Ideas were never meant to be carried out alone, and sometimes, it’s just not the right season for them. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see what this creative team offers next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Dream Motel, Season 1 (Series Review)

Watch The Dream Motel | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Jesse and Matteo are angels who have been assigned to do various tasks on earth, one of which is to fix up an old motel in rural Georgia so that they can win the spiritual war of owning buildings around the world. If the angels can own enough buildings, they can apparently lead more people to salvation, but if the demons in disguise keep taking over God’s properties, they’ll somehow be able to bring more darkness to the earth. Can Jesse and Matteo stop them one motel guest at a time?

Production Quality (1 point)

Although the video quality and camera work are mostly fine in The Dream Motel, save for a few shaky action shots, there aren’t many other positives to point out here. Audio quality is too inconsistent, including annoying background sounds, and there’s basically no soundtrack at all. Also, outdoor lighting is fairly poor, and the sets, locations, and props are often cheap to the point of not even representing what they’re supposed to represent. Further, there’s no real editing or transitions throughout the season, and there some awkward fadeout moments. To top things off, there are bad special effects throughout, which rounds out a mediocre effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Besides the fact that The Dream Motel is a boring stock plot based on robotic dialogue and wooden characters, the world constructed in the premier and finale episodes makes no sense at all for a number of reasons. For one, it’s unclear from Scripture whether or not angels have emotions or free will to wrestle with various philosophical issues like these characters do. For another, why would God need magical locations around the world to do His bidding, and how could demons steal them without His allowance? How are atheism and secularism powerful enough to halt Christ’s will? Why would demons even have an interest in stealing magic buildings rather than actual people? These premise problems aside, the villain is stupidly obvious, some of the characters seem unnecessarily outraged at logical things, the narrative incorrectly portrays realistic circumstances involving HIPAA protection, and it’s downright creepy to have smiling angels tell humans private things about the people. It feels like this storyline exists outside of reality even though scenes drag on as lines are painfully dragged out of the characters, who talk in circles to fill the runtime, and although boring activities of daily living, expository dialogue, and off-screen content make The Dream Motel seem like most poorly crafted Christian entertainment. With basically no personality or motive for the characters and far too many coincidences to hold up the plot, this series is just a collection of disasters.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Having very stilted and overly practiced acting is almost a given when it comes to Rossetti Productions, and The Dream Motel doesn’t disappoint. Using the patented Rossetti style of basically reading lines for a church play, the cast members exhibit forced wooden emotions that make the viewers think that the actors and actresses don’t actually care about what they’re doing. Some cast members seem unnatural or even uncomfortable in their roles, and a portion of the theatrical annunciation is off-kilter. Many scenes feel like one-takes as some actors and actresses appear to forget their lines in some instances and awkwardly grasp for something to share that can fill the blank silence. Essentially, there’s nothing positive to note in this section.

Continuity Quality (1 point)

Following a predictably typical series model, The Dream Motel offers premier and finale episodes that depart from the norm while all the between episodes are standard recurring dramas that introduce characters only to discard them before the credits roll. Concepts explored in the pilot aren’t returned to until the last episode, which concludes with a cheesy cliffhanger ending. While this section isn’t all bad due to some recurring subplots among the main characters, it’s still a run-of-the-mill offering with missed opportunities for continuity.

Conclusion

There are just so many things wrong with The Dream Motel from the get-go. Basically a redux of The Encounter, only with angels, this Rossetti series is based on illogical and questionable concepts yet still commits errors beyond this. Even the best ideas can be easily derailed by poor storytelling, low production quality, and abysmal acting. With so much experience under their belt and a trailed of wasted opportunities, it’s hard to know where the Rossetti Productions team is headed at this point, but this series is definitely not worth your time.

Final Rating: 2 out of 14 points

Heavens to Betsy 2 (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

After Betsy had a unique experience in which God allowed her to live in an alternate version of her life due to her pleadings, she was able to return to her normal life and chronicle her journey under the guise of a fictional work. Her novel made her moderately famous overnight and even attracted unexpected attention from publishers and media outlets. However, this new popularity will come at a price as Betsy will have to decide if she’s going to come clean about the true origins of her story.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although it’s a 2019 production and should be higher quality than this, Heavens to Betsy 2 is a mostly average one. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine and standard, but the soundtrack is generic and cheesy. The sets, locations, and props are fairly limited and come off as cheap. The editing is very basic as it presents the content at face value without any complex techniques. As a whole, it’s a very pedestrian offering that is neither good nor bad, yet it really doesn’t have a place in the current entertainment field. To top things off, silly magical elements really put the nail in the coffin for this plot that was really doomed from the start.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

After a long rehashing of the previous film many people don’t know about, this unnecessary sequel launches into expectedly cringeworthy comedic sequences very similar to the ones we saw in the first one. Much of the dialogue is trying way too hard to be funny, and many of the scenes are downright pointless. As if it doesn’t have anything better to do, this installment decides to go down a localized media persecution rabbit hole in order to keep the story on life support. However, this idea comes off all wrong as the ‘villain’ character is actually remotely funny for the right reasons. It’s commendable for a Christian creator to want to create a universe of characters, but are these the ones people really want to know better? There are too many coincidences in this story-world as everyone knows about the main character’s book, and lot of the conversations feel dragged out and inflated for runtime purposes. The storyline is overall aimless and lacks substantial themes as it just presents a random collection of scenes that don’t seem fully rooted in reality. In a somewhat bizarre concluding sequence, the screenwriters appear to address the logical problems of the first film, but the explanations only create more questions and inconsistencies.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the production, the acting of Heavens to Betsy 2 is very run-of-the-mill and expected. Some cast members tend to overdo their roles and overplay their emotions while others appear unsure of what they’re doing. In the end, with no dynamic performances or standout roles either good or bad, this section also gets an average rating.

Conclusion

One big question we have to ask about this film is why it was even made. Rarely is a sequel justified, especially when the original film was so low-key. Sequels should be about exploring new horizons with characters who are already well-developed and deserve further screentime. Unfortunately, films like Heavens to Betsy 1 and 2 don’t rally have much to offer and will easily be forgotten as time goes on. If screenwriters are interested in trying to develop characters over time, a series would likely be a better forum for this venture.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Grace and Gravity (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

While on a business trip in the United Kingdom, an American man takes a photography hike only to be shocked by a man waiting on a bridge who intends to jump to his death. The American decides to awkwardly climb up the impossibly tall bridge with no other way to get on it, for he intends to share the Gospel with the British man before he ends it all. However, the American doesn’t know what he’s in for as the two men embark on the longest quasi-philosophical debate involving Bruce Marchiano since the original Encounter film.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Since it has very limited sets, locations, and props, Grace and Gravity doesn’t make any major mistakes in the production category, but it doesn’t make any waves either. Video quality and audio quality are both fine accordingly, yet the soundtrack is very generic. Camera work is also adequate, but the presence of weird technological sound effects and other cheap elements put a drag on things. To cap things off, the editing is very basic and almost non-existent, which essentially gives us an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Did we really need another film that’s basically a long-winded conversation between Bruce Marchiano and another person? It’s bad enough that this movie is full of forced dialogue and long, drawn-out portions, but there’s hardly anything to this so-called plot. It’s intent on kicking the can down the road by wasting time as it grasps for content and produces menial flashbacks that give us little insight into character motive. While there are some slight attempts at talking about real issues, they come off as inadequate and empty. This idea is awkwardly forced to be something it’s not as there are a handful of totally dead scenes, which makes the story very fruitless as it slogs on. Further, the worldview is bit odd, and the ending sequence is highly unusual and unrealistic. In summary, with no characters to work with in a character-based plot, we’re left with a lame attempt to do something (not sure what).

Acting Quality (0 points)

With only two main cast members, they carry the weight of the film. Unfortunately, they fumble the ball often. While Marchiano is slightly better than past roles, his delivery still comes off as overly theatrical and practiced. The acting as a whole is very stilted and cardboard. There are too many scenes of only one or two cast members doing all the talking, and there are some cringe-worthy sequences of painfully forced emotions. In the end, this rounds out a very disappointing effort that had little going for it.

Conclusion

Grace and Gravity really is just another version of The Encounter, just without an obvious Jesus character. It seems like Bruce Marchiano always includes his contract that he needs a certain amount of speaking time in the film, including a hefty imparting of wisdom (see The Encounter 2 and Alison’s Choice). To many audiences, this delivery of content will be very off-putting and appear purposeless. There just isn’t anything substantial for this film to offer beyond half-baked philosophical explorations that do little to relate to the struggles of real people.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Christmas Ranch (Movie Review)

What?? A horse movie without the horse’s name in the title??

Plot Summary

Lizzy is a bad teenager girl whom her parents can’t handle during the holiday break, so they sentence her to live with her aunt on her remote and rural horse farm during the Christmas break.  Her parents are always busy with work, and Lizzy hates being somewhere that doesn’t have good cell phone coverage.  To make matters worse, Lizzy discovers that her aunt is about to default on her mortgage, which is due for payment for Christmas Eve!!!!!  Thus, Lizzy suddenly makes a miraculous behavioral change and teams up with a local country boy to save the day!

Production Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, it appears as though thought and effort were put into this production, which is evidenced by fine video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The sets, locations, and props are fine, although they could be a bit more engaging.  However, the soundtrack is fairly generic, and there are constant Christmas chimes sound effects that litter the listening experience.  Further, editing is just average, which rounds a good production on paper, but it simply doesn’t do enough to be truly transformational.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Has this plot seriously never been done before?!?  This is seriously one of the worst plot stereotypes featuring one of the worst character stereotypes as a bad teenage girl is forced to live in the country on a horse farm with no cell phone coverage, where she meets a local country guy.  Said teenage girl hates everything until she’s magically fixed by the horse and the guy, and there’s also a save-the-farm-with-a-racehorse plot to boot.  Seriously, since when are mortgages due on Christmas Eve?  Besides the fact that this story has been done before and has no potential, the dialogue is extremely uninspiring, which causes the characters to be flat and cardboard.  Since the plot always has everything going wrong with it, the best a screenwriter can do is at least attempt to craft good characters using engaging conversations, flashbacks, and motives, but, of course, this is not done.  On top of this, the corny Christmas premise of this plot is forced, as if they decided to add it in at the last minute; further, the Christian messages are awkwardly inserted into the film.  ‘Bad’ characters are magically fixed when the plot needs to them to be without any real arcs, and the runtime is filled up with training montages until everything is perfectly fixed in the last 10-15 minutes.  Basically, there’s not much good to mention here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While some cast members in this film are fine, others are drab, and this movie has some of the worst teenager acting ever.  Emotions are extremely forced, and line delivery seems very unnatural.  However, there are enough okay portions of this section to warrant an even score, but it isn’t enough to save this movie from itself.

Conclusion

What is truly gained in films like these?  Rehashing and reusing same-old, worn-out story ideas is a drag on the industry.  Rather than force and rush through another half-baked idea, we need future Christian film makers to give us truly dynamic entertainment that’s rooted in high quality productions, engaging storylines, and authentic acting.  Otherwise, we’re not making any difference at all.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

In Gramps’ Shoes (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ty is a 65-year-old retired grandfather, and he is passionate about running.  He is also passionate about praying for his estranged daughter, whom he has not heard from in nearly twenty years.  Therefore, when he suddenly hears from her one day, he is overjoyed.  She reaches out to him for financial help, so he agrees to move in with her and her teenage children to help be a father figure for them.  However, they are skeptical of Ty at first; will they be able to come around and trust God?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Its small budget aside, In Gramps’ Shoes has an unacceptably poor production.  While video quality is fine, the camera work is too stationary, and audio quality is very static and low quality, especially with the terrible outside sounds.  The soundtrack is very generic and almost non-existent.  Further, the indoor sets are fairly cheap and limited, even though the outdoor locations are okay.  Finally, there is basically no editing present in this production.  Essentially, though this production was relatively simple, it’s still low quality for no good reason.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Basing a movie around an annoyingly perfect Christian protagonist who fixes everything he touches is never a winning formula for a movie, but that’s what In Gramps’ Shoes has done.  This is done through very obvious and forceful dialogue that shoves cheesy messaging down your throat, even though the storyline is very vague and meandering without any clear purpose or direction except to force good-ole-days fundamentalism on you.  The non-Christian characters are total strawmen, and the Christian message is very trite.  Too many sequences of this film are just characters sitting around talking about what their characters are supposed to represent rather than using the dialogue to develop the characters.  At that, this film is far too long to have no substantial content or ideas contained within it.  Thus, it’s basically a complete waste of time.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Full of typical Rossetti cast members, this group acts very robotic and overly practiced a majority of the time.  Some cast members are downright annoying, and there is a lot of poor teen acting throughout.  There are some slightly positive moments that keep this section from being zero, but on the whole, like the rest of this film, it’s all very low quality.

Conclusion

It seems like the only purpose of awful films like this one is to push an unpopular message or personal agenda.  We apparently needed another movie like this, so here it is.  In the more modern era of Christian entertainment, low-quality films like this one are unacceptable and mostly unwelcome, unless they have a really good plot to share, which is certainly not the case with this film.  Thus, In Gramps’ Shoes should be forgotten.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Daughters (Post-Production)

Currently in post-production

From Rossetti Productions

 

Writer(s): John Cooper, Chip Rossetti

Director(s): Chip Rossetti

Producer(s): Chip Rossetti, Jeff Rose

Starring: Gregory Alan Williams, Francine Locke, Torry Martin, Jeff Rose, Shannen Fields, Andrew Masset, Doris Collier, Tracy Goode, Brittany Mann, Riley Bundick, Cledus T. Judd, Collin Alexander Brown, Donna Botts

 

Plot Synopsis:

Joel and Megan Graham have been happily married for almost 20 years. High school sweethearts since freshman year, they knew they were meant to be together. Just two years into their marriage, they were blessed with their first baby daughter, Genie. It was always Joel’s dream to have a son, so they kept trying. After two more daughters, they decided that having a son just wasn’t meant to be. So they settled into their lives as parents to three beautiful daughters. Over the last year, however, Joel and Megan have been getting tested at every turn. Genie has become an out of control, rebellious teen. Ten year old Katie has been having trouble in school, having issues with anger management and she can’t seem to control her temper. Three year old Sidney always seems to be sick. We are told that God will never give us more then we can handle. The Grahams are about to find out that He will always test the limits of what we can handle. The greatest thing a person can be in life is a parent. Something tells me that person never had three daughters.