Pray 2: The Woods (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Laurie Curtis survives her harrowing night being stalked by an evil man, she writes a book about her experience and becomes an instantly popular bestseller.  She goes on talk shows and stuff, but little does she know that she is about to be captured again by her nemesis.  Meanwhile, some random youth group is having a camp retreat and they encounter the same evil she does.  Will they be able to run, hide, and pray?

 

Production Quality (-2 points)

The second installment of this deplorable series is just as bad as the first.  Production is still horrible in every way—video quality is bad and lighting is awful.  Audio quality is still a bust, including a loud, creepy soundtrack and bizarre sound effects throughout.  Camera work looks like a camcorder is mounted on someone’s head while they’re running and walking around.  Sets, locations, and props are as bad as can be expected.  Finally, there is once again no editing.  We are still very unsure what the intent of this series is, but it’s setting records for consistently horrible production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Besides this film’s rehashing and shameless plugging of Pray 1, there is little plot content in this film except for constant forced suspense, talk show sequences, and sequences of random dialogue and activities of daily living.  It’s basically in the same vein of the first installment, just with some different characters and ideas.  The villain character is still a total joke and there are no attempts at all to make the protagonists seem real or even remotely interesting.  There really isn’t even a plot to speak of here, which warrants more negative points.  If you were wondering, the ending of this film is a blatant attempt to get a third installment, which unfortunately worked.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Though this acting job is not as bad as the first, it still doesn’t have anything going for it.  The performances are either flat or over the top in attempts to be interesting.  We get to see more of the villain actor, which isn’t a good thing.  In the end, the Pray Trilogy is going down as one of the most half-cocked, nonsensical experiences in Christian film.

Conclusion

If you fail at something, try a little harder next time.  I guess they did try harder in Pray 2, but they’re still not out of the red.  If something is bad the first time, don’t make three versions of it.  Yet apparently, nobody told this team that what they are making is garbage, because we need more Christian films or something.  Actually, we need more quality Christian films, not trash like this.  Flooding the market with this yard sale fodder isn’t going to cut it.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

Mandie and the Forgotten Christmas (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When she’s sent with her friends to boarding school to become ‘proper ladies and gentlemen’, Mandie Shaw and crew stumble upon an attic full of Christmas secrets of years gone by.  But another girl is determined to get them in trouble for snooping around.  Yet Mandie is equally determined to find out the important information behind a room full of Christmas junk.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Though there was some effort put in here, Mandie and the Forgotten Christmas embraces its childish identity too much.  The entire production has an overall plastic feel to it, as the video quality looks like it’s been adjusted in post-production.  The lighting is all wrong and camera work is very amateurish.  Some of the audio sounds like it’s been over-dubbed while other parts are very echoed.  The soundtrack is very cheesy and the audience is forced to listen to all kinds of stupid Christmas sound effects throughout.  There is virtually no editing present as the story meanders around aimlessly.  Essentially, the Mandie trilogy has digressed as it has gone on.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, there is little to no focus in this plot as the viewer is forced to sit through one choppy scene after another.  The dialogue is very stilted and over-practiced, like a bad church play.  The characters are quite plastic and scream ‘children’s book characters’ with every line and action.  We realize this was adapted from a children’s book, but it doesn’t have to be like this.  The events that happen are not terribly realistic and seem to exist in a magical alternate world.  Also, the ending is as cheesy as can be expected.  Essentially, there’s really nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Really, what’s the point of casting David Blamy as a different character in this installment than he was in the first two installments?  It’s extremely confusing and gives off the impression that they can’t find anybody else to cast in these films.  Besides this, changing lead actresses in the midst of a trilogy\saga is never a good idea.  In other respects, this cast is really not any good at acting and acting coaching is absent.  As previously mentioned, this is just a bad church play.

Conclusion

As the Mandie series comes to a pathetic conclusion (maybe?), we have to reflect on what was truly accomplished in this saga.  There was some potential early on, but it quickly faded away.  We have to wonder if there was any justification for bringing this books to film, as the movies likely hurt the reputation of the children’s series.  We’re sure that the creators meant well, but maybe some advice seeking was in order.  Ambition is great, but delivering well is even better.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Mandie and the Cherokee Treasure (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Against the wishes of her Uncle John, Mandie Shaw and her friends decide to ‘assist’ him in his quest to find a hidden cave containing lost Cherokee treasure.  But when they stow away on a train for their adventure, Mandie and her friends soon discover that they are not the only ones after the coveted goods.  A mysterious mountain man (?) and two troublemakers are also searching for the cave for their own purposes.  If they are ever going to keep the treasure from falling into the wrong hands, Mandie and her friends will need to procure a scrubber (?) and brave bats and low oxygen levels in the secret mine shaft, using only memorized poetry from some old map to guide them.  Will they be able to get the treasure for themselves or will it fall into the wrong hands?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

It must be noted that Mandie and the Cherokee Treasure is worse than the first installment, Mandie and the Secret Tunnel.  This isn’t good at all for the production team, considering Secret Tunnel wasn’t that great to begin with.  More corners are cut in Cherokee Treasure and the strained budget is painfully obvious.  With such low funding, was this movie even worth making?  The only positive about the production is the diverse sets.  The camera work is amateurish, the video quality is sub-par, and the sound quality is inconsistent.  Background noises litter the landscape, especially in outside scenes.  The soundtrack is hideous and there are obvious continuity errors, such as characters doing one thing before a cut and then doing something different after the cut.  There is an overall unrealistic feel to the movie, including poorly constructed scenes.  The editing is hard to follow, making the storyline confusing.  In short, it’s really hard to even justify the existence of this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The original novels of Lois Gladys Leppard have been marred by the movie adaptations.  The only shred of positive in the plot is the slightly interesting twist at the end of this film.  Otherwise, it’s unbearable.  Characters are more ridiculous than ever, with childish dialogue and stupid portrayals.  The characters are obvious, exaggerated, and stereotypical.  The storyline is nonsensical and is historically and technologically questionable.  There is no real driving purpose to this movie; the Christian message is either watered down or made to look clownish.  As previously mentioned, the story is hard to follow, defies logic, and isolates the audience into either boredom or light comic relief.  Whatever the writers were going for is unclear; this plot should have never left the storyboarding stage, if they had one.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This film ranks among the worst casting\coaching jobs in Christian film making, flirting with the possibility of negative points.  Line delivery is either lazy or completely overdone.  Emotions are exaggerated to the point of making the viewer believe this is a satire.  Perhaps the most ridiculous element to the acting is the fact that the audience is supposed to believe at first that one of the characters is a man, when they are obviously a woman with terrible acting skills.  It is ‘shockingly’ revealed later that this character was just pretending, but only after everyone has figure it out.

Conclusion

If the creators of this movie were going for a clown show to make fun of the original books, it worked.  If they were not intentionally making a satire, then the creative team needs to seriously reconsider their calling in life and think about how their film making comes off.  It would have been better for movies like this to have never been made, because such films only further contribute to the laughingstock of independent Christian films.  Quality always, always, always matters more than quantity.  Were half of all Christian films never made, we would all be very grateful, especially if we missed out on gems like this one.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Mandie and the Secret Tunnel (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When her father dies, Mandie Shaw is forced to live with her mother who doesn’t like her.  Therefore, she decides to run away and try to find her elusive Uncle John.  With the help of her Cherokee native friends, she discovers his estate and is taken in by his staff.  However, she receives the devastating news that her uncle is also dead.  After more emotional turmoil, Mandie decides to join in the search for her uncle’s mysterious will in order to determine who is the heir to the estate.  As they do so, however, more and more unusual characters begin appearing, obviously in search of the will for their own gain.  Mandie and her new friends must band together and discover the will before it’s too late.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Mandie and the Secret Tunnel is obviously a low budget production.  Thankfully, the money was at least spent on cameras, for the video quality and camera work are the best production elements.  Otherwise, it’s pretty raw.  There is some potential, however, if you can endure the grating soundtrack, the inconsistent sound quality, the limited surroundings, and the sloppy editing.  When it comes to production, Secret Tunnel is not the worst of the worst, but it really doesn’t have much going for it either.  Yet for a low budget production, it’s definitely commendable.  Were this the weakest area of the film, it would be understandable.  But alas, it’s not.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Adapted from books by Christian children’s author Lois Gladys Sheppard, this should have been an interesting plot.  The premise of the books is unique and definitely deserved a movie.  However, Secret Tunnel just doesn’t cut it.  From start to finish, the plot is confusing and key elements are understated.  Character development is very inconsistent and dialogue ranges from slightly comedic to downright childish.  Every character has a lot of potential that needs deepening.  This could have been a really well-done character-driven plot with witty dialogue, but that ship never sails.  This ‘treasure hunt’ plot sputters and wastes time before jumping to a slightly interesting conclusion.  On its face, this plot should be way better than it is.  Low budget production can be excused, but bungling an above average plot like this one is inexcusable.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Probably the worst element of this film, the acting is very poorly coached, if at all.  It seems like this cast has potential and could even be funny, but they have no clear direction and just say things awkwardly.  A handful of them are quite professional on their own, the rest really drag down the score.  Emotional delivery is inconsistent and at times, the delivery of lines if very forced.  Overall, casting needed a rework.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, Secret Tunnel is forced to join the ranks of movies that wasted good ideas.  Christian novels should be adapted to more movies than they are, but it must be done so properly.  For a first film, we are likely to excuse production errors that pertain to poor funding, but bungling a plot and poorly coaching a cast are fundamental errors are all levels of movie-making, no matter how much money is sunk into the project.  If you are a Christian film maker or an aspiring one, please heed this advice: before charging ahead for the sake of making another Christian movie, take time to work on your plot, making the characters deep and believable and the plot as realistically complex as possible.  For a virgin voyage, cheap production can be excused; just make sure your plot is sound and your cast doesn’t ruin your film.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

War Room (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Elizabeth Jordan, on the surface, has an ideal life—a good job, an expensive house, a husband with a high salary, and a nice daughter.  However, something isn’t right, something is just missing.  She can’t really seem to get along with her husband anymore, he seems distant and preoccupied with other women, and she barely knows her daughter anymore.  Everything changes for Elizabeth when she meets her new realty client, Miss Clara.  Miss Clara subtlety pricks into Elizabeth’s personal life just enough to make Elizabeth interested in finding out what Miss Clara’s secret to happiness is.  After talking long enough, Elizabeth discovers that her life is not alright and that Miss Clara’s secret weapon is worth a try.  The secret weapon?  A war room, or a prayer closet.  Miss Clara teaches Elizabeth to fight for herself and for her family on her knees so that God can fight for her rather than her fighting for herself.  Little did they know that the battle had only begun.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

In the same vein as Courageous, the production quality of War Room is high.  Despite this being the first Kendrick movie away from Sherwood Baptist Church, nothing in the area of production quality changed between Courageous and War Room.  While there are no real action scenes in War Room, the diversity of sets is still present.  The soundtrack fits into the film neatly.  The editing and the production give the movie a close to home feel, which seems to be what the creators were going for.  In short, this is business as usual for the Kendricks.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The plot of War Room follows a typical non-linear Kendrick plot with minor twists and turns—one that defies conventional plot structure.  In the beginning, the plot depicts realistic struggles of accessible characters paired with a clear Christian message, which is a hallmark of the Kendrick brand.  Dialogue is mostly effective in building character motive and driving character arcs, and the message is obviously a powerful one, but there is a point where the storyline of this film overstays its welcome through multiple moments that seem like the end and through stop-and-start sequences that lag on a bit too long with the purpose of driving home how the characters have become seemingly perfect.  Thus, while there is plenty of good in this plot and while there is no doubt of the film’s success, we needed a bit more realism in the arcs of the characters.  However, the message of War Room is still worthwhile.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

In the first movie away from the Sherwood acting pool, there are no concerns here.  The actors behave just as all actors do under the tutelage of a Kendrick movie crew.  The delivery of lines is solid and the emotions are believable.  This type of movie is heavily dependent on the acting quality, and they did not disappoint.  A continued under-appreciated aspect of Kendrick films is their commitment to diversity of casting.  This is huge, since Christian movies should be better than mainstream movies.

Conclusion

The Kendricks have a brand, and they are sticking with it.  War Room feels like a redux of Fireproof with better cast members and a less textbook message, but the up-and-down career of the Kendricks continues in this rendition.  They know their audience, they have the marketing skills down, and they have the name recognition to basically do whatever they want from here on out and still have box office success.  War Room takes another spot on the Hall of Fame, but we have to wonder if the Kendricks will branch out in their post-Sherwood career or if they will continue to churn out more high-quality but safe films.  We are banking on the latter, but we will be looking for them to do something more creative in their next film.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points