The Congregation: The Hip Hop Gospel Church [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Church of Truth is gearing up for their new pastor—they tend to go through pastors constantly due to the scandals the pastors create for themselves.  Now the few members that are left do not trust the incoming pastor due to the antics of the previous one, so they have banded together to take their church back.  However, as usual, things do not go as they originally planned.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

It’s very difficult to discern what the creators of this film were exactly going for.  The production is one of the most unique and strange we have witnessed.  Though video quality is fine, this is the only good element of the entire film.  Lighting is weird throughout the film and camera work is extremely dizzying.  Audio quality is below par and the soundtrack is quite annoying.  Sets, locations, and props are very cheap and limited.  Finally, the editing and presentation style are off-the-wall and juvenile.  There is really little justification for the way this film is presented, which is why no one has tried to do it this way before.  Essentially, it’s hard to see the justification for this movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This movie is dominated by an absurd and obnoxious live narration trope that directs the main character to constantly interject her comments and lengthy explanations.  This plot device to truly the worst.  But even without this, the few characters that there are very annoying and over the top due to head-scratching and forced comedy dialogue.  None of it is funny—it’s not even unintentionally funny—which makes the entire movie a drag.  The storyline just continually slogs on with meandering and wearing conversations that never really go anywhere or serve any purpose except for the prolonging of this madness.  The plot scope is very limited and it’s once again extremely difficult to justify this film’s existence.  How these sorts of things are continually made is beyond us.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As can be expected, in keeping with the rest of this film’s elements, the acting is overdone, juvenile, forceful, and mostly annoying.  Cast members take their characters to the emotional and ‘comedic’ extremes and lines are forced in very awkward ways.  If this cast meant well, it’s difficult to tell.  However, it is clear that no coaching was present here, thus round out a very wasted effort.

Conclusion

It is increasingly unclear what the creators of this film were going for when they decided to make this.  This idea is barely long enough to sustain a feature length film and it’s certainly not one that ever needs to be repeated.  These sorts of films continue to serve as an embarrassment to Christian movies, but hopefully they will soon be forgotten and their mistakes can be learned from.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

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Set Free [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Danielle relocates to Pittsburgh after her husband dies, she hopes to find a new life for her and her college-age son.  However, the more she tries to run from her past, the more it catches up with her and finds her.  She must have the courage to tell the truth to her son before it’s too late, but will her friends still accept her after she comes clean?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

As a first-time church-based production, funding was obviously limited for this film, which always has a trickle-down effect.  Video quality is fine, but it is the only bright spot in the production.  Camera work leaves something to be desired, as does audio quality and the soundtrack.  Sets and locations are quite limited, which is somewhat understandable, but props also suffer.  Finally, there is no editing work done in this film as scenes cut and transition often without warning and before they seem like they should be over.  In the end, this is another one of those productions that reflects a lack of proper application, regardless of funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

What is this movie about?  Not even the plot summary above sums it up properly.  Nothing really happens in this odd story until the end when a head-scratching twist is revealed.  There are too many characters in this plot, which makes the constantly changing scenes even more confusing.  The audience never knows where the characters are at any given moment or how much time has actually passed since the last scene.  Thus, there is absolutely no continuity, flow, or purpose in this so-called storyline.  There are some realistic issues and circumstances presented, but all in the wrong ways.  In the end, the twist at the end is just too strange, even though some may be able to relate to it.  This entire story needed a total rewrite.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The acting in this film is actually not as bad as it could be, although there are plenty of amateurish moments.  Emotions are sometimes believable but line delivery is too inconsistent.  Yet these cast members show that they have some potential.

Conclusion

It seems like that this creative team meant well in making this film, even if the delivery is bit misguided.  It’s great to be honest and authentic with the struggles of Christians, but they need to be presented in a way that people can understand, without constant confusion as to what is happening.  Low-budget productions can be forgiven for a time, as long as the film making team can prove that they can craft a creative and unique plot with believable characters.  Otherwise, there is not much point in making a movie.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Remember [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Carl Onoway is a captain in the new world army and is constantly tasked with making sure the new laws are enforced.  Children are not allowed to be raised by their parents and can only be raised by qualified professionals.  Everyone is required to take weekly medication to make them forget about their pasts and what has happened.  Propaganda, such as religious materials, is not allowed.  But what happens when these rules begin to be disobeyed?  What happens when Carl and his wife begin to remember the past?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Here’s a good rule of thumb for production: if you don’t have the budget to make it good, don’t make it at all.  This is especially true for sci-fi\speculative dystopian productions.  These types of projects require a lot of funding to create proper special effects, props, sets, and locations.  Unfortunately, Remember does not have what it takes in this department.  Audio quality is especially horrific, with lots of echoes and background noises.  Lighting is very inconsistent, with a lot of the outside scenes inordinately bright.  Camera work is very shaky and video quality is inconsistent.  Sets, locations, and props are very cheap-looking, with obvious low-quality special effects and animation riding on top of them.  The editing is lazy as it includes constant useless time subtitles and repeated sequences.  In the end, this is one of those nightmare productions that should have never been released to the public.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Much like the propaganda pushed in the plot of this film, the writers obviously had their own agenda in making this movie.  Otherwise, there’s no reason for its creation.  The dystopian premise constructed here is extremely absurd and juvenile as the viewer is constantly reminded that kids cannot be raised by their parents in this world but is given no realistic explanation as to why.  This is combined with constant obvious references to how the natural family structure is attacked in this dystopian world.  Rather than create meaningful characters, time is filled with message-pushing and repeating the same activities over and over again.  The villains are laughable and the protagonists are plastic.  As the story meanders and repeats itself, it still follows a predictable progression with a typical suspense climax scene.  Basically, what appears to be a convoluted idea just boils down to a typical plot structure with no real surprises.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Another grave error of a poorly-funded dystopian thriller is terrible costuming, and Remember sports this quality.  In an attempt to be futuristic, the costuming is very cheap and rushed.  As for the acting, line delivery is very half-hearted while emotional delivery is very forced and sometimes over the top.  Once again, this is another swing and a miss.

Conclusion

We desperately need new genre-breaking films in the Christian market, but this is just not the way.  What could be better than a well-funded, well-constructed dystopian thriller with a Christian worldview that’s not too pushy?  Unfortunately, Remember’s attempt to do this totally failed.  Maybe the creative team should have saved their money a bit more or made a dystopian short film just to get the ball rolling.  We know that funding an independent Christian film is very difficult, especially starting out, but that doesn’t mean you need to bite off more than you can chew.  There is no shame in doing the best you can with what you have.  Unfortunately, Remember is not the best.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

The Widow’s Might (Movie Review)

Please stop singing

Plot Summary

The widow Grace Jackson is being persecuted by a small Texas town local government—her property has been valued too high, thus causing her taxes to skyrocket.  To make matters worse, the incumbent mayor will have nothing to do with it.  Will the injustice in America ever end?  Thus, two aspiring filmmakers take it upon themselves to create a western musical about Grace’s plight, which is the most natural thing you would do in this situation.  But the mayor’s nephew, a corrupt media figure, is trying to undermine them at every turn.  Will their film be able to make the case to free Grace from her persecution, or will the liberal media win out?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For starters, at least the HeuMoore team put some thought into how their movie looked, whatever you may think about it.  Video quality is fine and camera work is professional.  Sets and locations are decent enough, but some of the props are slightly cheesy.  Audio quality is fine, but the original soundtrack, which includes characters literally singing, is atrocious.  Not only is the singing bad, the lyrics are absurd.  One of the songs is actually five minutes long and is extremely painful.  Elsewhere, the editing isn’t really that impressive as scenes cut off awkwardly and transitions are hard to follow.  In the end, though this production looks good on the outside, the beauty is only skin deep.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It is very difficult to take this plot seriously because of its musical elements and because of its basically patriarchal fundamentalist Christian worldview.  While the issue discussed therein has some basis in reality, its presentation is very poor and its messaging is too in-your-face.  The dialogue that isn’t sung comes off as manufactured, thus creating very cardboard characters.  The ‘villains’ are extremely cheesy strawmen.  There is too much fake outrage that attempts to fuel this half-baked nearly-propaganda piece.  Whatever point is trying to be driven home here is too easily lost and generally contributes to a further negative view of Christian entertainment.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Consisting of a mostly amateur cast, there are some talented performances here, but a lot of the emotions are seemingly ingenuine and overly practiced.  Line delivery is very measured and stilted.  Costuming and makeup is not the best.  Also, did we mention the singing?  Overall, this is neither the worst nor the best performance.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, you can tell without asking what this film group is trying to push.  While they are not as extreme as some, they tend to push fundamentalism in its usual unpalatable forms.  Women are cast in a silently offensive light and opposing viewpoints are made a mockery of.  Even though The Widow’s Might is not even as blatant as some fundamentalist propaganda (see Last Ounce of Courage), it still has its undeniable elements and its fixation on subjective traditionalism.  However, it seems like the makers of this film have moved on from this worldview, which is a breath of fresh air.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Edit: The review was edited to reflect accuracy, as brought to light by the film maker.

The Adventures of Chris Fable {The Wylds} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chris Fable is a thief and feels like he can’t be anything else.  He lives in a junkyard and is enslaved by a con artist, but one day, he stumbles onto an opportunity to lead a new life.  Though he is reluctant at first, he decides to take a chance and try something new.  Thus, he and his friend embark on a journey that changes their life forever.  On their way to freedom, the companions encounter weird looking bugs, loud noises, shaking trees, a freaky CGI city, and a giant stomping robot.  The question is not will they make it, but will we ever make it to end of this movie?

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

Although this film has clear video quality, this good production element is drowned out by all the utterly terrible elements that accompany it.  Camera work is awful as the screen shakes all around like someone is literally running with a camcorder.  The soundtrack is ridiculously loud and annoying, making for a nearly unbearable experience.  Sets, locations, and props are extremely cheap and special effects are positively medieval, including horrid CGI.  There are also overpowering sound effects throughout.  Finally, editing is as bad as can be expected.  Essentially, this is one of the worst productions since Final: The Rapture and warrants negative points for the horrible experience the audience is forced to endure.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The Adventures of Chris Fable is very loosely based on the concept of Pilgrim’s Progress, mostly ripping off the quest idea and some of the character names.  Yet there is basically no plot as empty, cardboard-cutout, and stereotypical characters wander from one thing to the next.  While this type of fantasy story could have been interesting, the entire storyline was written for an idea that never materialized.  Many elements, especially dialogue, are very childish and empty.  Chris Fable gives the impression that this is a kids’ movie, but it never really commits to this concept.  This indecision only makes matters worse.  In short, this film has no idea what it’s trying to go for as it pursues an obscure idea of a remake that never really comes to fruition.  Somebody needed to step back during the storyboarding (if they had any) of this film and really think about what they were doing.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This is overall an extremely poor casting job.  These cast members are mostly very juvenile and childish with no coaching.  Others are very over the top and obnoxious.  Emotions are very difficult to connect with and line delivery is stunted and awkward.  Unfortunately, there is nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

With such a low, limited budget, what exactly was the justification for attempting to create a fantasy movie that requires so many special effects?  If you don’t have the budget to make it quality, don’t try to make it halfway.  Also, if you don’t have a real story to accompany your fantasy idea and are only trying to rip off an old idea, please do not do through with it.  The biggest problem with Christian films in different genres like this one is that they stand out and get attention due to their rarity.  People watching them who do not normally watch Christian films, and this is what they’re stuck with.  How embarrassing and disheartening it must be.  We implore future film makers to learn from the mistakes seen here and never repeat them.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points