To the Ends of the Earth [2018] (Movie Review)

Watch To The Ends of the Earth | Prime Video

Plot Summary

When the Apostle Paul went to Philippi, this was the first time that the gospel of Jesus Christ had reached the continent of Europe. However, Paul faced much opposition and many trials in his mission to follow the Lord’s calling. Nonetheless, his obedience changed countless generations to come.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although video quality is fine and the soundtrack is culturally sensitive, dizzying camera work and confusing special effects hold the production back from being what it could have been. Sets, locations, and props are great, but sound effects are poor. Further, editing is inconsistent, which goes with the overall theme of this production being a mixed bag. Thus, an average scored is granted here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While it’s commendable that the writers of this narrative focused on one short aspect of Paul’s ministry, the apostle himself is too perfect of a character, which means that it’s hard to relate to him as a person. Also, demonic elements are too sensational as too much time is spent on dark spirituality. Elsewhere, the story presentation is confusing since it makes the progression of events very unclear. Most of the characters are inaccessible and hard to connect with due to procedural dialogue. Unfortunately, although this plot could have been interesting, it doesn’t offer any potential because attention is given to all the wrong things.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though the casting is sometimes culturally authentic, this is not always the case. Nonetheless, the actors and actresses make some good attempts at accents. Sometimes, the acting is believable while other times, the performances are too theatrical and stoic. Emotions and line delivery can be a bit uneven at times. Unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good in this section, which leads to a sub-par score.

Conclusion

Period pieces about well-known Bible characters are very difficult to effectively execute. There are many moving parts and small details that are easy to get wrong. As a whole, it seems like that the creators of To the Ends of the Earth had the right motives but not always the correct philosophy. Unfortunately, there are just too many pitfalls in this screenplay that kept it in the basement of Christian entertainment.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Roe v. Wade (Movie Review)

ROE v. WADE the Movie | Indiegogo

Plot Summary

In this propaganda version of history, Roe v. Wade only happened because a giant conspiracy involving the media, the court system, and the medical field forced it to happen since they were so addicted to abortions. This alleged cabal supposedly loved abortion so much that they regularly sang songs about it. If this film is to be believed, all the conspirators ever thought about night and day was abortion, and anyone who stood against them was to be completely ostracized. With movies like these, it’s no wonder that so many people are skeptical of the pro-life movement.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the production of Roe v. Wade is mostly acceptable, including good video quality and camera work. However, audio quality is uneven, as shown by very poor overdubs and an inconsistent soundtrack. Some scenes are very dark while others have odd soft lighting. Sets, locations, and props are passable, but the editing is quite choppy. Cuts and transitions are all over the map, but this aspect of the film is likely due to the utter disaster that is the plot. In the end, the production section is at least average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2.5 points)

Seemingly in a mission to become one of the most obnoxious and in-your-face movies since Assassin 33 AD or The Reliant, Roe v. Wade succeeds on all fronts. Beginning with the very first scene, the screenplay’s extreme pro-life message is pushed on the audience via immediate and constant narration that sometimes covers up dialogue. Moreover, it’s not like the conversations are really worth hearing since most of the dialogue is designed for shock factors and propaganda. Not a single spoken line can exist without a fundamentalist agenda being shoved down the viewer’s throat. Elsewhere, tons of content is forced into the narrative, including random asides that continually interrupt the storyline. Large time jumps and information dumps attempt to connect it all together, so all these pitfalls inevitably create wooden characters. The “bad” characters, such as the abortion activists, could not be worse strawmen, and there are generally way too many characters to keep up with. The most disgusting aspects of the issue are obsessed over, and the pro-abortion side of the argument is portrayed in the most evil way possible. Due to the massive amount of content in this film, many sequences are very rushed, leading to a nonsensical and incoherent conclusion. Needless to say, this section easily earns its negative rating.

Acting Quality (0 points)

A majority of the acting in this movie is quite overplayed and disingenuous. Line delivery is robotic, and emotions are forced. It’s extremely difficult to believe that many of the actors and actresses in this bloated cast are taking the matter seriously. Hence, this aspect of the screenplay rounds out an effort that should have never happened.

Conclusion

Much like the production process of Unplanned, the creation of Roe v. Wade was seemingly based on deception as some of the initial cast and crew were allegedly not given complete information about the film’s intentions. Whether or not this claim is fully or partially true, it seems to shed light on the attitude of the movie’s creators: produce propaganda at any cost and through any means necessary. Thus, we’re left with this finish product, which is a total disaster in every way. Hopefully, in the very near future, we’ll no longer see offerings like this one that further mar the reputation of Christian entertainment.

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

God’s Fool (Movie Review)

God's Fool (2020) | Trailer | Scott William Winters | Nathan Clarkson |  Laura Orrico - YouTube

Plot Summary

Frank grew up with a privileged life, but it means nothing to him. He’s tried to fill the hole in his soul with all kinds of vices, but nothing helps. Thus, when Frank meets a Franciscan friar one day, Frank’s life changes forever as he learns about the Franciscan order’s philosophy of life. Frank commits himself to live this life but finds it harder than expected as many oppose his new faith.

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, God’s Fool has a pretty good production, including good video quality and audio quality. The soundtrack is quite intriguing, but the camera work is a bit inconsistent. Lighting is aligned with industry standards, and sets, locations, and props are acceptable. This section’s biggest drawback is its terrible editing as the film is presented in a very choppy way. Nonetheless, an above-average score is still warranted here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Despite being based on an interesting idea, this plot meanders all over the place with no focus. One random thing happens after another, including a wild 800-year time jump after an extended prologue that seems initially disconnected from the main narrative. Stream-of-consciousness storytelling leaves the movie lacking a central focus. As a result, the characters are hard to relate to, and even though some dialogue sequences are interesting, it all needs to be deeper. The characters’ struggles are very detached and hard to relate to. While many conversations bring up good points, the back-and-forth interactions are poorly presented, causing the audience to be flooded with ideas without helping them feel the conflict. In general, too many events occur in this plot, and the “bad” characters don’t have good reasons for their actions. Although this narrative explores realistic church corruption issues, it’s all too detached and vague, leaving the viewer without meaningful impact. Thus, due to a small amount of potential, only a small rating can be awarded in this section.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the performances in God’s Fool come off as staged and overly measured. Emotional and line delivery are clinical and generally lack conviction. Accents are not culturally accurate, but costuming is authentic. Nonetheless, despite these shortcomings, the acting does improve with time, which is enough to warrant an average score here.

Conclusion

It’s clear that the creators of this screenplay meant well in what they were doing. They are trying to present an honest look at modern-day Christianity. However, convoluted storytelling and uneven acting detract from the film’s potential. A more focused narrative would have gotten the presentation off on the right foot. Perhaps, in the future, this creative team can build upon what they have done here to improve their craft.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Hell and Mr. Fudge (Movie Review)

Image result for hell and mr fudge

Plot Summary

In 1970s Alabama, Edward Fudge endeavored to answer the complex theological question of whether God torments people in hell after they die without salvation or if He simply removes them from existence. Fudge’s search for the truth was not well-received by local legalistic church members, including those in the pastor’s own church. In response to Fudge’s questions, a hardline fundamentalist movement made it their mission to discredit the young preacher at every turn. However, Edward and his family never gave up until they found answers.

Production Quality (2 points)

Overall, Hell and Mr. Fudge has a professional production despite its odd choice of a fake docu-drama set-up. At times, this premise seems to excuse shaky perspective camera work. Nonetheless, video quality and audio quality are both up to industry standards. Sets, locations, and props are realistic and well-used. One of this section’s main drawbacks is its choppy editing, but on the whole, this area of the film does enough to be above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 points)

This plot raises many unique and intriguing points even if the theology is sometimes a bit extreme. The writers raise legitimate concerns about legalism and over-theologizing as the narrative highlights a very real disconnect between church insiders and church outsiders. However, many viewers will find the chosen topic to be a bit isolating and even slightly controversial although there may be a nugget of truth somewhere in it. Elsewhere, the docu-drama format of the story is lazily used to take the story all over the map, causing the characters to get lost in the story presentation. Moreover, despite these obvious flaws, the movie makes good use of flashbacks that develop believable character motives. The dialogue is also quite authentic and thought-provoking. In the end, this plot had a lot more potential than it realized, which is why it can only be awarded a meager score.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

As a more mainstream offering, Hell and Mr. Fudge presents professional acting with very few errors. Emotional and line delivery are on point and costuming is historically authentic. The only small drawbacks to note here are some brief instances of over-acting. Nonetheless, this rounds out an average project.

Conclusion

This screenplay is hard to figure in a lot of ways. It has some interesting ideas to offer, but it tends to get confused as to what direction it wants to go. Does it want to be a docu-drama? Does it want to initiate a serious discussion on legalism in the church? Is it trying to disprove hell or simply attempting to change the traditional definition of hell? Most of this is unclear as the film refuses to commit to anything solid, which is its biggest drawback. As such, it falls short of making any real difference.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Jacob’s Ladder, Season 1 (Series Review)

Image result for jacob's ladder series

Plot Summary

Rafael is a lighthouse keeper in Wales who has an unexplained magical ability to let local kids cross back and forth between the present timeline and the historical timeline of the Bible. When the secret portals open up, the kids can interact with the biblical accounts as they appear to take place on top of the modern world but also in the past at the same time. It’s amazing what a little time travel convenience can do!

Production Quality (0 points)

This Byzantine production has some of the worst Bible props ever, coupled with cheap sets and locations. What’s more, these elements lack cultural and historical authenticity. Elsewhere, grainy video quality and wild camera work make for an unpleasant viewing experience. Audio quality is very poor, and the soundtrack is quite loud. The editing is all over the map, creating a dizzying presentation that confuses the audience. Because of these obvious problems, no points can be awarded here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Whose idea was this anyway? The very unusual time travel premise of Jacob’s Ladder makes no sense at all. How are the biblical accounts happening on top of modern-day Wales? How do the characters randomly cross back and forth in time, seemingly forming an alternate timeline? Are they just imaging that this is happening, or is it really occurring? How are they able to sometimes become characters in the historical accounts and actually influence the Bible events? This series was basically doing Assassin 33 AD before their time. In other aspects of this section, live narration is extremely annoying since it leaves nothing to chance. The stories that are chosen for this season are different from usual biblical entertainment, but they are crammed into tine timeframes that leave little room for anything interesting. Both the narration and the rapid-fire narrative presentation short-circuit character development, not to mention that the dialogue is totally bland. In the end, there is too much negative here due to the outrageous and unexplained alterations of historical events, making this section negative.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Mixing terrible homemade Bible-play-caliber costuming with modern-day dress is never a good recipe for historical entertainment success, but Jacob’s Ladder does just this. Makeup work also leaves a lot to be desired. Like many projects before it, this series lacks historical and cultural authenticity in casting and even reuses cast members for different stories. The actual performances are covered up with this nonsense, but they still aren’t very good. Emotional and line delivery are very staged and robotic. Hence, no points can be justified here.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

After enduring an annoying opening sequence, viewers are forced to see one thing happen after the next without any significant arcs or themes. There are little to no subplots that are followed throughout the season, and the characters remain static throughout the series. This project might as well have been an anthology with how little continuity there was between episodes, so once again, no points can be given here.

Conclusion

If watchers aren’t thoroughly confused about the Bible after seeing Jacob’s Ladder, they’ll be turned off to its very low-quality presentation. This absolute train wreck should have never existed and now only serves as yet another example of how not to do it. Hopefully, in our current entertainment market, we’re past seeing utter nonsense like this come out.

Final Rating: -1 out of 14 points

The Mysterious Note (Movie Review)

The Mysterious Note (2019) | Full Movie | Alex Aguilera | Natasha  Diaz-Potter | Peter Tumangday - YouTube

Plot Summary

The Vargas family doesn’t want to accompany their father to a small town for one of his business trips. However, due to various school incidents, the kids are forced to come along. Despite not liking the idea, the youngest accidentally discovers a mystery along with his new friends. Thus, they race to solve it before the vacation time runs out.

Production Quality (.5 point)

This film’s production is very sub-par, including odd video quality and muted audio quality. There are also bizarre echoes, weird sound effects, and background noises that interrupt the viewing experience. Also, the soundtrack is juvenile, and there are obvious overdubs. Lighting is inconsistent throughout, and there are many tight camera shots. Sets, locations, and props are acceptable, but the editing is just pedestrian. In the end, this section only garners a meager score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Using heavy-handed messaging, this narrative forces obvious themes upon the audience, which spills over into the dialogue. This in-your-face approach hurts character development as they become representations of issues rather than relatable people. The plot’s premise is also contrived due to the near-propaganda methods of communication. Christian characters are portrayed as extremely perfect while other characters are magically fixed after doing what the Christians tell them to do. Every conversation is so obviously tied back to the movie’s purpose that it feels like an extended instructional video. Because there’s nothing in this storyline to save it from itself, no points can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As if other elements in this screenplay weren’t bad, the acting is among the worst. Line delivery is extremely accentuated and forced like it’s being printed out. Emotions aren’t any better as each cast member behaves like a programmed android. It’s very hard to believe that performances like these were even approved. Overall, this conclude a very poor effort.

Conclusion

There’s nothing more to say about The Mysterious Note that hasn’t already been said many times over. If the budget isn’t satisfactory, don’t make it. Collaborate with people who know how to write good plots. Consider how your acting is coming off. If God wants you to make a film, He’ll send the right people. Anything else is just forcing something to happen that will do more harm than good.

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

We Three Kings [2020] (Movie Review)

We Three Kings (2020) | Trailer | Rebecca St. James | Michael W. Smith |  Nise Davies - YouTube

Plot Summary

The Fay children have had a hard time ever since their mother died, but they can’t wait for their Uncle Henry to arrive for Christmas. He’s trying to add a scandalous new song to the church’s hymnbook despite the resistance he’s getting. The oldest Fay daughter is trying to organize the local Christmas pageant at church, which is what her mother used to do. Will everyone be able to accomplish these things in time for the holiday?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a whole, We Three Kings sports a professional production. This is shown by good video quality, camera work, and audio. Historical accuracy is also a big plus, as seen in the authentic sets, locations, and props. Essentially, there are no real errors in this section except for some minor editing concerns. However, this appears to be partially related to the plot. Thus, a high score is granted here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, it’s hard to follow this narrative at the beginning due to its substantial time jumps. This, combined with Shakespearean dialogue, hurts character development, making them seem very stiff and stilted. Scenes go from one thing to another without clear connection or direction, and conversations seem to go in circles and talk about the same things all the time. Because of this, it’s hard to connect with the cardboard cutout characters who never seem to have normal human reactions or emotions. For this reason, it’s unclear why should we care what these people are doing or going through. Therefore, despite the good use of source material, there’s hardly any potential in this plot, which is insufficient given that the story’s framework was already written for the creators.

Acting Quality (1 point)

To fit with the Shakespearean characters, the acting in We Three Kings is very theatrical. Many performances are too stilted due to overly practiced and enunciated line delivery. Additionally, emotions come off as mechanical and robotic. However, some of the acting is acceptable, and the historically authentic costuming is a plus. Nonetheless, the singing leaves something to be desired, which leaves this section with a meager rating.

Conclusion

Many more film makers need to be adapting historical accounts, but this movie is an example of how even that approach can go wrong. Taking shortcuts with writing and acting can easily derail even the best source material. Having a good idea isn’t enough; screenplays are very complex things that require a lot of effort and collaboration. Perhaps, one day soon, the Christian entertainment factory will finally produce quality over quantity.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

The God Cafe (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: the God café: Steve Brown, Joe Herrera, Jorge Diaz, Clint  Patterson

Plot Summary

When a worship pastor is facing a crisis in his marriage and his career, he feels like he’s at the end of his rope. The minister wonders if his faith is even real, which is why he’s suddenly visited by mysterious men who claim to be from history. They show the pastor what the true meaning of Christmas is, but the minister will have to decide for himself.

Production Quality (.5 point)

Starting off with odd lighting and tinted filtering, the production quality of The God Cafe is quite low. Cheap special effects and overlays clutter the viewing experience despite acceptable video quality. Sub-par audio is accompanied by a generic soundtrack. Limited sets, locations, and props are supplemented by embarrassing fake backgrounds, and some odd camera angles further contribute to this section’s problems. Additionally, the editing is marred by sudden and abrupt flashes and transitions, which disorients the audience. In the end, only a very meager score can be awarded here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Despite the fact that this plot is centered around the inherent problems with celebrity worship pastors (a pertinent discussion that needs to be had), it’s unclear why certain apostles from church history have to visit the protagonist to clear things up. What’s more, the story is frequently interrupted with random, out-of-context songs just because it’s a Christmas musical, I guess. Dialogue is basically a general regurgitation of Bible reading, making the story a long informational diatribe. As such, character development is thrown out the window in favor of a constant stream of facts and references to offscreen content. In the end, besides being a an alternate redux of The Perfect Gift, The God Cafe accomplishes next to nothing, which is the reasoning for zero points in this section.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Between forceful line delivery and manufactured emotions, this section is overall subpar. It seems the cast members are trying to be too interesting, which just comes off as annoying. As a whole, the performances are too theatrical, but there are some bright spots that keep the acting from being a total loss. The amount of positive is enough to warrant a point in this area.

Conclusion

Films like The God Cafe don’t even begin with a sound plot structure, just a vague idea that could be interesting. This isn’t sufficient for a Christian movie, so it’s long past time for collaboration to be the norm in the field. No one can make a movie on their own, and everyone has different talents to bring to the table. If God wants you to make a screenplay, He’ll supply the team and the resources that you need, so you don’t have to try to force more films to happen that will likely fail.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

When We Last Spoke (Movie Review)

When We Last Spoke" Official movie sizzler! - YouTube

Plot Summary

Evangeline and Juliet, once they were abandoned by their mother after their father was drafted into the Vietnam War, were raised by their grandparents in a small Texas town. However, the sisters always wondered when they would see their mother again even as she sent them gifts and letters. As time went on, the two sisters grew apart due to various circumstances and family secrets. Now that they’re adults, will they be able to reconcile their differences to help their family?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s no surprise that a well-funded film like When We Last Spoke has high production qualities. Video, camera work, and audio all meet industry standards. The sets, locations, and props demonstrate attention to historical detail, which is important for a period drama. The soundtrack is mostly average but fits the time period. The only flaw to note here is the somewhat choppy editing, but this seems to be a consequence of the plot. Therefore, a high score is warranted for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Despite having source material, When We Last Spoke has one of most bizarre story presentations of recently released works. The past and present narratives are often blurred as the writers push one thing after another on the audience. As a stream-of-consciousness plot, it feels like a collection of disconnected and completely mindless scenes, most of which lack clear direction or purpose. There’s an unusual amount of unnecessarily edgy content that’s explained away in strange manners, and whatever Christian message was supposed to be portrayed is extremely vague. In attempts to create so-called twists, the viewer is purposely led in one direction only to be taken in another, thus making them feel extremely forced and shoehorned. In what’s supposed to be a character-based story, dialogue and conversations are basically meaningless, doing nothing to adequately develop the characters but instead wasting the audience’s time. Because of various problems and no real potential, this area can’t be given any points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

There are some moments of good acting in When We Last Spoke, and some cast members are better than others. However, there are some instances of uneven line delivery and generally unsure performances. Elsewhere, obnoxious and shocking emotional outbursts mar certain scenes. Despite a dose of positive, this section is overall below average.

Conclusion

This film is just another well-funded and heavily publicized creation that’s gone down the tubes. At this point, Christian audiences are growing tired of being told that screenplays are good only to be disappointed by them. There’s little patience left, and the number of consistent viewers is ever-shrinking. Just because you have money and recognizable cast members doesn’t mean your movie is automatically good. The funding for When We Last Spoke could have been used to bring an actually transformative book to the big screen, but instead, we just have a waste of time.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Treasure Blind (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: Treasure Blind by Cloud Ten Pictures: Movies & TV

Plot Summary

A down-on-his-luck cab driver accidentally discovers an old map from the Civil Way era that could lead him to buried treasure. However, in order to find what he’s looking for, he’ll have to face the past he’s been running from. His journey involves an exploration of Christian faith and a sight-impaired boy whom everyone else ignores.

Production Quality (.5 point)

This production leaves a lot to be desired, beginning with very cheap camera work and angles. Weird close-up shots and lack of stability confuse the audience. Audio quality is inconsistent, including a cheap soundtrack and background noises. The video is sometimes blurry, and the sets, locations, and props are limited. Some scenes are very dark while others are covered in soft lighting. Further, the editing is extremely choppy, completely cutting off some scenes with no warning. The only thing that keeps this section from being zero is the slight improvement in the film’s second half even though it’s too little too late.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In this plot, it seems like the writers confused themselves with how they presented it to the viewers due to the past/present split in the narratives. As it is, the historical portion is very cheesy. Elsewhere, the characters are extremely vanilla and generic due to empty and blank dialogue. The story moves from one thing to the next, making it hard to understand. The overall premise is generally vague and slightly unrealistic, and any flashbacks that are included just replay things that recently happened. In the end, the rushed conclusion easily fixes all the problems and doesn’t leave the audience with much memorable or meaningful. Thus, without any potential or positives, this section can’t be awarded any points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, much of the acting in Treasure Blind is very bland and even dead-faced. Little to no emotions are demonstrated, and line delivery tends to be lazy. Coaching seems lacking as many performances are a bit unnatural, awkward, and forced. However, there are some positive moments, as well as improvement as the movie goes on. Thus, a small score is warranted here.

Conclusion

Nonetheless, not much can save this screenplay from itself. While the creators of Treasure Blind may have meant well, the presentation is completely off. We need more films that highlight the everyday lives of the sight-impaired, but this is just embarrassing due to poor quality in all three categories. Hopefully, we’ll no longer see such low-standard Christian entertainment on the market.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

A Message Through Time (Movie Review)

A Message Through Time (2019)
The magic tree!

Plot Summary

After a girl is bullied at her new school and shunned by everyone for no particular reason, things get worse when her mom is late picking her up. Thus, the only thing the girl can do is walk into a random forest, write her troubles on a piece of notebook paper, tear out the page, wad it up, and throw it into a hollow tree. However, she’s shocked when a paper suddenly pops back out of the tree, which lets her know that a monk from centuries before her time received her crumpled note and sent one back to her! Will they be able to help each other even though they’re worlds apart???

Production Quality (.5 point)

In this extremely cheap production, audio quality is very poor, as shown by background echoes, invasive environmental sounds, annoying post-production sound effects, and a loud soundtrack that tries to cover up the problems. Even though video quality and camera work are okay, bad lighting is a consistent problem. Also, the sets, locations, and props don’t adequately represent what they’re supposed to depict. Further, the editing leaves much to be desired. Overall, this section barely registers any life, but it’s not the worst this movie has to offer.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-.5 points)

Besides the fact that the time travel tree portal premise is completely absurd, the characters couldn’t have less personality than they do. Due to blank and vanilla dialogue, they seem like they stepped out of poorly written children’s story. ‘Bad’ characters are total strawmen, and useless conversations contribute to the narrative’s futility. Lots of time is wasted on meaningless musings about who should have been the head of the medieval church, and the world presented in the plot lacks logical sense. Time travel in and off itself is totally nonsensical, but this story takes matters a step further by trying to connect two time periods that have absolutely nothing to do with one another. It’s utterly laughable that this idea was even made into a film, and it’s so ridiculous that this area earned an negative rating.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As if the plot isn’t bad enough, the acting is painfully awkward. Line delivery is quite unsure, and emotions are overly practiced. It’s clear that coaching is lacking for the cast, which isn’t entirely their fault. As a side note, historical accents are obviously incorrectly portrayed, but it really only contributes to an overall zero-point effort.

Conclusion

Movies like A Message Through Time are so detrimental for Christian entertainment efforts. They reinforce stereotypes of inexperienced creators making something laughably bad. Films like this one continue to turn potential audiences off to the concept of faith-based screenplays. However, all that can be done is for the creative teams who have actually been called by God to make movies and series to follow through and transform the market.

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

Ruth: The Musical (Movie Review)

Ruth the Musical (2019)
Just what you always wanted…a British musical rendition of Ruth!

Plot Summary

Imagine if Ruth was a British woman who liked to sing! What kinds of songs would she sing? What would other people around her sing about? Would they choreograph their lyrics and dances as if they had practiced them beforehand? Most importantly, would they be able to solve the age-old question of musicals: when a character is singing by themselves, are they really singing out loud, or are they just singing in their head?

Production Quality (-1 points)

The production of Ruth is among the worst, including very shaky camera work and inconsistent lighting. Despite acceptable video quality, the sets, locations, and props aren’t historically accurate if that’s what the creators were going for, which is highly unclear. If it matters, the music is out of place for the historical time period of the the real Ruth account. However, other aspects of audio contribute to the negativity, such as the loud background noises in outdoor locations, the invasive out-of-place nature of the soundtrack, the obvious lip-syncing, and the painful overdubs. The songs are just terrible, getting worse and worse as the experience drags on. Flashbacks have a blurry quality to them, and editing is a nightmare. In the end, there’s so much bad here that a negative score is warranted.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

The fact that the time period that’s supposed to be portrayed here is unclear also impacts the plot, depending on whether the story is supposed to portray a modern-day version of Ruth or a historical one. If historical, why are there obviously modern objects present? If modern, why do the farms used antiquated equipment? Besides this total confusion, the songs are surprisingly and awkwardly inserted into the narrative, and the impromptu dance routines don’t fit the film’s tone. These asides waste time and gloss over actual conversations. This lack of dialogue creates empty characters who can’t be related to despite the inclusion of flashbacks. Although there are few tiny nuggets of potential in this screenplay, such as the themes of foreigners and low-income individuals being discriminated against, there are just too many unusual aspects of this section that warrant a negative rating.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Again, is the costuming intended to reflect the modern day, or is it supposed to be set in a historical time period? This lack of clarity confuses a section’s score once again. Is the movie supposed to be a British rendition of the biblical account, or is this just another in a long line of BRITISH BIBLE productions? Despite the acting beginning in a slightly acceptable fashion, it actually devolves as time goes on, mostly due to the interruptive musical sequences. Thus, this puts the lid on a terrible creation.

Conclusion

Another day, another embarrassing piece of Christian entertainment that’s based on a Scriptural narrative. What are audiences supposed to do with this utter nonsense? Can we really expect people to like this sort of thing? The days of mindlessly accepting a film just because it’s labeled Christian are long gone. There are much higher standards in the current market, which are helping to bring it back from the terrible position it was once in. Therefore, the best we can do is look forward to what future creators have in store that can help us to forget debacles like Ruth: The Musical.

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

The Bible Collection: Jesus

Film Jesus

Plot Summary

Jesus was and is the most significant figure in history. As God in the flesh, He lived among humanity for three years, establishing His earthly ministry with the least likely people. However, Jesus always knew that His ultimate purpose would be fulfilled in His sacrifice on the cross, paying the sin debt for all humanity. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t end there since He would rise again victorious.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Like over Lux Vide offerings, Jesus sports a fine production, including good sets, locations, and props. Camera work and video quality are also professional save for some wild action shots. Audio quality is okay, even if the soundtrack is a bit generic. However, generic special effects and poor editing drag this score down to the middle line. At times, cuts and transitions are very abrupt, creating a confusing experience for the viewer. Therefore, this is the best rating that can be awarded in this category.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1.5 points)

Throughout the movie, Jesus is portrayed as having a strange attitude, as if He’s unsure of what’s happening or even surprised at events. This assumption seems to rise out of an odd theological implication that Jesus only became God after His baptism. It also impacts the temptation sequence as Satan appears to know more about the future than Christ does during this experience. Because there’s too much content to cover in this narrative, expository dialogue poorly bridges the gaps as precious time is wasted on unnecessary extra-biblical asides, such as a pointless romantic suggestion between Jesus and the sister of Lazarus. These tangents are included while more pertinent points are glossed over, and most scenes are generally disjointed as they typically end in abrupt ways. Besides these obvious concerns, the sheer amount of information that’s thrown at the audience in less than two hours is overwhelming. There are simply too many subplots and characters to keep up with, which predictably leads to low quality. Overall, due to the gross alterations of historical record, a negative rating is warranted in this section.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

In keeping with many other biblical entertainment options, the acting of Jesus tends to be theatrical and dramatic. However, it’s not always bad as emotional and line delivery is inconsistently acceptable. Nonetheless, the casting isn’t always culturally authentic, which is another common misstep in films based on the Scriptures. In the end, despite its faults, this section still keeps the overall rating from being zero.

Conclusion

Why are movies about Jesus usually among the worst? What’s the point of fielding such bizarre portrayals of the Christian faith’s central figure? It’s clear that such failed attempts at capturing the true essence of a historical figure Who changed the course of history are based on faulty information. Screenplays like this one only further turn people off to Christian entertainment, but hopefully, things will continue looking up in the future.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

The Bible Collection: Solomon (Movie Review)

The Bible Collection - Solomon - FORMED

Plot Summary

Solomon was the heir to David’s throne and the chosen king to build Yahweh’s temple. He sought wisdom from God and was blessed for it. However, later in life, Solomon allowed idols to dominate his life, which were his ultimate downfall.

Production Quality (2 points)

In keeping with most Lux Vide productions, Solomon is typically fine, including good video quality and camera work. Audio is also acceptable, along with the soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props demonstrate good attention to historical detail. However, some action scenes are poorly shot, and weird special effects invade the viewing experience at times. Also, editing tends to be poor in certain circumstances as scenes suddenly cut off or fade out for no particular reason. However, this section does enough in the end to get past the average mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

For the most part, Solomon does a fairly good job with adhering to the historical source material. On paper, the story is adequately portrayed, but the characters aren’t deep enough. The dialogue is very procedural rather than emotional, like it’s a strain to be realistic. This prevents the character from being relatable and makes them more like theater actors and actresses. Large time jumps certainly don’t help matters, and things generally move too fast. At times, random things suddenly happen, including some unnecessarily edgy content. It all converges into an anti-climactic conclusion that leaves the audience empty-handed. Overall, while this narrative seems to check the right boxes, it just ends up being another typical Bible play.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

One of this section’s biggest detractors is its inconsistent use of culturally authentic cast members. Additionally, the performances are often too theatrical and dramatic, keeping with the Bible play themes. However, despite the stoicism, the actors and actresses aren’t all that bad. There are plenty of positive moments that contribute to this average score even though there are instances where the cast members seem to act in ways that are contrary to their roles. Nonetheless, this area rounds out an overall underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

Films like Solomon continually contribute to the bad image of Scripture-based entertainment. They manage to frustrate audiences by being Shakespearean, poorly presented, and inconsistent with application of Biblical concepts. Hopefully, one day soon, we can put these types of movies and series behind us and replace them with more substantial offerings.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

The Bible Collection: Genesis (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: Watch The Bible Collection: Genesis | Prime Video

Plot Summary

In the beginning, God created humans in His image, but they sinned against Him. After most of the world went against His purposes, He sent the Flood to judge them. Then, after the Deluge, humanity sought to rebuild, and they passed on the stories of the times before them by sharing the narratives with each other.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Surprisingly, Genesis boasts a respectable production. This is likely due to good funding even though it does contain a lot of stock footage. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all great, however. The soundtrack is very interesting, and the sets, locations, and props are well-used. The only minor concern is the editing, but it’s not enough to keep this section’s score from being quite high. Unfortunately, these good elements seem to go to waste.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

It’s hard to understand why Genesis isn’t some type of docu-drama or narrated Bible project as it’s almost entirely based on narration and voiceover. This experience is extremely artistic and even ethereal at times, which necessitates reading a lot into what’s being seen. There are basically no instances of dialogue or conversations, and many of the scenes are quite vague, barely representing what the narrator is talking about. Long sequences sometimes pass without any talking at all, so while it’s fine to be subtle, it’s also possible to be so discrete that there’s no point in viewing it. Such is the case in this “narrative.” Elsewhere, there are some odd inclusions of biblical accounts that hadn’t been yet written. Although it was an interesting idea to frame the first part of the Genesis story in the context of Noah, which is one of the main things keeping this section from being zero, this movie definitely does not cover the whole book. Further, this plot ends in a strangely abrupt way like they just ran out of ideas and cut it off. In the end, this is a unique yet mostly extraneous viewing experience.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Genesis strengthens its case by casting actors and actresses that are mostly culturally authentic. However, they hardly have any chance to exhibit their potential skills due to lack of opportunities to deliver actual lines. The small amount therein is passable albeit somewhat dramatic and theatrical. Overall, this section rounds out a rather mediocre effort.

Conclusion

It’s quite unclear what this “screenplay” was actually going for. If it was part of a larger plan, this is totally lost to the audience. Despite having some interesting possibilities at their fingertips, this film’s creators squandered an opportunity to do something creatively different. Unfortunately, Genesis just falls in line with lots of other un-engaging and ultimately forgettable Bible entertainment.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Mary of Nazareth [2012] (Movie Review)

Film 'Mary of Nazareth' now available for parish, school ...

Plot Summary

Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus Christ, and this calling led to many unprecedented ups and downs in her life. Her experiences with Christ didn’t stop at the Nativity as she supported Him in His earthly ministry. Even in the end, she played a key role in His work and made a difference wherever she went.

Production Quality (1 point)

Despite average video quality and acceptable camera work, this production doesn’t really meet the mark. Audio is fine, but there are some obvious overdubs. Sets, locations, and props show some attention to historical details. However, the editing is extremely choppy as some scenes cut off very abruptly. Some scenes suddenly invade without warning, and special effects are very cheap. Therefore, this section doesn’t meet the middle mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As a whole, Mary of Nazareth feels more like a play than a movie since its characters are very stiff and wooden. This is due to very unnatural dialogue and uptight conversations, and Mary and Joseph seem like they’re from another planet because of their ethereal attitudes and reactions. Besides this, the narrative rushes through every major event in Mary’s life, introducing more and more characters and unfinished subplots as it goes on. To string things together, heavy-handed narration is awkwardly inserted; it goes without saying that Jesus is portrayed as as very otherworldly and inaccessible person. Some biblical accounts are either altered or shorted in order to save time in the bulging plot, and it seems like some cultural traditions aren’t correctly captured in the story. For instance, some characters seem to live too well-off for the time period, but this is almost beside the point due to the many other screenwriting errors committed here. In the end, this is just a mess that can’t be awarded any points.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Despite acceptable cultural costuming, the acting is bit overdone in the emotional department. The cast members come off as theatrical and overly dramatic as well as too breathy at times. Actors and actresses are not always culturally accurate. Most of the scenes seem extremely scripted and controlled, which leads to very practiced and robotic line delivery. In the end, due to antiquated acting styles and other concerns, this section can’t receive any points.

Conclusion

Mary of Nazareth is another reminder of the older era of Bible-based entertainment that treated Scripture like a rigid stage play. In trying to be too careful to avoid messing anything up, the story is portrayed in a distant and untouchable manner. The treatment of Jesus is among the worst aspects of the film since He comes off as a lofty individual. Thus, all that can be gleaned from this experience is how not to do it.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

The Sin: From Adam and Eve to Cain and Abel (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: The Sin: From Adam and Eve to Cain and Abel ...

Plot Summary

After Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, sin entered the world. Afterward, their children continued the pattern of sin, including their sons Cain and Abel. However, the cycle would continue generation after generation until the ultimate redemption could come.

Production Quality (.5 point)

Sporting an abysmal production, The Sin contains very cheap and cheesy special effects and grainy video sequences. Lighting is inconsistent while sets, locations, and props are limited. Audio is somewhat acceptable, as is the soundtrack, but many lines are very obviously overdubbed. However, the editing is extremely choppy: most scenes drag on too long while others cut off. In short, this section is very low quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From the get-go, The Sin springs unnecessarily dramatic narration on the viewer before taking the audience on wild ride of jumping all over the place. This subverts any slim chance there was at developing the characters therein. To make matters worse, dialogue and conversations are horribly wooden. There’s no way to connect with any of the characters on a personal level. What’s more, the story really makes no sense even though it has source material. In the end, there’s not much to say except that this narrative falls into the same old pit of terrible Bible creations that are sure to turn people off to the real stories.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To add insult to injury, the acting is either too stiff or overly dramatic. It seems like coaching isn’t present at all as the emotions are incredibly forced. Costuming is very poor, and there’s really nothing good to say about this section, which rounds out an overall awful effort.

Conclusion

One of the only silver linings about films like The Sin is that there aren’t usually that many quite this bad. Also, things are trending in the right directions in recent years, and new film makers can learn how not to do it. Otherwise, viewers can know what movies to avoid at all costs.

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

David vs. Goliath: Battle of Faith (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: Watch David vs. Goliath: Battle of Faith | Prime Video

Plot Summary

David going up against Goliath was the ultimate underdog story, but what could have happened before this face off? David was trained by both the Lord and those around him. What could have prepared him for the great battle? When David finally faced the giant, what occurred change Israel’s history forever.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, this rendition of the famous biblical account has a fairly average production. This is due to some shaky cam despite great video and audio quality. Some scenes have poor lighting, but the sets, locations, and props are acceptable. One of the movie’s biggest detractors is its editing as some scenes are quite drawn out. Others are somewhat cut off, and this rounds out an overall middle-of-the-road effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This plot is unnecessarily hampered by narration and by a fixation on extended fight scenes that go outside the biblical narrative. These issues also crowd out important sequences of dialogue and cause conversations to be unsubstantial. As such, the characters seem like play actors rather than actual people. Some audience will find there to be too much violence, which may be realistic but is unbalanced in this context. Elsewhere, the pace of the story is quite rushed and doesn’t allow an effective conclusion to develop. This causes a very hollow experience for the viewer even though there are some interesting ideas contained within this narrative, such as the possibility that Samuel trained David for battle and the psychological elements that are ascribed to David. Unfortunately, there are definitely something here, but the idea seemed too forced and rapidly presented. Slowing the process down a bit may have helped this screenplay to gain its footing.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The costuming is actually one of the better aspects of this movie. However, the cast isn’t always culturally authentic. At times, the acting is acceptable, but other times, it’s a bit dramatic and theatrical. Emotions and line delivery are inconsistent: sometimes fine and sometimes not. Thus, this section rounds out an unfortunately underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

It seems like David vs. Goliath was made in haste just for the sake of making another Bible film that could have been popular. In doing this, a lot of corners were cut, which always shows up in the finished product. This formula of hacking together a recognizable inspirational title for a quick cash grab is very word out and has seemingly met its demise. In the future, new Christian creators will hopefully learn from the mistakes of the past and correctly apply their God-given talents to produce truly quality projects.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Barabbas, Season 1 [2012] (Series Review)

Billy Zane to Portray Barabbas, Murderer Chosen Over Jesus, in ...

Plot Summary

Barabbas led a band of rebels against the occupying Roman government, but his criminal activity led him to have close contact with Jesus at His own trial. Barabbas was set free in exchange for Jesus, but afterward, he was faced with a series of choices. What would he ultimately decide?

Production Quality (2 points)

As a well-funded production, Barabbas has fine video quality and camera work. Its sets, locations, and props demonstrate great historical authenticity. Audio quality is passable despite a generic soundtrack. The biggest issues with this section is the poor editing, which is evidenced by quick cuts and abrupt transitions. Otherwise, this is likely the season’s best element.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Even though this miniseries contains a slightly interesting premise, it’s difficult to connect with the characters as they seem to just be pawns in the plot. Barabbas has some believable aspects to his personality, but all of the characters need a lot more work with more substantial dialogue and flashbacks in order to avoid their being very blank and generic. As usual, Jesus is portrayed in a very odd way, and the narrative is full of pronounced and forceful drama. Action and fighting scenes fill time and circumvent opportunities to establish reasons why the characters do what they do besides what the storyline wants them to do. This wasted time also causes important scenes to be quickly skipped through, which causes off-screen content to be referenced rather than shown. Some scenes go by really fast for the sake of hitting certain high points while others contain some oddly suggestive content that seems very out of place. Although there are too many characters as too many things are trying to be done at once and while the main character’s motivations don’t make much sense, the ending is actually unique. However, it takes forever to get there and lacks the proper build-up, which rounds out a section with slight potential yet plenty of problems.

Acting Quality (1 point)

In keeping with other offerings from the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the acting of Barabbas is only dramatic and theatrical. Many cast members come off as robotic, and most of the actresses seem like they’ve been coached (or even forced) to sound like they’re always out of breath. Much of the makeup work is unusual, and the cast isn’t always culturally authentic. Elsewhere, the injury acting is quite poor. Nonetheless, despite these obvious concerns, there are some positive moments of acting, and it tends to improve with time.

Continuity Quality (1 point)

Throughout this fairly short miniseries, it’s hard to keep up with the different timelines. Many things just happen with no warning, lead-up, or explanation. Also, the tone is constantly changing throughout the saga, which hampers continuity. As such, there’s often no real driving focus even though it’s named after a historical character. Nonetheless, much like other elements there is some slight potential in the series’s latter third, which is enough to save this section from a null score.

Conclusion

In the end, there’s unfortunately not much to work with in Barabbas. It had a lot going for it to be a unique take on a biblical narrative, but fell short in nearly every category. It could never decide what it wanted to be and thus isolated all potential audiences. Now, it’s simply been forgotten by much of the Christian realm and only serves as an example of how not to do it.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 14 points

Joseph’s Gift (Movie Review)

Joseph's Gift (1998) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Joseph is the youngest sibling of a family who owns a successful garment business in 1970’s Los Angeles. However, his brothers are jealous of how their father favors their younger brother, so they concoct a scheme to land him in trouble and out of their hair. Nonetheless, despite Joseph’s hardships, it all comes full circle as God places him exactly where he needs to be at the right time.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In the beginning of Joseph’s Gift, there are some tight shots, a handful of odd camera angles, and instances of inconsistent lighting. However, video and audio quality are both fine even though there could be more soundtrack than there is. Elsewhere, the film’s psychological sequences have very poor special effects within them, and a few scenes are cut off very abruptly. As it is, the editing is extremely choppy due to the large amount of content trying to be covered. Nevertheless, all production aspects besides the editing improve as the screenplay goes on, which is enough to earn an average score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Whereas the premise of Joseph’s Gift, including the 1970’s setting and the psychological integration of Joseph’s visions are interesting, many of the film’s scenes are disconnected from each other due to lack of adequate continuity. The plot tends to jump all over the place with no warning, which hampers any hope of proper character development. A high number of characters confuses the viewer as it’s unclear who to focus on since there are so many different perspectives. This fact often causes dialogue to be fairly cheesy in order to move the story forward and precludes the audience from getting to know who the characters actually are. Elsewhere, there are some unnecessary instances of off-screen content and weirdly creepy experiences. Further, the ending is extremely rushed. Overall, this movie would have worked better as a series or non-linear plot that centralized on Joseph’s character so that certain intriguing concepts, such as Joseph being admitted to a mental institution, wouldn’t have been wasted.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the acting of Joseph’s Gift is mostly acceptable. Though the emotions are forced at times and could be a bit more authentic, most of the performances, including line delivery, are least passable. While some moments seem just a bit off sometimes, the cast members collectively do enough to post an average score for this section.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, offerings like Joseph’s Gift aren’t able to make a difference due to a handful of avoidable problems, such as fixable production issues and poor screenwriting. It’s one thing to have an interesting idea, but it’s enough to properly execute it. Movies are certainly complex projects to undertake, so they should never be done so in light manners. There are many forgettable films like this one that, if combined together, could make a handful of truly groundbreaking ones.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Harriet [2019] (Movie Review)

Film review: All aboard the freedom train with “Harriet ...

Plot Summary

Harriet Tubman was a Civil War hero although many did not initially regard her in that way. While she was raised as a slave on a Maryland plantation, she heard God call her one day to leave and run to freedom. With the help of her pastor, Harriet persevered through perilous circumstances to reach the free state of Pennsylvania, but it was there where her real work began. She knew God had called her to free slaves on her own…starting with her family… even though the Philadelphia abolitionists were reluctant to help. In the end, Harriet’s obedience to God left a lasting mark on American history.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a well-funded, mainstream project, Harriet sports very high production quality with very few errors to note. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are exceptionally high, and the soundtrack is excellent at tying the movie together, including using real-life singing that was historically authentic. The sets, locations, and props are realistic and well-utilized, and the production overall has a gritty feel to it that shows attention to detail and care for accuracy. The only small concern to point out relates to some slightly choppy editing, but this also pertains to the storyline. As a whole, however, this is a highly professional offering.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The true story of Harriet Tubman was definitely one that was long overdue to be put into movie form. In this rendition, the characters are very well-developed through believable and accessible dialogue, and the high number of them is handled well as even the minor characters are given efficiently used scenes. Also, the major element of Harriet’s faith in and relationship with God is well-integrated throughout the narrative and is presented at face-value so that the viewers can decide for themselves. Other themes are creatively interwoven throughout the plot to tie together an epic biopic that was likely difficult to effectively condense. Moreover, the sheer amount of content covered in this movie does pose a problem that creates some choppiness in the storyline. It would have been better for Harriet to be presented in a non-linear style so that the story didn’t simply jump from one high point to another. Another pitfall of this section is the fact that some of the writing went out of its way to include unnecessarily edgy content (although some of it is unfortunately realistic) and slightly extreme language (though some is still authentic). Nevertheless, despite these shortcomings, this narrative is still high quality and leaves a lasting impact on the viewers.

Acting Quality (3 points)

With professional acting and directing, Harriet has virtually no flaws in this category. The costuming is period-accurate and reflects attention to detail. Line delivery is on point, and emotions are very accessible. Thus, this rounds out an encouraging effort and completes this film’s campaign for the Hall of Fame.

Conclusion

Harriet also receives an x-factor point for being re-watchable and for tackling a highly relevant topic in a memorable way. One thing to note is that this movie could have been even better in the hands of different directors who could have portrayed the story in a more Christian manner, but the current market was unfortunately not suitable for this to happen. Nonetheless, this creative team did enough to preserve Tubman’s Christian worldview and to make this a high-level screenplay, which caused it to earn a spot on the Hall of Fame. Therefore, we highly recommend it for appropriate audiences.

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

The Islands [2019] (Movie Review)

Image result for the islands christian movie

Plot Summary

John Thornton felt called to be a missionary on the remote island of Hawaii in the early 1800s, so he took his wife, Mary, and went with their friend Hiram to the unknown place. Once there, the missionaries met Chiefess Kapiolani and those her were in her tribe. Although the chiefess was familiar with the English language and American customs, many of her people were suspicious of the Caucasian visitors and preferred to practice human sacrifice to their pagan gods. However, one fateful day, as the island’s volcano raged, they all came face to face with what it truly meant to believe in a god.

Production Quality (2 points)

Overall, it’s clear that this production was well-funded with money that was mostly responsibly spent. All the standard elements are up to par, including video quality, audio quality, sets, props, and locations. However, there are a few pesky issues that hold this section back from being perfect, such as some cheesy sound effects that were obviously added on top of the normal audio and a generic soundtrack that never stops playing. Further, the editing leaves something to be desired as there are some abrupt cuts and transitions that cause some scenes to end without natural conclusions. Nonetheless, this production does enough to stay above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the get-go, The Islands‘ plot is nearly crippled by immediate narration that continues throughout the narrative and is sometimes substituted with information dump dialogue, which seems to serve as some type of history lesson. To make matters worse, there are far too many characters for the viewer to keep up with much less for them to have time to be properly developed. Time jumps also complicate matters and make the story seem like just a collection of random scenes strung together as the film goes from one high point to the next and even seems to repeat itself on several occasions. Several interactions between characters feel like they’re on repeat and are simply designed to waste time until the climax. A lot of the conversations and situations seem very contrived just for the sake of the plot-line, and there are no clear or consistent themes that underlay the idea and give it true purpose. Nonetheless, all of these problems aside, Timothy Chey and his team did stumble upon a very intriguing true account that still shines through despite the poor storytelling. This fact is most evident in the famed final sequence that actually demonstrates some potential, which is why this section isn’t zero points. However, it’s too little too late and makes for a disappointing experience.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

One of The Islands‘ strongest points is its encouraging commitment to assembling a diverse and culturally accurate cast, even if the costuming is a bit cheesy at times. However, this main strength is slightly weakened by the fact that much of the acting is fairly robotic at times, and emotions are sometimes difficult to believe. While it’s good to see the proper foreign language being applied in this setting, there is a lot of fight-acting throughout the film that is poorly executed and coached. Moreover, in the end, there is enough positive in this section to keep in at the average mark.

Conclusion

The historical narrative behind The Islands appears to be a very interesting and potentially powerful story that could and should have received better treatment. It’s one thing to have a good idea, but it’s another to successfully execute it, and it’s definitely a difficult feat to accomplish. Nonetheless, the experience Chey and his team bring to the table is enough to ask more of them, and the amount of potential for engaging concepts and overarching themes that was left on the table in this film was simply unacceptable. However, Chey is still on an upward trend in his career when compared to his earlier days, so perhaps his true success is just around the corner.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Silver Twins (Movie Review)

Image result for silver twins christian movie

Plot Summary

When Larry and David Silver each find Christ while attending separate colleges, they have no idea how they will tell their Jewish parents when they both return home for fall break. Once back home, things don’t go as planned, and they find themselves at odds with some of their family members. However, just as God brought them into a new faith in the true Messiah, the twins discover that He will also provide what they need as they follow Jesus.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, Silver Twins has an average production; it has fine video quality, audio quality, and camera work, but there are some obviously overdubbed lines. Also, there are times when the soundtrack doesn’t adequately fit the mood of the scenes. While the sets, locations, and props are mostly good and realistic, some of them seem slightly cheap and poorly utilized. Further, a handful of scenes are sometimes prematurely cut off, and there are some quick transitions that tend to hamper the viewing experience. In the end, the mixture of positive and negative leaves this section as middle-of-the-road.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

It’s usually a good thing to base a film off of a true story, especially an interesting one like this account. However, although the use of flashbacks is commendable, they sometimes unexpectedly invade the narrative and don’t always relate to the plot’s flow. Similarly, though the exploration of realistic family issues is a plus, the character arcs are too steep and lack believable explanations for why the people change as rapidly as they do. Also, while non-linear storylines can be a very good addition to the movie, the constant criss-crossing of Silver Twins‘ timelines is quite confusing and disorienting for the audience. Further, much of the dialogue is full of platitudes and cliched statements rather than substantial lines that reveal character motive and personality. In the end, the film ends seemingly before many of the subplots come to logical or meaningful resolutions; it was almost as if they intended to make a second part but never did. Thus, although there was some potential here, it just wasn’t enough and was weighed down with avoidable problems.

Acting Quality (1 point)

There are also a handful of unforced errors among the acting, such as obviously manufactured accents that come off as too fake. Also, some cast members trying to play multiple age brackets in the same film properly translate to reality. As a whole, many of the performances are a bit stiff and awkward in parts, and some of the emotions feel very forced and wooden. Certain instances of line delivery seem off point and somewhat robotic, like there are scenes that were done in one take. However, not all is bad here as there are some positives in each of these subcategories, but it’s just not enough to keep this movie’s proverbial head above water.

Conclusion

Films like Silver Twins tend to rely too much on the ideas behind them rather than the execution of the concepts. Dramatic conversion stories are intriguing and noteworthy to portray on the big screen, but in order to truly make a difference and to effectively engage the viewer, it has to be adequately represented. For potentially good narratives like this one, it’s typically better to wait until a good team can be assembled and an adequate budget can be applied. Later-released, quality content always beats quickly created and rapidly distributed movies.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Translated [2018] (Movie Review)

Image result for translated christian movie

Plot Summary

Through an unusual turn of events, the Apostle Paul is transported through time to the present day, where he finds the modern church looking very different than the one he knew in his day. Paul is found by Tim, who takes him in and helps the Apostle acclimate to the new world. Then, Paul shares the old messages he was given by God in new ways for the future church.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a seemingly basic and essentially modern production, it’s unclear why Translated scored only average, but this rating is due to a handful of avoidable concerns. One of these is some moments of shaky camera work while other relates to invasive background sounds that are present inside of indoor sets. While the outdoor shots are better, the audio quality overall needs some balancing work, and the soundtrack is mostly average. Nonetheless, video quality is very good, and the prop usage is effective. There are some minor special effects issues, such as low quality black-and-white flashbacks, but editing is mostly in line with standards. In the end, the mixed bag quality of the production causes it to be run-of-the-mill, which is actually unacceptable given the uncomplicated nature of what was being created.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From the get-go, the entire premise of this plot seems off. Not only does time travel almost always present major logic problems for narratives, but it’s unclear why the Apostle Paul would either need to come to the present day or even would be sent to it. Attempting to alter such a cornerstone Bible story causes many issues that are not easily resolved, and besides this, even if this weren’t a problem, it’s still very difficult to discern the actual purpose of this plotline. Nothing much happens as the film meanders around and touches on some typical fish-out-of-water concepts, such as introducing the ‘different’ character to various ideas that are foreign to them. There is no driving focus to the storyline, and the dialogue is mainly used to spoon-feed the audience with obvious messaging. As such, the characters are poorly developed and are swept along in disconnected subplots that lack meaningful purpose. Essentially, once one random thing happens after another, the story suddenly concludes in an abrupt fashion and doesn’t leave the viewer with much to work with. In the end, there’s little to no potential in this idea, which is why it really never should have been made.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For a small cast, there really isn’t much dynamic in this movie’s performances. While there’s nothing obviously bad, there are also no positive standouts. Emotions and line delivery are both just pedestrian, which ultimately leads to an average rating.

Conclusion

Starting off with such a bizarre premise likely doomed Translated from the start. There’s just nothing that can be done with a story that inexplicably transports a historical character to the present day for no particular reason. There are just so many other things that could be made that would be far more worthwhile than this. We need more Christian films that present transformative meaning rather than more run-of-the-mill throwaways that will be automatically lost in the shuffle.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Assassin 33 AD (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Ram Goldstein and several other genius scientists are working on a top secret project for a multimillionaire named Ahmed. At first, they’re completely cool with being locked in a room with armed guards patrolling the halls, but when they use their super hacking skills to discover that Ahmed is coordinating with government leaders from Muslim-controlled nations to create time travel, they begin to grow concerned. Ahmed intends to use the mystical power of time travel to return to the past and kill Jesus before He’s resurrected so that Christianity will cease to exist! However, time travel is a bit tricky, and when multiple timelines are created due to the tampering, many different versions of the same characters are apparently created. Also, if they don’t erase the extra timelines before it’s too late, they will all converge into an APOCALYPSE! Can Ram and his friends stop this wicked plot before it’s too late?!?!?

Production Quality (-3 points)

Even though it seems like there was a substantial budget spent on Assassin 33 AD, the funding didn’t pay off as it was wasted on extremely cheap CGI and ridiculous special effects that overtake and overpower all other production elements. They have direct connections to the sets, locations, and props and make it clear that this team had no idea what they were doing when they slapped this project together. While there are some notable positives in this production, they are covered up by the myriad concerns created by the CGI and special effects blunders. Also, the editing has a handful of issues, but this could easily be chalked up to having to deal with one of the worst plots in the history of Christian entertainment. Overall, the glaringly obvious negatives throughout this film overshadow any slightly good elements that could be noted.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)

Where to begin? Assassin 33 AD has achieved the unthinkable feat of being as incoherent and offensive as Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas. This is not a title to be lightly delivered, but there plenty of ways Assassin goes further than even Timothy Chey has gone (yet). First of all, the entire premise behind Assassin is totally off-base from the get-go. Messing around with time travel and how it relates to Jesus is an absolute no-no when it comes to story-boarding, so there’s no reason to even broach the subject. Then, to take this a step further and actually make a purportedly Christian film about modern day soldiers being able to shoot Jesus with a pistol in the Garden of Gethsemane is borderline insanity. As if this isn’t enough, to create multiple timelines that both alter Scripture and try to twist biblical history into including the movie’s characters in the actual canon is just the end. I literally cannot comprehend the inanity of this proposition, which by no indication is being done in jest. Besides these glowing red flag problems that are part of the story’s very fabric, there are so many other movie faux pas committed in Assassin that space will likely not permit a full exploration. Nonetheless, here is a very quick rundown: characters are poorly developed via expository dialogue and unnatural lines that are designed to force the plot forward, key plot points are supported by unexplained “science” and convenient technical devices that lack basis in reality or logic, the villains basically stepped out of a conservative fever dream about Muslims taking over the world, wild time jumps are only supplanted by the maddening nature of the multiple timelines created by time travel, basically every character has a minimum of two different versions of themselves (“past” and “present”), some of these copy characters end up having conversations with each other, the protagonists can seemingly do whatever they want in a supposedly high-security facility with armed guards all around them, the Jesus character seems just as confused about what’s going on as the viewers are, etc., etc., etc. Did I mention that the writers took a crazily arrogant creative license to replace Biblical characters (like the thieves on the crosses beside Jesus and the man who fled the Garden of Gethsemane with no clothes on) with modern-day characters from the “future” timelines? This notion is only made complete by the scene where two copy characters (the same cast member) are discussing how the modern-day Bible is changing right before their eyes due to the timelines being altered in the past. Further, as if all of this wasn’t an epic trainwreck, the film’s epilogue completely turns everything on its ear by negating the “past” timeline that set the movie’s events into notion in the first place. Therefore, taking all of this evidence into account, this section is awarded the maximum negative score, and this also affects other aspects of the film.

Acting Quality (-3 points)

The horrid nature of the plot bleeds over into acting and causes this section to suffer even though it may not have been as bad if it were paired with a different narrative. Much of the line delivery is robotic and not earnest, and emotions are hard to believe. Some cast members, especially those who are portraying villains, overplay their roles while others seem bored or confused, which may have been justified. In the end, the major negatives at the core of the project drag the entire thing down into the depths of Christian entertainment.

Conclusion

Assassin 33 AD also receives to honor of scoring a negative x-factor point to round out an effort that joins Saving Christmas as one of the worst films of all time. Whenever a creator sets out to make a movie about how biblical accounts and Jesus’ life on earth in general could be altered via time travel as well as how the Bible could be rewritten based on the changing of previous timelines, they are already way off the road and should entirely ditch the project. Going through with such a travesty raises some serious questions about the true motivation behind its creation. There’s literally no way to redeem this awful concept, so the best thing that can be done is to encourage audiences to stay away from it and to help future film makers avoid these types of monumental blunders.

Final Rating: -10 out of 10 points

Joseph, Close to Jesus {Joseph of Nazareth} (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Joseph never chose to be the earthly stepfather of the Messiah, but by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, he accepted his role to take care of Mary and the Christ Child for as long as God wanted him to. Joseph was there before, during, and after the birth of Jesus, so he had a unique perspective on Yahweh’s plan to save humanity from sin.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Like many other Lux Vide\Trinity Broadcasting Network biblical presentations, the production of Joseph, Close to Jesus is typically fine. It has authentic sets, locations, and props, along with good video quality and audio quality. As a whole, it seems realistic even though the action scenes sometimes employ wild camera work and though some shots are unnecessarily close. The soundtrack is a bit generic and dramatic at times, but most aspects of this production are acceptable. The editing sometimes leaves something to be desired due to some lagging scenes and quick cuts, but on the whole, this is at least an average effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From start to finish, Joseph of Nazareth adopts a very quick and forceful plot progression as the story is forced forward at a breakneck pace that doesn’t let things naturally develop or allow time for characters to be deepened. Besides this poorly constructed premise, Joseph comes off as a basically perfect and all-knowing character even though he appears a bit crazed at times. In focusing on his inaccessible qualities, some key biblical scenes are brushed over or portrayed in extremely vague ways, which confuses the audience. Other scenes are very muted and blank, and dialogue in general leaves much to be desired. Elsewhere, there are a handful of fantastical and ethereal elements that cause spiritual themes to be painted either in a magical light or as untouchable. In summary, the combination of the speedy storyline and the general oddness of some of the characters and plot points prevents this section from having any points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While some cast members appear to be culturally authentic, many of them, especially the lead ones, are not and obviously belong to cultures other than those who lived in first century Judea. Moreover, while the costuming of all characters is fine, the acting is extremely theatrical and dramatic. It feels like many of them are putting on a play rather than trying to become the characters, which further gives this film an air of elitism and other-worldliness. Further, emotions are inadequately depicted, and some lines are very forced, which rounds out a disappointing effort.

Conclusion

Joseph, Close to Jesus had a lot going for it since it promised to provide a unique perspective on the Nativity and on Jesus’ early years. However, it committed many unforced errors and was more devoted to making the Bible seem like a Shakespearean experience rather than a Spirit-inspired historical account that still has profound application for us today. Unfortunately, this was the case for most Scriptural entertainment prior to The Passion of the Christ. Thankfully, in recent years, God has provided the market with better options for accessible biblical depictions of the First Christmas on both the big screen (The Nativity Story) and the small screen (The Chosen). These offerings are much more interesting for your family to enjoy this holiday season.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

The Two Thieves {Once We Were Slaves} (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

On the day of Jesus’ death, two thieves were crucified with Him–one on His left and one on his right. They were paying for their earthly crimes while Christ was atoning for the sins of all humanity. However, each of them had one last chance to accept redemption from the very Savior Who wanted to save them from their sin.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It’s clear that the budget of The Two Thieves was quite limited, which is evidenced by some shaky camera work and some limited sets, props, and locations. However, the props therein are very culturally authentic and demonstrate good attention to historical detail. Elsewhere, video quality, audio quality, lighting, and the soundtrack are all good and are enough to keep this section average. Though editing is a bit limited as well, this production shows a good start to even greater things in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

As The Two Thieves is basically the conceptual predecessor to The Chosen, it showcases the God-given talents of Dallas Jenkins, Tyler Thompson, and the rest of their creative team. This is evidenced by this storyline’s good adherence to Jewish cultural traditions and historical accuracy, which is seamlessly interwoven with deep characters who are developed through motive-revealing flashbacks and well-constructed conversations. The continuity between scenes is also great, and this is all done with a limited time frame. Elsewhere, the story feels very authentic and gritty as the writers are not afraid to be realistic about the hard times of first century Judea. Further, the non-linear plot style is a nice touch. In the end, this storyline is good enough to be nearly perfect, and the only thing holding it back is the time constraint.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Due to restricted funding, The Two Thieves was unable to assemble a fully authentic cast, but thankfully, the accents of the characters are realistic and well-done. Moreover, the lack of complete cultural realism is really the only main concern with this cast as they consistently portray believable emotions and mostly deliver their lines in professional manners. There are a few tiny concerns with line delivery, but in the end, this section demonstrates another reason why God called this creative team to make The Chosen.

Conclusion

As a whole, The Two Thieves proves that, when things are in order, a movie maker and their team can craft a deep story using a small budget. This offering is a perfect example of how short films can be used as a springboard to future greatness. Although this one didn’t quite make it all the way, it still provides a template for future creative teams to replicate.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

The Chosen, Season 1.2 (Series Review)

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The Critically Acclaimed Hit Series Completes Its First Season

Plot Summary

After Jesus chose a majority of His followers, He began to slowly but surely reveal His nature to the world through public miracles and teachings. Though He mostly ministered in obscurity, His work drew the attention of multiple different spheres of influence: common people, powerful politicians, and power-hungry religious leaders. However, Christ never discriminated in who He chose to follow Him as He broke down social and cultural barriers in order to proclaim His love for all humanity.

Production Quality (2.5 points)
Much like the first half of Season 1, this season’s second half boasts a very high-quality production that both lives within its means and makes the most of what it has. Though camera work can be a bit shaky at times, much like the former half, there are virtually no other production flaws to note here. Video quality and audio quality are both flawless as the camera captures poignant scenes that feel like real life. Sets, locations, and props are incredibly authentic and demonstrate extreme care for historical accuracy and attention to detail. Perhaps the most impactful element of the production is the exquisite soundtrack that is creatively and artistically placed to enhance key moments and to draw the audience into the story’s emotional experiences. Further, editing is seamless and presents a well-crafted plot in a professional manner. In the end, Dallas Jenkins and his very talented creative team have once again showcased their God-given talents in a very responsible manner that has revolutionized Christian entertainment at a time when it was desperately needed.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)
However, there’s still more to say. It’s undeniable that the extreme humanity of The Chosen’s characters are what make the series more than a run-of-the-mill Bible drama. Tyler Thompson and the other writers clearly went great lengths, as prompted by the Holy Spirit, to not only ensure the accurate cultural profiles of the characters but to also make them very flawed and relatable to all audiences, which is something other Biblical productions have been allergic to. The Chosen doesn’t just show the viewers a collection of well-known miracles and stories: the lead-up and fallout of each important event is carefully crafted and woven together with other intriguing subplots. All of this is good enough without even mentioning the way some scenes are presented in artistic manners that are nearly flawless in their presentation. Dialogue and conversations between characters are very deep, meaningful, and even philosophical at times, which is something we rarely see in Christian entertainment. Basically, there are more positive qualities in this section than can be named, which has warranted a separate discussion on how the subplots interlock and interact. In the end, The Chosen creative team has transformed the development of series and characters in Christian entertainment, and there’s no going back from here.

Acting Quality (3 points)
With virtually the same cast from episodes one through four plus others who add more life than there already was, the acting of episodes five through eight does not waver from its previously perfect score. In fact, many of the cast members build off of their roles and become even more comfortable in their characters. Emotions are right on target such that they can be felt by the viewers, and line delivery is basically perfect. This cast is so heavily talented that it’s posing a good problem for Box Office Revolution’s upcoming Actor and Actress of the Year Awards, which is a type of dilemma we have unfortunately never been faced with in our reviewing experience.

Continuity Quality (3 points)
Continuity is where many Christian series completely drop the proverbial ball because the episode are often disconnected and self-contained. However, every episode of The Chosen that has been released so far are somehow able to be both self-consistent as well as connected to the bigger picture, which is an important component of a great series. One way the continuity is best demonstrated in through the use of flashbacks to cover both previously overlooked New Testament stories along with relevant Old Testament accounts, and this latter inclusion is one of the added bonuses of episodes five through eight. Finally, the ending of each episode is epic and demonstrates how much this creative knows what they’re doing and how much they have relied on God to get this project right.

Conclusion

The second half of The Chosen’s first season also receives two x-factor points for presenting the greatest stories of history in the ways they should have been portrayed all along as well as for being re-watchable and binge-able. There’s hardly anything we would want changed about The Chosen at this point except for an even bigger budget to do better things with since Jenkins and the rest have demonstrated an ability to responsibly steward the resources God’s given them. As a side note, we receive no compensation or reward for our reviews and advertising of this series, but we wholeheartedly support its full release and strongly encourage you to both watch Season 1 during this year’s holidays and to share it with as many people as you can. This is first time a season of a Christian series has been critically acclaimed and placed on the Box Office Revolution Hall of Fame. We believe The Chosen has a rare, God-given opportunity to change not only the Christian entertainment world but also Christian culture as a whole because it’s a fresh, high-quality look at well-known stories that are timelessly relevant for all people.

Final Rating: 13.5 out of 14 points

Season of Miracles (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

In the year 1974, when an autistic player joins a local baseball team, the transition is not as smooth as it could have been because the old team wanted to keep things the way they were. However, the coach intends to make the situation work, so the boys must learn to accept each other’s differences and unite against a common foe: their closest rival team. In the end, the season turns out in a way none of them could have ever dreamed.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Season of Miracles is a mixed bag in the production category. While there is some odd lighting in the indoor scenes, as well as randomly blurry video quality, the outside scenes are actually better in these areas. Even still, many scenes have an odd vintage look to them, which may or may not be purposeful. There is also some inconsistent audio quality throughout film, including some overdubbed parts, and action shots have shaky camera work. However, with the exception of the soundtrack, which remains generic throughout the movie, the production overall improves as time goes on, especially when it comes to the filming of action shots. By the end of the film, the production seems right on par with standard, which is why it did enough to achieve an average rating.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As a whole, it’s unfortunately hard to discern the actual purpose behind Season of Miracles. It’s commendable to explore the treatment of special needs people in previous decades, but this intention doesn’t really come through very well since the plot is mostly filled with lots of baseball montages and tons of random characters that the audience can’t really relate to due to the lack of adequate dialogue. Deciding who and what to focus on as the story progresses is a difficult feat to accomplish since it’s tough to differentiate between some of the characters. There are many, many stock sports scenes and training\game sequences that steal valuable time away from the central storyline, whatever it may be. Further, the Christian message feels extremely forced and entirely based upon awkward platitudes while the non-Christian characters within the plot are total strawmen. In the end, despite the potential this story has with the special needs subplot, there just isn’t enough here, and the overall experience is too vague to justify a higher rating.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the acting in Season of Miracles is average, but there are some oddly awkward moments with the adolescent and child cast members that probably required further coaching than they had available. The younger actors and actresses seem too earnest at times, but by far the worst element of the acting is the fact that a Caucasian cast member appears to be playing a Hispanic character, which comes off as very offensive. However, there are some other good performances that balance out these concerns and bring the score up to par.

Conclusion

In the end, there may be a lot of good intentions behind films like Season of Miracles, but there are too many pitfalls that comes with them. There are a handful of issues that could have been easily solved through more collaboration, which is truly the tale of Christian entertainment. Lack of purposeful cooperation across multiple different creative teams is what keeps potentially interesting movies like this one from being all that they can be. There have been many missed opportunities like this one in the recent years, but hopefully, we are entering a new era of Christian creativity where collaboration and following God’s plan for what should and shouldn’t be made are the guiding lights.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

When Hope Calls, Season 1 (Series Review)

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It’s like When Calls the Heart on an obscure streaming service!

Plot Summary

When Lillian and Grace, two orphan siblings, agreed to travel to a new town to run an orphanage, they had no idea what would be in store for them. Of course, they probably could have made an educated guess since they went from Hope Valley to a basic copy of this fantastical borough. This new town has equally important aspects as Hope Valley, such as the obligatory town doctor, the expected general store, and of course, a predictably hair-gelled Mountie just waiting to get hitched. What else could fans of When Calls the Heart want besides another series on the cable channel rather than on a streaming service nobody uses?

Production Quality (1.5 points)
The budget for When Hope Calls (WHC) is clearly lower than When Calls the Heart (WCTH), and this is most strikingly obvious in the poorly constructed town set that looks like a bunch of clapboard buildings plopped in the middle of a mowed-over field. The structures’ false fronts are also too much. This aside, must like WCTH, WHC is limited to just a few select sets, props, and locations, and there are some cheap special effects on top of this. Nonetheless, the production is aided by typically fine video quality, audio quality, and camera work, even if the soundtrack is pedestrian and boring. The editing tends to lag at times, such as leaving scenes running too long, but this production is overall just average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
Much like its parent show, not very significant happens throughout the course of the WHC “plot.” The only remotely interesting elements are used up by the third episode as the series devolves into typical small-town romance nonsense. If it’s possible, the characters are much more blank and cardboard in WHC than in WCTH even if they are less sappy in the former. This is created by a lot of stiff and awkward attempts at conversations as some characters seem to be mysteriously concealing things that are never revealed while others seem to wonder why they are even there. The dialogue is very stock and phoned-in, which creates wooden characters, and the so-called comedic elements are beyond cheesy. Any struggles the characters experience can’t be adequately related to because they seem so plastic and forced. Elsewhere, the town setup is shockingly unrealistic on a historical level, and the Christian themes are very shoehorned in. In the end, with no driving purpose or actual point, the first season’s story is basically just a lot of trumped-up drama with nothing substantial to back it up.

Acting Quality (1 point)
In keeping with Michael Landon Jr.’s common practices, the cast of WHC appears to be as fake as WCTH’s (except not as over the top). This includes how they interact with each other as well as what they look like. On appearances, none of them look historically accurate except for some slight attempts at realistic costuming. When it comes to acting, line delivery seems laborious for some cast members while others seem bored with their roles. Emotions overall seemed forced and unnatural. Some cast members show potential in different roles but don’t live up to their full potential. In the end, this section’s rating is basically expected.

Continuity Quality (.5 point)
As previously mentioned, the best potential for engaging continuity is quickly discarded in the beginning and replaced with drab procedural recurrences. In the middle and at the end of the season, many of the episodes run together and feel like the same thing is happening over and over again. Then, this is culminated with an awkwardly forced climax and alleged cliff-hanger ending in the final episode. Basically, this season doesn’t have much going for it.

Conclusion

What else is there to say? Shows like When Hope Calls have a specific purpose in mind and do whatever it takes to fulfill that purpose. The storylines are predetermined, the production is as cheap as possible, and the cast is as pageantry as expected. All of these criteria are tailor-made for a reason, so we have to commend MLJ and company for at least being consistent in their poor novel adaptations. Why not try to capitalize on the success of a series like When Calls the Heart? However, what is it ultimately accomplishing besides creating more sub-par Christian entertainment?

Final Rating: 3 out of 14 points

Thomas, Close to Jesus {The Friends of Jesus – Thomas} (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Thomas followed Jesus for the three years of the Lord’s earthly ministry, yet Thomas always struggled with belief. His doubt was only compounded when he witnessed the brutal arrest of his Savior and heard how he was violently flogged and executed at the hands of the Romans. At the darkest hour of history, Thomas’ small faith would be tested like never before.

Production Quality (2 points)

As an early 2000’s production, Thomas, Close to Jesus is mostly respectable, including historically authentic sets, locations, and props. Video quality is passable, and audio quality is fine except that the soundtrack is somewhat generic. The camera work tends to be shaky at first but gets better as it goes. To round things off, the editing is fairly pedestrian yet isn’t bad. In the end, this is basically an above-average production that doesn’t make many positive or negative impact.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Lux Vide and TBN had interesting ideas in this early era of Christian entertainment to make a series of films focusing on different disciples, so a film centered around the less-emphasized character of Thomas is refreshing. However, like other Biblical films from this creative team (Mary Magdalene and Judas), the characters cannot be easily accessed due to stiff and pedestrian dialogue that feels like a Bible play. There are too many boring asides and vanilla conversations that waste time and focus on vague concepts without developing accessible characters. While there were good attempts to connect the films of the series together, there were some unnecessary alterations to the historical account. Further, the portrayal of Jesus is once again too ethereal and otherworldly, and too many scenes either contain forced drama or lag on. In the end, there was probably not enough actual content to sustain full-length movie without slid dialogue and flashbacks.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, the cast of Thomas isn’t entirely culturally authentic, but some attempts are made. Moreover, there are a lot of dramatic and theatrical performances as if this is a stage play. This brings overdone and unnatural emotions with it. Even still, the costuming is mostly historically accurate, and there are some good moments in acting, which is enough to keep this section average.

Conclusion

On a number of levels, creating Biblical fiction entertainment is extremely difficult to pull off, which is why it should never be done lightly. Since TBN’s early attempts at depicting the lives of Jesus and His disciples, Christian movies and series have definitely improved in how they portray these historical characters. They were real people, so when they are properly cast in this light, audiences everywhere can relate to them, which makes the message more powerful and meaningful.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

China Cry (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Sung Neng Yee was glad when the Chinese Communists rose to power in her homeland to drive out the occupying Japanese, but she never anticipated the ultimate consequences this would cause. First, it cost her father his wealth and respect as a successful doctor, and then, the Communists began to tighten their grip on every aspect of Chinese life. However, she and her fellow people adjusted and went forward. Moreover, after beginning a family of her own, Sung Yeng Nee was accused of consorting with Westernizers and Christians. In the darkest moment of her life, she reached out to the God she had always shunned for the help only He could give her.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As an early 1990s production, China Cry has a handful of concerns with it, such as a loud, outdated soundtrack and odd soft lighting at times. Video quality is also sometimes blurry even though the camera work is overall fine, including good establishing shots. For the most part, audio quality is average, and the sets, locations, and props are very realistic, culturally accurate, and historically appropriate. Although the film overall seems outdated and has a lot of quick cuts and awkward transitions due to time jumps in the plot, the production does enough to achieve an average rating, especially considering the time period it was made in.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Right out of the gate, unnecessary narration tends to hurt the plot development, but once it ceases, things begin to unfold naturally without hindrances even though the narration does pop up here and there afterward. Had more substantial and qualitative flashbacks been employed to replace the narration, this plot would have been even better. This would have better helped to bridge the large time jumps throughout the story (non-linear plot structure is the only way to effectively handle lots of content), yet on its face, this narrative is still engaging and very intriguing due to the obscurely interesting portions of history it explores. Key themes are subtly introduced in order to let the character feel more authentic and real than they otherwise would be; the writers definitely did a good job at presenting people at face value rather than trying to push messages via strawmen. Even still, there are some lagging scenes that could have been better re-purposed to improve character growth even more, especially since the second half of the story tends to rush through a lot of content that would have been better explored slowly. This is why a non-linear plot style centered around the weak explanation for the narration would have been appropriate. In the end, China Cry still packs a very powerful message that’s still relevant for all Christians today. It’s too bad that’s is hidden behind poorly designed storytelling, but this true account is nonetheless engaging for all audiences.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Although many of the cast members tend to be dramatically stiff, the lead actress and lead actor are standouts for their comfortably real line delivery and believable emotions. Others tend to lack natural flair for acting, but it’s refreshing to see a culturally authentic cast. Costuming also reflects this commitment to cultural accuracy. In the end, the acting improves enough by the second half of the movie, and the lead acting carries it most of the way.

Conclusion

China Cry definitely deserves a remake, possibly in a miniseries form to further explore alternate subplots and to present the story in a more comprehensive and non-linear fashion. In the end, this film was made very early on in Christian entertainment, but it was onto something we don’t see in many newer movies: a poignant message about relying on God during difficult times and witnessing His miraculous intervention. Thus, many audiences will enjoy this movie, and maybe, new film makers will be inspired to try something outside the norm.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Bonhoeffer, Agent of Grace (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Dietrich Bonhoeffer didn’t want to get involved as the Nazis rose to power in Germany and demanded absolute submission from all institutions, including churches. However, after taking time away in America, he sensed God calling him back to his homeland. Then, the Nazi regime hit home as his twin sister and her Jewish husband had to escape Germany for fear of Nazi nationalism. Thus, when a close friend invited him to get involved in the underground working against Nazi power, Bonhoeffer felt he had to do something to stand against tyranny. Nonetheless, he never anticipated how far he would have to go and what he would experience as a result.

Production Quality (2 points)

For an early 2000s production, it’s clear that a lot of effort was put into Agent of Grace to make it historically authentic, which is evidenced by a great use of realistic-looking sets, props, and locations. Also, the video quality is mostly good except for some outdated-looking portions, and the camera work is standard. Audio quality is on the mark, but it would be nice if there was a more substantial soundtrack to enhance the emotional experience. At the beginning of the movie, the editing is commendable as it uses an overlaying style with effective out-of-order storytelling, yet this is discarded in the last two-thirds of the film and replaced with a very standard linear style. There are also some abruptly awkward cuts that put a damper on things, but overall, this is a respectable production, especially for the time period, and is good enough to be above-average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

There’s no doubt that the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is an excellent and worthwhile one to tell, and in this endeavor, this storyline makes good attempts at character development via adequate dialogue. Where the beginning and the end are interesting, the middle of the story tends to sag a bit as it’s not very engaging and merely presents a collection of isolated and disconnected scenes where things sometimes happen without much lead-up. The good thing is that narration, while it would have been easy to lean on, is entirely avoided, and the conversations between characters are realistic enough. The quick passage of time in the narrative is often difficult to deal with, so it might have been better to frame the entire story as a flashback from the ending sequence since bridging large time gaps while also keeping audience isn’t an easy feat at all. Even still, many sequences are quite good and make the movie worth your time although the amount of off-screen content shows there’s too much in this story to cover in one film. In the end, Agent of Grace is a great effort and is one that was rarely seen in the early 2000s, so at the very least, it makes for a good historical experience.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The best part of this movie is the culturally correct acting and the culturally authentic casting. The costuming is also historically accurate. Besides this, the actual acting quality is very professional, including line delivery and emotional expression. There are very few errors to note here…there are just a few lapses, but this may be due to other elements. Overall, this strong section is enough to push the film past the halfway mark.

Conclusion

This historical account would definitely work better as a miniseries, especially since there are many side plots that didn’t have a chance for exploration in Agent of Grace. There’s a lot of interest and intrigue surrounding this period of history, so more time would have been good. Unfortunately, this film was made before Christian series were even considered outside the children’s entertainment realm; thus, a remake of Bonhoeffer’s narrative and the related elements would be pertinent. Nevertheless, this movie is still worth your time as it portrays a highly important tale that’s still relevant for us today.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Ragamuffin [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rich Mullins never fit in as a kid, especially when it came to his father’s lofty expectations for him.  As a young boy, his father usually criticized him for not being the boy he wanted him to be since Rich much preferred the piano over the tractor.  Thus, when Rich had a chance to strike out on his own, he took it and sought to express his artistry wherever he went.  However, when his music became famous virtually overnight, he wasn’t able to handle the success.  In the end, he had to discover Who God really is in order to free from the past.

Production Quality (2 points)

As a whole, this is a respectable, above-average production, starting with the artistic camera work that serves to enhance the overall experience.  Although scenes are sometimes unnecessarily dark, as well as black and white, this isn’t too big of an issue since the video quality is overall clear.  The audio quality is also a plus, and the soundtrack is okay even though it could have been better due to this film being about Rick Mullins.  For the most part, the sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized such that the story feels real.  Further, there are a few awkward cuts, but the editing is overall fine considering the large amount of content covered in this movie.  In the end, this is an acceptable production, especially for the time period, yet it could have done a little but more.  Even still, it does enough to make the film enjoyable.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The life of Rich Mullins was definitely worth portraying in the context of film, and you could say this film was made before I Can Only Imagine started a new trend of Christian artist biopics.  Within Ragamuffin, there is an excellent exploration of real family of origin problems that exist in small town America as well as the emotional struggles of a performer while traveling on the road.  Thus, the plot contains great life philosophies and an artistic look at things, yet it’s bogged down with early and intermediate narration that tells us things without showing them.  Sometimes, expository dialogue is also used to save time due to the large amount of content that’s covered in this story, but there’s still a great exploration of relevant, authentic issues that many people struggle with.  Hence, the characters are raw and good even if they could have been better without so much narration, exposition, and time jumps that only allow a cursory glance at elements that need more focus.  Although some of the scenes could have been used better, Ragamuffin is still a believable journey of mental health, substance abuse, and relationship issues that come as a result of toxic family messages.  There’s also an honest portrayal of church problems in the 1990s that confused a lot of Christians, and the good parts of the dialogue are very worthwhile.  Near the end, there’s a collection of exquisite psychological sequences that make the entire film worth your time, but it would have been better to see substantial build-up to these.  In the end, this is a great film because of the topic it’s based on; there are plenty of opportunities for improvement, but it’s still enjoyable as it is.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Like other portions of the movie, the acting of Ragamuffin could be a bit better than it is, mostly by being more dynamic and less static.  There are some sequences of blank emotions, but on the whole, emotional experience is adequate.  The lead actor takes on the role of Rich Mullins quite well, and other cast members assume their respective roles with ease.  In summary, this film had a lot going for it that helped it rack up plenty of good marks, but there’s still more that could have been done here.

Conclusion

Basically, Ragamuffin is in desperate need of a remake because it was made before Christians were beginning to learn how to tell stories well in movies.  It’s a face value, here-are-the-plain-facts approach to things, but modern Christian entertainment demands more.  We can tell stories better than this; even so, Ragamuffin was ahead of its time for taking on an unpopular topic in Christianity in a time when everything was assumed to be fine, so for this reason alone, it’s worth your time.  We’d like to see the creators of this film collaborate with a good team because they could do great things together.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

When Calls the Heart, Season 6 (Series Review)

We don’t speak of her anymore

Plot Summary

And once again we return to the fake small town known as Hope Valley for another fruitless season of people living in the dream world crafted by the series creators. Hardly anybody remembers Jack the Mountie anymore except for the fact that he and Elizabeth were married long enough to produce an instant child who’s coincidentally named after him. While Daniel Lissing willingly left the show, which was last season’s biggest news, Lori Loughlin was literally handcuffed, removed, and totally scrubbed from the show. The shadow of her scandal looms over the sixth season, especially with how Hallmark mishandled the whole ordeal and drew unnecessary attention to the problems. As a whole, Abigail’s awkward exit from the show and the subsequent complete rewrite of the show is the most interesting things that happened, but why are we not surprised? Michael Landon Jr. always planned to subject Erin Krakow to his favorite young-widow-starts-sort-of-dating-again treatment as he always has, so there’s nothing left to do but once again point out the same old flaws this series commits and count down the minutes for the Hearties to descend on my little blog post to vehemently defend all things wholesome in the face of such heartless (lol) criticism.

Production Quality (2 points)
What’s a Hallmark production without the same carbon-copy lineup of good camera work and video quality, acceptable audio quality, and that predictable, nauseatingly bubbly soundtrack? When Calls the Heart part VI checks all the proverbial boxes in this category, and it’s getting very difficult to differentiate any of the seasons from each other (except for the first two). Hope Valley still consists of the same old sets, locations, and props that are no doubt re-purposed for other Hallmark productions and are designed to make the audience believe this is a real Western town. Also, there’s still that tiny forest area Bill goes to dramatically reveal another part of his vastly complex yet noticeably cagey backstory. The only complaint for this section (besides their doing the same thing with no noticeable changes or improvements) is that we still don’t have a set for the beauty salon where the female characters get their hair done (although we might have gotten a quick glimpse at it in the finale).

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
As we’ve said before, ever Hamilton took over Hope Valley, nothing has ever been the same. We just get the same old helium-infused characters spinning in circles as they retrace old plots steps over and over again. The only chances we have to get outside of the Hope Valley crossroads are Bill’s forest trips to tell us another part of his ever-fluctuating history, but now that we have a new Mountie, I guess we’ll have some trips to that bridge or something. Elsewhere, Elizabeth keeps us wondering why she’s even still in the series as her heart (lol) is passed around like a football and only exists for Michael Landon Jr. and company to continue their fetish of pairing a woman with a law enforcement character just long enough for her to get pregnant before killing said man near the end of the movie\series or even in between installments. Seriously, how is Elizabeth and Lucas vs Nathan any different from Charles vs Jack (except that Marcus Rosner was an essential addition to the show yet was stolen from us)? Elsewhere, the town is littered with many empty-minded side romances that they desperately want us to care about (although Aren Buchholz is quickly becoming one of the most important aspects of the entire series). Even Rosemary is losing her luster as a satirical comic relief who reminds us how un-serious the whole ordeal is as the writers are muting her character to go all dark and brooding because of [WHOOPS SPOILER]. And then there’s that whole situation with Abigail. Ironically, just before Lori Loughlin was led away by the police, her character made a hilariously funny reference to how Bill needed to bring some random bad guy to justice, and this is definitely the defining moment of the entire season. Loughlin’s scandalous shadow looms large over the poor town; even after the writers awkwardly tried to erase her from the universe’s memories, everything was clunky following the hiatus. Subplots awkwardly start and stop with no real conclusions. Scenes between Elizabeth and Lucas seem directly copied from Beauty and the Beast (yes, he gave her a library). Gowen is as uneven as ever (seriously, what do the writers expect from him at this point?). They all seem lost without Abigail to guide them in their everyday lives, but alas, she and Cody (awwww he left too!) has bigger fish to fry in court “back east.” Thus, with nothing really new to say here besides the same garbage we’ve seen from the past two indiscernible seasons, Hearties only have this incoherent stream of consciousness to parse through as they rush from Facebook to “own” the author of this post with zingers better suited for a clickbait news site.

Acting Quality (0 points)
For the most part, the acting of this season is as sappy as ever, but there are a handful of instances, especially near the end, that feel very muted and more scripted than usual. This is no doubt that this is due to some of the redone footage after Loughlin’s untimely exit, and the cast members were likely just emotionally distraught over her absence. Overall, there’s really nothing new to write home about (although Elizabeth does quite a bit of writing these days), and this section is award no points because we expect better than this after six seasons.

Continuity Quality (0 points)
As previously mentioned, some of this season’s subplots seem to disappear from the writing with no warning, which is a likely byproduct of the rework done following Loughlin’s arrest. Otherwise, it’s just typical plug and play romances as the writers introduce one after another to the point where you can’t hardly tell the different between them. Also, as a side note, at least a third of the subplots in season six relate in some way to the upcoming summer spinoff show When Hope Calls, which is possibly where many characters will escape to once When Calls the Heart finally runs out of steam.

Conclusion

Oh yeah, so there’s a seventh season coming up. MLJ has at least two more seasons to use Elizabeth’s indecisiveness and lack of personality as a carrot to dangle in front of his rabid fans, but sooner or later, they’ll get tired of this song and dance. With Loughlin’s scandal-ridden exit, this series is already running on fumes and has only been sustained by constant romance bait-and-switch. I mean, is anybody the least bit annoyed with how they treat Elizabeth? Anyhow, this has been another WCTH review from your favorite reviewer in which I didn’t talk about much substantial and just sort of rambled on about random things I thought of while I binge-watched this season. Begin commenting now……………………….

Final Rating: 2 out of 14 points

The Christ Slayer (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Longinus was raised by the Magi, but he never fully believed the stories they told of the Messiah as he rose through the ranks of the Roman army. he was at the pinnacle of his career, but an injury led to blindness, forcing him out of service. As he languished in darkness with a servant to guide his daily activities, he never dreamed that his life would be forever changed when he helped end a seemingly meaningless crucifixion of the One they called the King of the Jews.

Production Quality (2 points)

Over time, DJ Perry and his creative have definitely improved their production skills as The Christ Slayer demonstrates good camera work, effective camera angles, and professional video quality. The audio quality is also fine for the more part, and the soundtrack is culturally authentic. While the sets, locations, and props are great, the outdoor scenes are better since some of the indoor shots are a bit too dark and disorienting. Some of the editing could have been more consistent and understandable, but on the whole, this production is adequate and shows commitment to improving.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The Quest Trilogy has taken many different turns, and at this point, the ending is better than the beginning. At its inception, some parts were hard to grasp and a bit too abstract, but the unique turn in The Christ Slayer definitely helped things. This is a unique extra-Biblical plot that gives a fresh perspective on the events surrounding the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, and it sports the typical abstractly creative concepts of the CDI team. The spiritual elements from Forty Nights and Chasing the Star are included in this third installment, but they are presented in more accessible fashions. Similarly, the psychological themes of The Christ Slayer are fairly well-utilized, and integration of Biblical accounts is creatively woven together with the main plot. There are a few drawbacks, however, that keep this plot from being all that it could be. For instance, there are quite a few slow scenes that tend to be too artistic such that the audience has trouble understanding them, and some of the characters’ dialogue is a bit archaic and drawn-out. There are some expository conversations that replace better character development, and sometimes, the Jesus character is a bit too ethereal and inaccessible, but as a whole, this is a fine Easter plot that demonstrates unique storytelling.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Probably the brightest spot of this film’s cast is the awesome idea to cast a special needs cast member in a role that doesn’t over-emphasize his condition. Treating him as a regular actor is a huge step forward for disability rights, so this creative team’s decision to do this shows a deeper care for inclusion in the arts. Elsewhere in this cast, some of the main cast members are good while some could use more efficient coaching to avoid being too theatrical and dramatic. As a whole, the acting is average, but it could have been better if emotions were more accessible. In the end, The Christ Slayer is a good end to the Quest Trilogy.

Conclusion

DJ Perry and company have a lot going for them, so it will be interesting to see how they will be able to collaborate with other talent in the future. Throughout their careers, they have only gotten better as they have adapted and changed, which is encouraging to see. Sometimes trilogies end worse than they begin, so since the Quest Trilogy has ended on a good note, this will hopefully be a springboard to better things in the future for CDI entertainment.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Unplanned [2019] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director and abortion rights advocate, was taken by God on an unforgettable journey of redemption and forgiveness that led her to reject her former way of life and trade it for a ministry of pro-life activism. Though no one could have ever dreamed that an abortion clinic supervisor would switch political sides and join her former enemies, there is no end to the power of prayer.

Production Quality (2 points)

As expected at this point from PureFlix, the production of Unplanned is above-average and hits all the right notes, for the most part. On the surface, it looks good due to high video quality, professional camera work, and adequate sets, locations, and props. Audio quality is also good. They’ve checked all the typical boxes, but there are some issues with the soundtrack as many of the songs don’t properly fit the situations they are played in. However, the most glaring problem is the horrific editing that takes the viewer all over the map of a story that could have been good but only ends up playing like an audio book, as we see next.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

At this point, it’s painfully clear that the current PureFlix team can’t even properly portray a great true story even if it hit them in the face like Abby Johnson’s story did. Even if the book is already written for them, you can count on PureFlix to fumble the ball at the goal line by falling back on their old tried-and-failed pitfalls of trying to be too obvious without trusting the audience to read in to the subtlety and of crafting too many climax scenes for dramatic effect. The obvious goal was the hit all the high points of the story in order to maximize the most shock and awe possible with the hopes of scaring people about abortion. There’s no doubt that there were many powerful parts of Abby’s story, but we’ll never really know as the demonstrative elements are over-emphasized in the movie while the potential for character building is simply replaced with incessant and heavy-handed narration. They seem like great characters, but it’s impossible to know them due to the narration and the wild time jumps that leave the viewer disoriented. Since there’s a lot of content in this story, it could have been effectively laid out via flashbacks that built character motivation, yet instead, we were left with talking-points conversations and overly emphasized strawman villain moments. The film is written for basically one good scene near the end where we actually get realistic dialogue uninterrupted by Bratcher’s narration, but it’s too little too late. Unfortunately, where Abby Johnson’s story could have been a powerful treatise on prayer and a change of heart, all we’re given is a smile-and-wave, run-of-the-mill experience dedicated to grossing people out about abortion whose R-rating is warranted due to lack of balance.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, Ashley Bratcher is a bright spot in this cast, which suggests her performance in Princess Cut was heavily controlled by the creators of that film. While the supporting cast might have been interesting, it’s hard to tell due to the famine of lines and dialogue in this film. Even still, the casting and acting are mostly good without many glaring errors…it’s just basically unfinished and left wanting, like the overall feel of this movie.

Conclusion

There’s absolutely no doubt that Abby Johnson and David Bereit played integral roles in bringing the pro-life movement out of the dark ages through prayer and expert leadership, and Abby’s story is an amazing one that deserved a movie of its own. However, PureFlix’s treatment of the story doesn’t do it any justice. Moreover, Unplanned, in a way, represents the current state of the pro-life movement: lots of well-meaning people who want to do the right thing, along with a collection of more influential people who believe that ‘gotcha’ talking points and graphic displays of the evils of abortion will change things. The early marketing for this film proclaimed it to be (another) death knell for the corrupt Planned Parenthood, yet we beg to differ. Any success the pro-life movement will find moving forward is by both listening to and telling actual stories of real people, not by falling into the trap of unleashing smoking guns that will ‘sink’ your opposition. There was a massive opportunity to tell a real story in Unplanned that could actually reach people, but once again, PureFlix proves that they can’t tell stories properly because this requires actually knowing people. Unfortunately, while the gory moments of this film can be powerful if packaged properly, when they are separated from an emotional connection with the characters, they can re-traumatize those who have been hurt by abortion, which doesn’t win any ‘converts.’

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

40: The Temptation of Christ (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

After Jesus’ baptism and before his earthly ministry officially began, he went into the desert for forty days, where He was tempted by the devil to forfeit His work before it even began. Satan used many tactics to convince Jesus to fall, yet Christ remained without sin in the trials. As Jesus endured the hardship, He experienced human pain and suffering that prepared Him to relate to those who needed His power the most.

Production Quality (2 points)

While this film’s budget was somewhat limited due to its independent nature, resources were clearly allocated responsibly. Although there are some cheap special effects and sound effects, mostly toward the beginning of the film, there is plenty of positive to note here. The first thirty minutes of the movie are the hardest because these contain some poor editing and lagging scenes, but once the film progresses past this point, things begin to look up. There are some elements of shaky camera work throughout, but the outdoor locations used are very engaging and professionally shot. The perspective filming is effective, and the soundtrack is highly engaging in many parts as it adds to the viewing experience. Further, video quality is crisp throughout, and even though it takes a bit, the production slowly becomes a great one, which is a testament to what this team could pull off with more resources under their belt.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Like the production, the plot is a bit shaky at first, mostly due to immediate and unnecessary narration. Jesus is also a bit too theatrical and inaccessible as a character at first, but He definitely gets better as the story goes on. It’s somewhat difficult to get through the first thirty minutes of the film because of these issues and because of some lagging scenes, so it’s possible that this idea may have worked better as a short film. However, once the thirty-minute mark has been passed, things change for the better since a really good idea is revealed. The use of flashbacks and flash-forwards is very effective to bridge time and to reinforce the psychological elements that the temptations are based on, which are very well-constructed. The core of the plot is based on a collection of very engaging and creative conversations that clearly show what the film was made for. Old Testament prophecies are integrated very well into the dialogue, which is something we don’t see enough of in Bible films. As a whole, this creative team’s take on the temptations of Jesus is very interesting and innovative, mostly due to well-executed psychological sequences that go hand-in-hand extremely well with the flashbacks, mostly because the viewer doesn’t always see the temptation coming. In the end, the use of symbolism and artistic elements are effective in presenting a familiar Bible story in a new, creative way, and the horror elements are handled well without being too sensational. Thus, there is a lot of potential for this creative team through future collaborations.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While the cast is not entirely culturally authentic, this can be forgiven due to the limited budget of the project. At first, the line delivery and emotions come off as too forced and theatrical, but they moderate as the film progresses and show concerted improvement. Due the small cast, they carry the whole film on their shoulders, and for the most part, they post good performances by the movie’s conclusion. This rounds out an overall refreshing independent effort, which plants promising seeds for the future.

Conclusion

It’s difficult to portray the temptations of Jesus properly without a good understanding of human psychology. As a whole, this creative team appears to have such an understanding. The Temptation of Christ is everything a first-time, self-funded project should be: as good of a production as possible, a well-written plot that demonstrates talent that can be developed in the future, and a good enough acting performance to carry the day. Thus, we can’t wait to see what these film makers have to offer once they are given better funding opportunities.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Mary Magdalene: Close to Jesus (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Mary Magdalene lived a dark life before she encountered Jesus of Nazareth, and her bondage and past mistakes always tried to call her back. However, her experience with Jesus forever changed her life. She sought to serve Him and follow Him whenever she could, and her influence that came as a result of her time with Jesus had a positive effect on those around her.

Production Quality (2 points)

The early 2000s Bible films produced by the collaboration between the Trinity Broadcasting Network and Lux Vide were certainly well-funded, which translated to great attention to historical detail. Other production elements were also professional, including video quality and camera work. The sets, locations, and props reflected attempts at authenticity, and the editing was streamlined. However, there were a few issues with audio in Mary Magdalene. For one, there are a lot of very obvious overdubs that seem unnecessary. On paper, the audio seems fine, but the soundtrack is sometimes archaic and incongruous, and any presence of overdubbing speaks to sound problems. Nevertheless, this film has an above-average production that is good enough but not dynamic.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The story of Mary Magdalene is definitely an interesting Biblical account this isn’t focused on enough; however, this rendition gives an odd take on the story since there isn’t enough exploration as to how she became originally possessed. This is a central point in the story, so focusing on tangential content instead of this core concept is unusual at best. Lacking a coherent bondage storyline makes it hard for the viewer to appreciate Mary’s redemption arc. Elsewhere in the story, time seems to move too quickly, and there are some unnecessary alterations to the historical account. All of this hampers proper character development due to stunted dialogue and little continuity. While the portrayal of Herod is fine, John the Baptist is too nutty, and Jesus is too inaccessible and ethereal. There is also some unnecessary suggestive content that could have been shown more tastefully. In the end, while the movie’s plot had a lot of potential, it falls flat for a number of reasons and shows that unskilled screen writing can hurt any good idea.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, the cast of Mary Magdalene is not completely culturally authentic, which is manifest in unrealistic accents. However, the historical costuming is one of the stronger points of the film. Nonetheless, emotions among the cast members are often too forceful, dramatic, and theatrical. Line delivery is too robotic at times, but there are some positive elements that keep the acting from level zero. In the end, this section is still below average, and this movie is another not-good-enough Bible film.

Conclusion

The TBN\Lux Vide combo definitely tried to blaze some trails in the early 2000s with regard to Bible films, but they too often missed the mark. It wasn’t for lack of budget; rather, inadequate screenwriting held their Biblical accounts back from being all they could have been. Having the characters cross back and forth between the different films was a great universe-connecting idea, but it was in vain since they didn’t have wide appeal. For future learning, current film makers can take notes from these films on how to go about crafting Biblical epics without repeating the old mistakes.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Palau: The Movie (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Luis Palau, a world-renowned missionary, had meager beginnings in his life, but this did not hold him back from being all he could be for God. Under the mentorship of key people God placed in his life, Palau brought the Gospel to the countries and locations God laid on his heart and set an example for evangelism. Even today, the impact of his work is still being felt.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While this is obviously a good idea on paper for a Christian film, it seems like the execution was only partial due to budget constraints. This fact is evident in the limited sets, locations, and props, even though they still demonstrate great attempts at historical and cultural accuracy. The lighting of the scenes is back and forth with indoor scenes mostly poorly lit while outside scenes are fine. The camera work is also acceptable, along with the audio quality. At times, there are background noises, however, and the soundtrack, while culturally authentic, seems forced at times. Further, the editing is somewhat choppy, but on the whole, this production is basically average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As previously mentioned, the story of Luis Palau is a great true story to base a film upon, but the way it was conducted with this rendition wasn’t adequate in fully communicating the important messages therein. From the beginning, the attention of the audience isn’t effectively held due to an overall feel of the film being a sort of docu-drama. This attitude is demonstrated by collections of boring scenes that simply depict characters sitting around or standing while reciting lines. As such, the dialogue isn’t enough to drive the character development to where we can relate to them; we don’t know character motivations well enough even though there are some backstories portrayed. It’s a nice authentic touch to use the original language, but it tends to cloud things when it the whole film already comes off like a collection of Bible study skits. Because of this dynamic, it’s hard to see the characters as anything but representations of ideas, which is a real shame since the movie could have been a true epic story. The time jumps are a disservice both to continuity and proper development of concepts, and it ruins any chance of having central themes or concepts to center the movie around. In the end, this film is mostly benign, which also means it’s not ground-breaking.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While the acting mostly means well, it tends to fall flat due to its vanilla nature. The attempts at cultural authenticity are definitely commendable, but each cast member would benefit from improved coaching. However, it has to be considered that the lack of good written lines puts a damper on their ability to deliver them well. Nonetheless, the smaller cast tends to amplify the errors, and in the end, this is basically an average performance overall.

Conclusion

In summary, it can’t be discounted that commendable effort was made to craft a film depicting an important true story that has impacted thousands of people around the world. Since it’s such an important account, we would have liked to see a much more substantial approach that did it justice and sought to produce a dynamic experience for the viewer. However, the film makers definitely meant well, so it will be interesting to see what they put out next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Least Among You (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Richard Kelly was one of the first African-American students admitted to a traditionally all-white and all-male seminary and California, and in the the beginning, the seminary president says he’s on his side to break down racial barriers among Christians. Though Richard had no interest in going to seminary, he does have an interest in racial justice, but the further he goes with his miniature revolution, the strangers things become as former enemies become friends while former friends become enemies. Nothing is at it seems, and Richard will have to decide if he will trust in God more than he trusts in people.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a whole, The Least Among You comes off as well-funded and well-orchestrated on the production side of things. This is evident in the authentic sets, locations, and props that reflect historical accuracy and attention to detail. There is also a lot of good artistic and creative camera work that seeks to establish things, and the audio quality and soundtrack are adequate as well. The only drawbacks to this production are some poorly lit scenes and some slightly choppy editing, but they aren’t enough to keep this production from being all that it can be, which is dynamic and respectable.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The story behind this film is somewhat obscure, but this doesn’t make it any less necessary or poignant. It’s actually a very relevant tale that explores uncomfortable racial problems within the church that many Christians would like to easily forget. The Least Among You portrays and very realistic and gritty look at a hidden history of American Christianity that needs full exploration if we are to learn anything in our present era. This is coupled with great attempts at character development through effective dialogue and flashbacks that demonstrate real character motive and help us to understand where they are really coming from. All of this is done without narration, and there are no ‘villain’ characters as some characters are two-faced and are crafted very well accordingly. While each character actually feels like a real person with a real backstory, there are a handful of seemingly unnecessary scenes, especially ones containing realistic but distasteful language; it really feels like the film would have been fine without these inclusions. Further, the climax scene is somewhat cheesy and not well explained, and it leads to a rushed ending where many things are patched up. As such, the middle of the plot is the best portion as it presents very important and excellent messages and themes that are still highly relevant for the church today, which makes it worth your time.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, The Least Among You demonstrates culturally authentic casting except for some cast members that demonstrate slightly fake accents that are a bit outside of their realms of expertise. Otherwise, there is a lot of great cast work to see here, including professional acting and great acting coaching. While some emotions are a bit forced and overdone, they are overall fine, along with line delivery. As a whole, this film is so close to the Hall of Fame, but it’s still enjoyable as it is.

Conclusion

As we’ve said many times before and will likely say again, films like The Least Among You should be the norm in Christian entertainment. Plenty of care, time, and funding was put into it, and the story is enjoyable, realistic, and poignant. While the ending may fall a bit flat and while other portions leave something to be desired, there is still plenty of good to note here that many audiences will enjoy, which makes this film worth your time.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

The Least of These: The Graham Staines Story [2019] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Manav Banerjee only wanted to be a successful journalist in the late 1990s India, when the country was full of social unrest due to religious persecution and restlessness. Thus, when Banerjee was given a chance at big story – finding a reason to arrest American missionary Graham Staines – he jumped at the chance to infiltrate the Christian cell who cared for the leper outcasts in order to trap Staines with Indian religious laws. However, the longer he knew Staines, the more perplexed Banerjee became, and he inadvertently set off a chain of events that would change both of their lives forever.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The Least of These is a production that was a long time coming, and the finished product was definitely worth the wait as the on-location filming location paid off. This gives it an air of authenticity that there wouldn’t otherwise be in an international film. Video quality, camera work, sets, and props also live up to these high standards set by the hard work put into it. Audio quality is also mostly adequate, and the soundtrack is culturally appropriate, even if it is a bit loud and invasive in some scenes. The only other minor error to point out here relates to some quick cuts and abrupt scene transitions, but the editing is overall good, including some artistic overlays that are executed well. As a whole, as we kick off 2019 in the world of Christian entertainment, The Least of These is an almost-perfect production in the new era of Christian film that demands higher quality productions.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

It’s definitely clear why this true story was chosen for a film, and it’s refreshing to see a unique, non-Western perspective on white missionaries coming to a third world country, which can be attributed to the Indian creators of this film. We’ve had plenty of films told through the eyes of the ‘benevolent’ white missionaries, so seeing a culturally authentic perspective on this true story makes this plot very worthwhile. However, there are still some pitfalls of freshman story-telling to note here, such as the heavy-handed narration that doesn’t allow the plot to unfold naturally. Nevertheless, for the most part, character development appears to survive mostly intact, which can likely be attributed to their being based on real people. A good use of effective flashbacks also aids in this effort. Further, the Christian message is presented very well without being too forceful. Unfortunately, while the beginning and middle of this plot are quite good, it tends to lag at the end and to not discover the dynamic feel that it needed to push it onto the Hall of Fame. There are one too many abstract scenes that don’t have enough meaning attached to them. Nevertheless, this is still a great film about an excellent real-life story that is definitely worth your time.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

It seems like there were better cast members to cast for Australian roles than non-Australian cast members Stephen Baldwin and Shari Rigby, whose Australian acting accents are either non-existent or extremely inconsistent. Despite these obvious errors, however, Baldwin and Rigby do well in fulfilling their DVD-cover roles by being in less than half of the film’s run time. They are definitely overshadowed by the excellent cultural casting for all of the other characters, which is a refreshment. Not only do the Indian cast members fit into their roles very well, but they are also skilled in line execution and emotional delivery. Further, costuming throughout the film is authentic and culturally accurate, which rounds out an overall above-average effort.

Conclusion

While The Least of These didn’t go as far as it could have been, this is absolutely a great start to a film-making career for all of those involved. Not only did Stephen Baldwin show that he can actually pull off a semi-normal role, but Aneesh Daniel and his team have showcased great skill and talent that will hopefully be applied to even better movies in the future. While we can’t wait to see what they have next, this film is definitely worth your time.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Spent [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Eve believes her husband is going to die soon, so she and her son Lonnie are planning on inheriting his million dollar fortune, so they think. They’ve grown tired of his constantly cheap lifestyle that he forces them to go along with, and with the brain tumor advancing, they feel like their freedom is close at hand. However, when something unexpected doesn’t go quite their way, they are forced to come up with a new plan.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For an indie film, there are several good production elements to note, such as the great video quality and the professional camera work. The sets and locations are also fine and mostly well-utilized. While the soundtrack can be intriguing and creative at times and while the audio quality is mostly fine, there are also instances where the music covers up spoken words and where background sounds can overpower the scene. Also, there is some weirdly soft lighting at times, and some scenes are randomly in black and white for no particular reason. Perhaps the oddest part of this production is the usage of cheesy props from different time periods that creates a lot of confusion as to when this film is supposed to take place. Further, some scenes are strangely drawn out in unnatural ways, which speaks to somewhat of an editing problem. As a whole, this is basically an average indie production that could have been slightly better than it was and seemed to get in its own way.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Even more so, the plot certainly gets in its own way. In a quest to be creative and artistic (the effort is definitely noted), this story comes off in a very strange way with a weird sarcastic tone that’s not explained very well and with a collection of bizarre and slightly inappropriate scenes. It’s very difficult to discern what this film is actually going for without having the confusion about the time period. The attempts at artistic psychological elements fall flat, and a lot of the dialogue is basically cringe-worthy. It’s unfortunately a collection of odd cardboard scenes of nonsensical recitations that is very purposeless and aimless. To top it off, the ending is very strange and leaves a strange flavor in your mouth, which rounds out a section that basically confused itself along with the audience.

Acting Quality (.5 acting)

Indie film acting is fairly difficult to pull off, and while there was a slight amount of potential with this cast, a lot of it is very awkward and forced. The eccentric portions would work better if that’s what these characters were intended to be, but again, it’s very unclear what the film is even going for. This fact is also reflected in the weirdly inconsistent costuming efforts. As a whole, line and emotional delivery are stilted, which doesn’t leave much positive to state about this indie effort.

Conclusion

It’s great to want to try to create an original indie film, but Spent either takes things a step too far or a step too short. It’s a mystery what sort of Christian message is meant to be conveyed by this ‘dark comedy,’ and it’s unfortunately a waste of time due to its jumbled and confusing elements. The best an indie film maker with a small budget can do is to present a masterful plot, but this was unfortunately not done in this film.

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

On Wings of Eagles [2016] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Eric Liddell was a Scottish Olympic gold medalist, an accomplished educator, and a dedicated family man who was called to take the Gospel to China in the 1930s and 1940s. He faced hardship and persecution from the Communist government, but he never gave up in his mission to run, to educate children, and to share the Gospel with whoever he came in contact with. Though he died in captivity, he left a lasting legacy with all who knew him and beyond.

Production Quality (2 points)

It’s apparent that good effort was put into making this production professional, which is evidenced by great video quality and camera work, as well as a good use of international sets and locations. The props are culturally authentic, and the soundtrack is very effective. However, this production is kept from being perfect because of some inconsistent audio quality and some fake-looking special effects that should have been better. Further, the editing is fairly poor as there are some awkward cuts and transitions and since there is a lot of content that is not handled very well. Even so, this is a good production that is above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Due to taking on a large amount of content from the life of one person, this plot relies too heavily on time jumps and excessive, unnecessary narration that short-circuits any hope for actual character and plot development. While this is a great true story with a lot of potential to be an epic, we have a hard time understanding who the characters are beyond historical bios. Any hope of dialogue is mostly rushed and choppy due to the storyline jumping all over the place. There are also too many wasted and drawn-out scenes that could have been maximized to fuller potential, but they cause the story to not flow well at all. However, there is still a lot of good content here due to the fact of it being based on a real story, and the ending likely makes it worth a watch, even though it could have been much better.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As a whole, this cast is fairly culturally authentic and professional as each cast member does a good job assuming his or her respective character role. If they had more lines to work with, things would definitely be even better, even if there is some inconsistent line and emotional delivery in some places. Though there is some over-acting, this section is overall above average, which rounds out an average film that could have been much better.

Conclusion

On Wings of Eagles had so much going for it: a well-funded production, culturally accurate casting, and an excellent true story that had the makings of a real epic. Nevertheless, this great potential was seemingly forgotten as half-measures were settled for. Just fixing one of these elements listed would have likely qualified it for the Hall of Fame, but it unfortunately fell short of the mark. Even still, many audiences will still enjoy this film, and it can serve as a blueprint for how to take things one step further into greatness.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Silent Night [2012] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

In 1818, Joseph Mohr was transferred to the small Austrian town of Oberndorf to be the assistant priest at the parish there.  He wants to make a difference wherever he goes, but he feels like the leaders of the Catholic Church don’t allow him to fully minister to the common people of the town.  The powerful people in the parish want everyone in the congregation to look nice on the outside, but Joseph has a heart for the poor and the outcast.  As he ministers to people against the will of his superiors, God inspires Joseph to write a Christmas song to encapsulate the season.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

When working with the Mainstay Productions team, the Covenant Communications team always showed a consistent commitment to high-quality productions, so this is also evident in Silent Night.  Besides the good video quality and camera work, this film demonstrates great attention to historical and cultural detail through realistic and accurate sets, locations, and props.  There is also a very effective cultural soundtrack; the only errors in this production pertain to some very poor lip-syncing and obvious overdubs when the the cast members are supposed to be singing, but this is the only real error in this production, which is otherwise quite good.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The story behind the Christmas carol Silent Night is a great true story to base a film on, and this one does a very good job of honestly portraying the two sides of the Catholic Church.  The other good thing is that Silent Night avoids falling into the trap of only basing the film on the idea behind it rather than developing characters through dialogue.  For the most part, the characters in this story are accessible and can be related to due to the dialogue that reveals their personalities and motivations.  However, there are quite a few slow parts throughout that detract from the movie’s dynamic value.  Since the film is mostly dialogue-based, it might have been better to include a few more engaging conversations and to develop the ancillary characters a bit better.  Even so, there are several very good scenes near the end that help us understand the characters better, even if the very end of the film (the predictable singing of the title song) falls a bit flat and is anti-climatic.  In the end, this is a great story model to follow and is one that can be built off of for future work.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

As a whole, this case has great authentic accents and cultural costuming, which keeps with the earlier themes of production quality in this film.  For the most part, line delivery and emotional delivery are fine, but some parts are too dramatic or seem a bit unnatural.  However, there is plenty of good here, and this rounds out a very well-done film.

Conclusion

On paper, Silent Night is a great film, but it just doesn’t have that final push it needed to make it a dynamic Hall of Fame film, which is unfortunate because it has plenty of good going for it.  Even still, this is a movie that many will enjoy because it is well-made and well-funded, and it has a great story to tell.  Thus, this is a good one to add to your holiday list.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

My Broken Horse Christmas (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

John always likes to go with his father to pick out a new horse every year, and he knows his father is good at picking out the best horses.  However, this year, his father acquires a crazed unruly mare and decides that she belongs to John so that he can train her.  John is dejected at this prospect because he feels like he’ll never be able to fix his new broken horse.  Nevertheless, this father persists in forcing him to train it, which leads to surprising results.

Production Quality (3 points)

John Lyde and his Covenant Communications and Mainstay Productions teams are consistently committed to quality productions even though their films are not traditional length.  This commitment to good quality is evident in crisp video quality, professional camera work, and good audio quality.  The soundtrack is interesting and engaging, and the sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized for the historical time period.  In the end, though the editing is a bit average, this production doesn’t have any major problems, which warrants a perfect score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Lyde and his team always prize shorter stories over long and drawn out films that have no interest, and basing this short film off of a Christian novella was definitely a good idea to acquire source material.  Because of this source material, the plot is slightly more creative and different than most Christmas films, but it seems to contain a lot of odd messaging that appears to glorify patriarchal attitudes.  The father character is likely realistic in his portrayal, but the story seems to pass along messaging that he is a wise and all-knowing character.  Other characters need better development through more substantial dialogue, which one would think would come from basing a short film off of a novella.  Since it’s so short, we needed to see very streamlined character development, but the plot instead lags behind and chooses to focus on pushing lessons on the audience that really don’t make much sense and on forced Christian messages that don’t seem to apply to the characters’ situations.  Some portions don’t appear to be very rooted in reality, and the abrupt and rushed ending causes the story to be over before much happens.  In short, while this could have been an honest and raw character biopic, it was reduced to a quasi-sermonizing piece that pushes messages that are hard to comprehend.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As a whole, there aren’t many acting problems in this film, which is a consistent component in John Lyde’s creations.  The casting and coaching appear to be professional, and for the most part, emotions and line delivery are natural.  However, this section isn’t perfect before of some slightly 
over-dramatized parts and some weak child acting, but in the end, this rounds out an another above average film for the Mainstay\Covenant team.

Conclusion

It’s absolutely a great idea to use Christian novels and novellas as source material for Christian films, especially since there are so many options to choose from.  This high number of selection opportunities makes it odd when obscure novellas like this one was chosen, especially when it’s not clear what My Broken Horse Christmas actually wants us to learn.  It’s a visually appealing yet substantially vague experience that will likely and unfortunately be easily forgotten.  John Lyde has always been right on the cusp of greatness, so it’s time for him to take the next step into dynamic creations.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Christmas Dress (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Mary and Leland Jeppson feel like they won’t have a good Christmas because the year has been hard on their finances, and they won’t be able to give their children anything good unless the shipment comes in from the big city, which a snowstorm has put in jeopardy.  However, the courage of a local boy who likes their oldest daughter might be able to make it happen if he and his father can brave the storm and make it back safely.  Will everyone be able to have a good Christmas after all?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Even for short films like this one, the Covenant Communications team is mostly committed to having an at least average production.  This is evident in the fine video and audio quality, as well as the average camera work.  The most obvious problems are the somewhat cheap and limited sets, locations, and props.  However, it’s definitely evident they are trying in this production, even though the otherwise good soundtrack can be too loud at times.  Further, the editing is average, which rounds out an overall average effort that actually could have been a bit better due to its limited runtime.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, with such a small scope to work with, the drama of the plot overtakes the characters and doesn’t allow them enough space to be developed properly.  This is caused by flat dialogue and unclear conflict that makes it hard for the audience to properly relate to the struggles of these characters who may otherwise have realistic problems.  While the Christian messaging is good and somewhat accessible, the short and limited nature of the plot is too cheesy and makes it hard to justify this short film’s creation.  Basically, it’s a nice, safe story that’s mainly benign and without any true impact.  We like to see more than this from Christian films.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While these is evidence that this cast means well and is trying, there appears to be a lack of coaching.  This issue seems to cause some acting to be slightly awkward and to create a lot of robotic line delivery.  The costuming is also a bit cheap and cheesy because it doesn’t entirely fit the time period, but there’s enough positive in this section to make it average.  As a while, however, this film isn’t much to write home about.

Conclusion

In Christian entertainment, short films definitely have their place, but they really need to be more dynamic than this.  This can be done through deep character growth and meaningful plot development.  Shorter films mean smaller productions, so resources should be allocated more responsibly with them.  In the end, it’s already hard for short films to make a full impact, so extra effort should be put into them to make this happen.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Tortured for Christ (Movie Review)

 

Plot Summary

Pastor Richard Wurmbrand and his wife Sabina were active in Lutheran ministry in Romania during the 1970s Communist takeover of Eastern Europe.  The Communist regme sought to corrupt the church by ‘uniting’ the denominations as a political body rather than as a ministry.  Richard and Sabina dared to stand up against the tyranny both by speaking against it and by illegally proselytizing their faith to Romanians who struggled under the heavy yoke of the Communist government.  Because of these infractions and because they helped harbor wanted Christians, Richard was arrested and tortured for his faith.  He languished for fourteen years in a cruel Communist prison, but he did not give up his faith in Christ.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though this production was somewhat low-budget, there is still a very clear commitment to making it as authentic and gritty as possible.  Video quality and audio quality are among these good production elements.  Although there are some moments of oddly poor lighting, the sets, locations, and props are very realistic and demonstrate great attention to detail and great care to make the surroundings as realistic as possible.  This is definitely the best that could have been done with the funding available, which is all we ask of productions.  Though there is some choppy editing throughout, it’s obvious that this creative did all they could with this production, which is all a film maker needs to do.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Another thing film makers can do to ensure a mostly successful effort is to use good source material.  The story of Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand is a very poignant and unfortunately true narrative that definitely deserved to be made into a movie.  However, one has to question whether the high amount of heavy-handed narration was necessary since it greatly stunts character growth and plot development.  Even still, the serious commitment to have each character speak in the original Romanian dialect is very intriguing to say the least as it further shows care for realism and attention to detail that we rarely find in Christian film.  Moreover, because of the narration that punctuates and explains a majority of the scenes, the movie comes off as too much of a random collection of loosely connected scenes rather than an engaging story about real people we can relate to.  There are also a few too many docu-drama elements.  Nevertheless, the strong content of this story keeps the plot from being worse than it could have been as the tragic realities of religious persecution at the hands of tyrannical regimes is brought to the big screen.  Thus, many audiences will find this movie to be worthwhile.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Although most of the cast members are not allowed to fully act due to the high amount of narration that only allows for rare moments of dialogue, the portions they do act in are definitely great.  The culturally authentic casting and the good use of the original language is also a huge plus.  Emotions are mostly good with only a few instances of being slightly overdone, but on the whole, this is the best area of the film, and it rounds out a job well done.

Conclusion

Christian films are still getting better by using source material and by being committed to great productions.  This creative team is off to a great start in their movie-making careers, so it will be very interesting to see what they come up with next.  Until then, Tortured for Christ is an above-average film that carries a great message and a stirring theme packaged in a realistic production that will make a lasting impression on many who watch it.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Born to Win [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Leon Terblanche was always told by his father that he would never amount to anything.  When he and his mother fled the abuse of his home only to abandon him at a hotel, Leon found himself as the only white child in a segregated African community during apartheid in South Africa.  However, the government discovered him there and took him away to be passed from home to home before he was able to strike out of his own and begin working for the railroad.  During his whole life, Leon was always angry and resentful towards his father, even after he married and began a family of his own.  He medicated this anger with alcohol, but when everything hit a breaking point, he was forced to choose between his own ways and the ways of the God he always pushed away.

Production Quality (2 points)

Despite their landmark production Faith Like Potatoes, Global Creative Studios did not have as much production success in Born to Win.  The video quality, camera work, and action shots are fine in this film, and the audio is fairly good, but there are several other issues to contend with.  While sets, locations, and props are sometimes fine and realistic, there are some very obvious fake backgrounds that put a damper on things.  Plenty of time and effort was put into this production, including a good soundtrack, but there are a handful of small things that hold it back from being all it could be.  The most glaring problem that hurts the film is the severely choppy editing, and this is also related to the plot problems.  Moreover, this production is mainly above average, but it’s still a letdown after the success of Faith Like Potatoes.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Frans Cronje and his team have always been committed to telling the great and true stories of real people with real struggles, and this commitment is still evident in Born to Win.  However, despite the great source material, the presentation of it is quite poor.  This is most notable due the extreme amount of heavy-handed narration that greatly hurts character growth and plot development.  The narration is mainly used to plug up the plot holes created by the breakneck time jumps that are present in the story.  These two factors combined make it nearly impossible for characters to develop as the dialogue is stunted and choppy.  Despite the little time available, there are still lots of wasted scenes, and though there is plenty of content to work with in the real story, there is little to no story organization as it jumps from one thing after the next.  Too much ground is attempted to be covered without the effective use of flashbacks or actual dialogue.  The lack of substantial dialogue and character development makes it very difficult to appreciate the otherwise meaningful struggles of the characters due to the wasted time and large gaps, and viewers are told things that are hard to believe due to poor development.  Unfortunately, it all boils down to a flat ending with little meaning because of this.  It’s too bad because there was tons of potential here for a great message to be shared.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though the acting appears to begin well, it tends to get worse as the film goes on, especially as cast members are forced to play multiple age brackets that they are not exactly suited for.  Line delivery and emotions can be awkward at times, and there is an overall need for more coaching.  There are times when emotions are lines are too forced, and there are one too many scenes of poorly executed yelling and screaming.  Overall, this caps off a mostly disappointing effort that had so much going for it.

Conclusion

The Cronje creative team has definitely shown the height of their potential, but it’s possible they tried to do too much on their own in Born to Win.  Faith Like Potatoes obviously had a better collaborative effort behind it, which is an important lesson to learn in film making.  One success does not equal constant success; it’s something has to be continually worked for, and it’s definitely not easy.  However, it’s totally worth it in the end, especially when you have good stories that need to be told.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Faith Like Potatoes (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Angus Buchan has never had an easy life.  He and his family were forced to flee from Zambia to South Africa due to racism, and now, their new farm land isn’t what they expected.  Angus feels like he works all day and all week to no avail.  However, one day, when he finally comes to the end of himself, he decides to listen to a local pastor and to the testimonies of other struggling farmers who came to know Jesus Christ when they had nothing else to turn to.  Angus decides to put aside his pride and follow suit, and little does he know the huge ways God will use him to change the surrounding areas.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Global Creative Studios struggled in other international films they made in this same era, but they went all out for Faith Like Potatoes.  The end result was a very professional production with great video quality and camera work, along with fine audio quality and an effective cultural soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props give off a very realistic and gritty feel that adds to the overall authenticity of the film.  It’s obvious that a lot of time and effort were spent on crafting and constructing scenes that were difficult to film, and there was a high commitment to making the film look as real as possible.  Though there is some choppy editing, this is still a top-notch production that Affirm Films has become known to distribute.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The story of Angus Buchan and his family is a great true story that is based on realistic and accessible characters that are able to be related to as real people despite the time jumps that tend to hold their character growth back from being all it could be.  Fairly good dialogue helps characters to remain personable and build personality and motive despite the large amount of content that is covered, even if narration hurts character development at times by trying to create a crutch to cover the time gaps.  Even still, there is a good use of flashbacks to build character motive and personality that make it easier to connect with characters as real people, but the film may have still benefited from more flashbacks to replace the portions of narration.  More flashbacks would also help the story flow better and avoid just hashing out one important life event after another.  The plot walks the line between just being a collection of scenes and events and being a great story with a lot of content that actually holds the attention.  Finally, there are many good themes and messages in Faith Like Potatoes, even if it might have been better to only focus on a handful of them.  Overall, this is a poignant and believable historical account that is likely worth your time.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

One of the biggest positives of this film is the great commitment to culturally authentic casting, which was likely not an easy feat.  It was also likely not easy to have almost half of the dialogue take place in an obscure African dialect.  Besides these pluses, emotions are fairly realistic, and line delivery is almost always on point.  Though there are some moments of forced emotions and unnecessary yelling and screaming, cast members usually own roles well and appear to be comfortable in their acting, which is important.  As a whole, Faith Like Potatoes is a top-rated film, even if a few minor issues hold it back from the Hall of Fame.

Conclusion

Despite falling short of the Hall of Fame, Faith Like Potatoes is still worth a watch because of its wonderfully true stories and life lessons.  This is definitely Global Creative Studios’ finest work, and movies like this one is why Affirm Films originally gained ground in the Christian entertainment world.  We absolutely need more movies like this one that depict real life events and inspiring historical accounts with the proper production packaging and the adequate acting support.  Unfortunately, this sort of quality is hard to come by, but hopefully, we will begin to see more and more of this in the future.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points