Rust [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Former pastor James Moore, who is running from his faith and his career, returns to his hometown to discover it the grounds of a dark mystery and closely held secrets that has put one crazy man in prison for arson.  With nothing left to lose and nothing else to do, Moore decides to take it upon himself to solve the mysterious case that was too open and shut.  As he looks at all the angles of the fire and the events of that night, Moore finds himself turning to God again as he rediscovers the faith he left behind.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Corbin Bernsen and his teams have always been committed to high production quality.  Rust is the earliest example of this commitment, as it sports great video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is also intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props, for the most part, are professional.  The only issues to point out here pertain to some choppy editing and some slightly poor lighting in some parts.  But otherwise, this is a professional and model production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

From the beginning of his foray into Christian film, which was this film, until now, Corbin Bernsen’s creative motivation has always been an enigma.  What is he ever going for?  Rust adopts the mysterious and semi-dark approach that was seen later in Beyond the Heavens.  Neither film truly makes much sense or has any driving purpose behind it.  Yet the mystery portion of Rust is intriguing and somewhat engaging.  The characters, while a bit eccentric, are also interesting in their own way, sometimes due to unique and cryptic dialogue.  Movies like this one always seem to be hiding something, like a private joke or secret, but they never let us in on the puzzle.  At least the ending is slightly unexpected, even though it takes a somewhat predictable path to get there.  If there were some more clarity in this plot, it could have been interesting and more highly rated, because there was a lot of potential here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Much like the production of this film, the acting quality is professional and above average.  For the most part, actors and actresses are cast appropriately, and their line delivery is on point.  Sometimes emotions tend to be a bit forced, but they are good as a whole.  There are also some other moments of underwhelming performances, but they are not enough to keep this section from being highly rated.

Conclusion

Corbin Bernsen always has a lot of potential in his films.  He usually maintains high production and acting quality.  However, he is also committed to plots that are seemingly purposely unusual.  Rust is no exception to this trend, especially since it is his first Christian film.  One can understand why ‘secular’ film makers want to dip into the Christian market, but we have never understood Bernsen’s odd approach to movie making, despite his quality productions.  Yet perhaps we will never understand.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

25 Hill (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Trey Caldwell’s father is tragically killed overseas while serving in the military, Trey feels like he will never fulfill the dream his father gave him—the dream of racing their soapbox car in the derby.  But then, Trey’s kind school principal introduces him to Roy Gibbs, a troubled fireman who would like to forget the death of his son.  The two of them find that they have something in common: a passion for soapbox derby racing.  As Roy trains Trey, they develop a unique bond and inadvertently find healing from their wounds.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As Corbin Bernsen’s first foray into the inspirational market, 25 Hill demonstrates his typical high production quality that he likely learned in the mainstream sector and is unfortunately not commonplace in the Christian field.  Beginning with an effective opening sequence that tells the story without narration, this film checks all the necessary boxes for production quality.  Video quality, camera work, audio quality, and soundtrack are all professional and effective.  Sets, locations, and props are also above standard.  The only complaint to raise here is the high number of sports montages, which are too typical of this genre.  Otherwise, this is a very respectable production that many Christian film makers can model after.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Before Bersen decided to develop his own zany brand of satire, he decided to create a grief plot that has a commitment to taking jabs are stereotypical plot elements.  His take on this predictable plot structure is enjoyable, yet like Bernsen’s other films, 25 Hill still includes too many formulaic elements that are commonly found in sports\grief plots.  Yet his continual pointing out and exposing of typical movie clichés is a fun experience nonetheless, as is his satire on product placements.  With good dialogue and character development, this story demonstrates a better version of the Bernsen brand, which later devolved into silliness and insanity in Christian Mingle, 3 Day Test, and In-lawfully Yours.  The biggest thing that holds 25 Hill back is its predictability, as Bernsen does his typical flirting with creativity but doesn’t really follow through.  Yet in the end, this will be an enjoyable story for most and is certainly worth a watch.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Bernsen and his team completely nailed their casting work.  Each actor and actress fits their characters comfortably as they deliver their lines and inflections flawlessly.  Emotional performances are highly effective, thus making this a perfect score.

Conclusion

We definitely understand where Bernsen is coming from—sometimes.  He wants to make quality inspirational films while at the same time exposing where many films in the genre go wrong.  He always thinks about doing something different with his storylines, but in the end goes back to the typical, safe ending.  Nonetheless, 25 Hill will be liked by most audiences, and it is certainly worth a watch.  Perhaps eventually, Bernsen will finally hit the home run he has been searching for all these years.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

3 Day Test {3 Day Christmas} (Movie Review)

The marauders are coming...
The marauders are coming…
Tina says no!
Tina says no!

Plot Summary

Martin Taylor, an obsessive accountant, is tired of how his family never spends any time together.  Prompted by his half-crazy prepper brother to begin preparing for doomsday by taking the 3 Day Test, Martin sees it as his last chance to get to know his family again.  So he disconnects them from modern amenities and is assisted by local police in convincing his family to endure the three days in the comfort-free world.  But little do they know that they were not at all prepared for what’s coming next…

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As usual for Corbin Bernsen, production quality is slightly above average in 3 Day Test.  The camera work is pretty good and video quality is clear.  Audio quality is fine except for an annoyingly blaring Christmas soundtrack and dumb sound effects.  The sets and locations are slightly limited due to the premise, but they are well designed.  The editing is fairy respectable with only some minor quirks.  In short, Bernsen has always succeeded at production quality, but that’s not even the half of this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Where to start?  3 Day Test is based on a bizarrely forced Christmas apocalyptic survival premise in which you never really know what’s coming next.  Though it doesn’t have to be a Christmas film at all, it takes place during Christmas and contain many sarcastic head-scratching asides and forced comedy moments.  Since the dialogue is either information dump or downright zany, the characters come off a mostly mentally insane and unstable.  As slightly interesting concepts are shoved in your face and packaged in ridiculous ways, many occurrences are highly unrealistic and head-scratching.  The longer the movie goes on, the weirder it gets as the audience is pulled into an over-the-top descent into madness coupled with a wacky Home Alone rip off.  By the time it’s all over, no sense can be made of it and there are unexplained factors and loose ends.  Is it satire or just total insanity?  Your guess is as good as ours.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Sporting some professional cast members and some odd child actors\actresses, this cast is a mixed bag.  It’s sometimes pretty good while other times it’s histrionic and annoying.  Line delivery is actually quite professional, but there are just too many episodes of craziness to warrant any more points than this.

Conclusion

Once again, what are we to make of Corbin Bernsen?  Is he a mad satirical genius or is he just trolling?  3 Day Test is actually less satire than usual for him and more goofy madness.  While we wholeheartedly agree that families need to spend more time together, and not just during the holidays, this does not have to involve a ridiculous false survival premise.  This leads us to wonder if Bernsen is actually advocating for ‘prepping for an apocalypse’.  Who knows what he really believes; we may never know.  The bottom line is that he’s wasting his talents and resources on facepalm-inducing films that no one really cares about when he could be making a real difference.  Will he ever change?  We somehow doubt it.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Beyond the Heavens [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Oliver Henry wonders what is really out there, beyond the stars in the night sky.  Ever since the tragic death of his brother, his family has never been the same.  But that has only made Oliver all the more curious about the true nature of reality.  So when a mysterious man comes to town and reads to the local kids after school every day, Oliver finds himself drawn to the man’s unique outlook on life.  Though his mother is skeptical of everything the strange man does, Oliver looks deeper and deeper into his claims and into how others view reality.  What he finds is not what he expected, but is exactly what he was looking for.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Echolight Studios is known for its quality productions, and Beyond the Heavens is no exception.  The camera work is professional, as is the video quality.  However, lighting is inconsistent throughout, with some scenes being too dark.  Audio quality is fine but the soundtrack is uninspiring.  There is an odd use of special effects and overlays in an attempt to make the movie mysterious.  Unfortunately, this also contributes to the editing being confusing and isolating.  Therefore, once again, Echolight has the potential to go all the way, but does not.  Needless to say, this does not only apply to the production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Beyond the Heavens is a very ethereal and mystical experience, one unlike any other movie we have reviewed.  However, this is not a good thing.  The ‘plot’ is very unclear and murky, consisting of vague and meandering ideas and cryptic dialogue.  It’s like Corbin Bernson is winking at the audience with every scene, waiting to reveal some great secret, but it’s never revealed.  The whole has a very tip-of-the-tongue feel, like the characters know something you don’t but never intend to let you in on the secret.  As the characters wax eloquent and philosophize about the true nature of reality, the viewer is left, in the end, with a more confusing view of reality than before.  Is Bernson advocating for or against Darwinism?  Is he a creationist?  Does he really believe that angels come to earth on the tails of comets?  Is Bernson suggesting that reality is not what it seems?  If so, what is his view of reality?  Only God knows the answers to these questions as Bernson spends 90 minutes toying with his ‘big reveal’ and dancing around whatever his philosophical worldview is.  It’s basically just a waste of your time.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is mostly average in their delivery.  Some acting coaching is present, but some cast behavior is head-scratching.  There are too many unnecessary emotional swings.  However, costuming is appropriate.  Overall, this is just an average performance.

Conclusion

What is to be made of Corbin Bernsen?  What is his place in Christian film?  Is he trolling?  Is he a great mind misunderstood?  Whether it’s abstract musings like Beyond the Heavens or half-hearted satire like Christian Mingle or In-Lawfully Yours, Bernsen’s motivations for making Christian films are very unclear.  It’s possible that he’s smarter than us all and doesn’t know how to show it.  But it’s also possible that he’s just trying to make a quick buck off of Christian audiences.  Reality is probably somewhere in between.  Regardless, Beyond the Heavens really needed to be rethought before anyone spent money on it, because it falls flat and is unable to properly convey whatever message it is trying to present.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points