The World We Make (Movie Review)

Image result for the world we make movie

Plot Summary

The Grove family has had their share of heartache over the past few years, but family friend Jordan Bishop has always been a constant support for them. However, the dynamics begin to shift when Jordan and Lee begin to develop a relationship after the grief seems to settle. Many discourage them from getting involved, and the small town seemingly works against their being together. Together, they experience unexpected prejudice and bias while discovering that they had more hiding below the surface than they previously realized.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a 2019 film, The World We Make is the type of respectable production we should be seeing time and again. There are very few flaws to point out here save for the slightly awkward editing near the end of the film (likely due to large story scope). Camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all basically flawless even though most scenes are filmed outdoors. The sets, locations, and props are extremely authentic and well-utilized; on-location shooting is definitely a big plus. Although the soundtrack could be a bit more than it is, this is a very high-level effort for a partially low-budget film, which goes to show what a little experience and proper collaboration can do for a movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Brian Baugh has always been committed to developing raw and real storylines based on accessible characters (I’m Not Ashamed). While The World We Make is one of his calmer tales, it’s nonetheless refreshing and believable. While the scope of this story may be a bit narrow, it’s nonetheless true-to-life and demonstrates great understanding of real people. The central romance is deeper than what we usually see in these types of films because it feels more believable and everyday. There are some very important themes explored, including grief avoidance, small town prejudice, and racial ostracizing. Characters make realistic decisions based on personality and motive rather than on plot necessity, and the storyline has a few slightly unexpected turns. As a whole, this is a very enjoyable plot to witness, and while it could have been a bit better since the ending is fairly rushed and somewhat cutoff, it’s still great as it is, which is enough to push this film over the top and onto the Hall of Fame.

Acting Quality (3 points)

There are virtually no flaws in the acting department. Caleb Castille owns another starring role, and Kevin Sizemore adapts a unique character that suits him. Gunnar Sizemore is a supporting role, but he could be a new rising star. Further, Gregory Alan Williams demonstrates a much more effective role than he’s played in the past. Overall, there is clear acting coaching present here as emotions and lines are authentically delivered, which rounds out a very commendable effort.

Conclusion

Although The World We Make could have been a bit more dynamic than this, it mostly reaches its fullest potential as a film. There are a few nitpicks, but in the grand scheme of things, Brian Baugh is continually setting himself apart as a master of characters, which seems to give him a better proclivity for series writing rather than movie writing. Indeed, not counting this year, we’ve had a longstanding drought in Christian series, so with new opportunities coming available (VidAngel), we may be poised to seeing a breakout in creators like Baugh directing their talents toward series rather than only films. Regardless of what happens, The World We Make is another good addition to the Hall of Fame and is one you’ll definitely want to make time for.

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

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My Broken Horse Christmas (Movie Review)

Image result for my broken horse christmas

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 Ranch (Movie Review)

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

Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Amazed By You {The Faith Club} (Movie Review)

This has basically nothing to do with this movie

Plot Summary

When Christian Andrews gets a call to attend the funeral of a friend in an obscure New Mexico town, he has no choice but to immediately hitchhike his way there.  However, when he arrives, he finds that someone told him the wrong day of the funeral, so he’s actually too late.  Nevertheless, he decides to take the opportunity to go and stay at the ranch where his friend once lived, even though he has never met the ranch owners before.  He meets the family who owns the ranch and inevitability becomes immediately interested in dating the oldest daughter and decides he wants to start building a chapel on the ranch.  Other than tangling with two drunk convicts who work on the ranch in close proximity to teenage girls, not much else happens in this story.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a newer Christian film, about the only thing going in the favor of Amazed By You is its mostly average production quality.  However, by today’s standards, this should be a given.  In this film, the video quality and camera work are fine, as are the sets, locations, and props, but there are other issues to contend with, such as the stereotypical soundtrack and the audio that is often very quiet and sometimes hard to discern.  Also, there are a lot of awkward cuts and fadeouts and seem to cut scenes short, which also relates to the choppy editing of this movie that makes it difficult to follow at times.  As a whole, this production is average and looks good on the surface, but it leaves a lot of be desired.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Exactly, what is the plot of this movie?  From start to finish, the story is hard to follow as odd things appear to just happen for no particular reason.  It really isn’t rooted in reality very well, and the plot has no clear flow or purpose other than a predictable romantic subplot.  Each character comes off as plastic, empty, and unfeeling as they just spout uninspiring lines.  Any hope of character development is definitely subverted by the many montages that fill this movie’s run time.  It goes without saying that the view of women in the film is unusual, and as a side note, the ‘villains’ are extremely cheesy.  Overall, this is mostly a half-hearted movie effort with no clear direction and no concerted attempts to make characters into real people.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Although there weren’t substantial lines to work with in the first place, the acting of Amazed By You is awkward and wooden.  Emotions come off as forced, and line delivery is not convincing as there is a definite need for more coaching.  Unfortunately, this movie really don’t have much going for it.

Conclusion

It feels like Amazed By You was slapped together and forced to go into production without even deciding upon the messaging of the film.  It’s so vanilla that it lacks the typical worldview-pushing of a fundamentalist Christian film and the predictable elements of an inspirational horse film, even though on the surface it looks like it is both of these.  It’s hard to find a movie that’s so bland and empty that there really isn’t much to comment about.  If this was an attempt to make some quick cash off of inspirational audiences, the marketing really wasn’t that great.  In summary, in nearly every aspect, it’s impossible to understand how this film came to be or what it was even going for.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Healed By Grace 2: Ten Days of Grace (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jessie really wants a horse, but her mom hates horses, so it’s probably not going to happen.  However, her father decides to send her to horse camp for the summer while her mother secretly gets treatment for the cancer she’s hiding from Jessie.  Unfortunately, the summer camp is full once her father gets there, which causes him to divert his plans to asking his wife’s long-lost father, Gauff from Healed by Grace, whom he has never met, to watch Jessie for a while.  Will their family be able to reconcile because of this?

Production Quality (.5 point)

For a 2018 production, Healed By Grace 2 is a major letdown and is actually a decrease in quality from previous Blended Planet films, with the exception of Disconnect Reconnect.  The poor production of Healed By Grace 2 is manifested in very poor audio and weird sound effects, as well as poor lighting and strange video quality.  The camera work is mostly fine, however, which is the only positive element in this production.  A lot of the audio seems overdubbed, and there are weird sequences of dead air, as well as a generic soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly limited and uncreative.  There are also a lot of awkward and strange cuts and transitions, including unexplained portions that may or may not take place in the minds of the characters.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Where the first installment of this ‘series’ had a tiny amount of potential, this sequel bears little to no potential at all.  The dialogue therein is extremely vanilla and pedestrian thus creating empty characters.  A lot of the plot elements seem to completely disregard the previous film, as if it really matters.  Some characters seem purposely off-the-wall or even ‘magical.’  There are also a collection of cringe-worthy ‘comedy’ sequences that are like fingernails in the chalkboard.  As this plot meanders with little to no purpose, there are also other odd elements included, such as odd suggestions about people getting cancer due to lacking forgiveness.  Overall, there is very little content to work with in this extremely forced and basically purposeless sequel, which suggests that it was misguided from the beginning.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The acting from the original movie was partially awkward in its own right, but the acting of this second film is much worse.  There are many very awkward moments, as well as blank emotions and half-hearted line delivery.  Many cast members appear to be trying far too hard to make their mark, and there is basically no coaching present.  Unfortunately, there was really little to no point in making this film.

Conclusion

Do we really need another horse film?  Until somebody produces a substantial, creative, and non-regurgitated film in this genre, we really need to have a moratorium on inspirational horse movies.  Besides this fact, productions and acting this bad are no longer acceptable in this era of Christian film, so it’s more than likely that Healed By Grace 2 will soon be forgotten.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Running Forever (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After September 11, 2001, when he mother died, Taylor Sims is separated from her father for years.  However, she is given a chance to rebuild a relationship with him at the horse ranch he owns.  Taylor predictably finds a horse to bond with and a new boyfriend as well.  But when adversity faces the horse ranch, will Taylor and her father be able to get along and win the competition to save everything?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Though Running Forever (which was repackaged as the scam ‘Christmas’ film A Horse for Christmas) had a $5 million budget, this is one of the worst productions ever made.  Besides cheap video quality and shaky camera work throughout, audio quality is terrible as it frequently uses overdubs and a generic loud soundtrack to cover up loud background sounds that even still bleed through.  Sets, locations, and props are very cheap, and there are too many close-up shots throughout.  There are also unforced issues like obvious continuity errors and awful transitions and cuts.  Overall, despite the money sunk into this sinking ship, this production is a disaster of epic proportions.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

A Horse for Christmas Running Forever is one of those stories that is trying to make you think it is bigger than it is.  In reality, everything about this half-wit plot has been done before, from the trouble character going to a rural area to bond with a horse and fall in love with the stable hand, to losing the beloved horse, to mending an estranged family relationship.  These clichés are not even executed in a good fashion, as dialogue is extremely thin, which creates cardboard characters.  The Christian message is plastic and seems very forced.  There is barely any substantial content in this plot, and the psychological elements that are attempted are laughable.  In the end, there is nothing good to say about this movie.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Clearly no acting coaching whatsoever was employed in this film as the film’s makers largely make up a majority of the cast.  Line delivery is awful, while emotions are painful.  Everybody is unnatural and stiff in their performances, and no care was given to casting people according to the ages of the characters they are supposed to be portraying.  Like the rest of the film, it seems like it’s all done on the fly.

Conclusion

New Kingdom Pictures seems like a total scam.  Not only did they try to re-release this film as a Christmas film, they didn’t even attempt to add any Christmas elements to it.  I guess they realized this film was so bad it needed a PR boost two years later.  Regardless, Running Forever is basically a train wreck of a film that had no business being made, not only because of its highly uncreative premise, but also because so much money was mishandled in a terrible production.  Somebody needs to stop giving these people so much money to waste.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Unbridled [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sarah Miller hates her life and wants to escape the clutches of her mother’s abusive boyfriend, but she has no way out.  However, a concerned friend and her fellow college student intervene when she acts strange in class, and they are able to rescue her and help her to start a new life at a shelter.  Sarah is also introduced to Unbridled, a horse therapy center for troubled girls, where she bonds with a stubborn horse.  However, when he mother’s boyfriend comes back for revenge, will she be able to survive?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though the production of Unbridled begins somewhat rough, it definitely demonstrates care and effort.  There is some shaky camera work throughout the film, likely for dramatic effect.  However, video quality is fine, and audio quality gets better as the film goes on.  Sets, locations, and props are excellently constructed and utilized.  There are some slight ministry ‘product placements’ throughout, but it means well.  One caveat to raise in this production is the very awkward editing throughout.  Some scenes lag on too long, while others are cut short.  Still other scenes appear to be unneeded.  However, despite the issues, this is a great beginning production for the Moving Visions team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As this storyline is based on true events of real people’s struggles, it definitely has its share of positives.  One of these is its excellent use of underlying philosophy that is manifested in well-crafted dialogue.  Thus, this creates believable characters who have unfortunately realistic struggles.  There is also a great portrayal of trauma and mental health in this film, as well good research on the under-explored world of horse therapy.  However, this plot also has its share of drawbacks.  These include some cheesy horse story elements and a lot of unnecessary sidebars and rabbit trails that are underdeveloped.  There are also some concerning plot holes and a lot of scenes that have been read into very much in order to be fully understood.  Thus, some organization of this otherwise good content was definitely in order.  However, it is still likely worth your time to see if only for the good cause of the film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The acting and casting of this film is somewhat of a mixed bag, as it contains many familiar faces of Christian film.  For one, Eric Roberts is just too much, even though he is appropriately cast as a creeper.  Jenn Gotzon-Chandler is awkward at first, but she gets better as she goes; the same can be said for Rachel Hendrix.  T. C. Stallings is always good, but he has his moments of over-playing.  Tea McKay is a great lead and has a lot of promise for the future.  On the whole, this is an above-average effort that shows great potential for the future.

Conclusion

Unbridled is a rare caused-based film that is worth recommending because it presents a real issue in a way that is not extremely obvious. The creators of this film clearly knew how to portray real people and their struggles.  However, a series of rookie errors kept this film from being all that it could be.  Nonetheless, this is certainly not something that will hold them back in the future, as we believe they will get better as they continue on.  With a few production tweaks and an improved story presentation, the Moving Visions team is going to go great places in the future.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

In the Mirror Dimly (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nicole and her mother are constantly at odds with each other, and Nicole hates that her father left.  Thus, Nicole turns to her friends for support and identity.  However, when they make fun of the way she looks, Nicole goes to extreme lengths to make herself look like the ‘ideal teenage girl.’  Before she knows it, Nicole is trapped in an eating disorder with no way out.  This leads her mother to drastic measures and causes her father to step back into her life.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

While In the Mirror Dimly is better than the horrid The Saber, that’s not saying much.  Video quality is the only positive aspect to this production.  Otherwise, camera work moves all over the place with no warning, and audio quality is poor, even with the obvious overdubs.  Background sounds are too loud, and the soundtrack is a dumb ‘country’ number.  Flashbacks are unnecessarily black and white, and sets, locations, and props are cheap and limited.  Finally, the editing is very disorienting and confusing.  Unfortunately, the Cross Wind team has very low production standards.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 point)

Much like The Saber, In the Mirror Dimly struggles for any remotely substantial content.  Tons of scenes are wasted on procedural activities of daily living.  The story has no clear purpose as basically all of the dialogue is immature character arguing in the most juvenile ways.  There is a lot of wasted time, along with strange psychological elements.  The premise is basically a predictable city-girl-moves-to-a-rural-area-with-a-horse idea again.  Once again, an otherwise important issue is totally mishandled and ends up being portrayed in an over-the-top and unrealistic way that reflects the writers’ lack of understanding of real problems.  There is a lot of message-pushing as the character as basically pawns in the plot’s clear agenda.  If you’re going to make movies about people’s struggles, please at least attempt to ground your plots and characters in some shred of reality.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Much like other Cross Wind efforts, the acting in this film is as terrible as you can imagine.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are very forceful and unnatural, like it pains the cast members to be there.  Some cast members are especially annoying, and lot of them engage in unnecessary yelling.  This rounds out yet another awful excuse for a Christian movie.

Conclusion

So you want to make a movie about people’s struggles with identity and sin.  Your first task is to learn about real people and how these problems manifest, grow, and heal.  Yet in their films, Cross Wind has demonstrated the exact opposite.  It is very hard to believe that they have a realistic grasp of the struggles of real people, so this sort of film is downright insulting.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Christmas For a Dollar (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In the middle of the Great Depression, the Kamp family is struggling to get by, but Mr. Kamp won’t let his older children get jobs.  Norman, the crippled brother, wants to see a horse owned by a local grumpy rich woman.  All the schoolchildren want to win a special box from the teacher for doing the most good deeds, even though they are all sure the local bullies are cheating in the contest.  Will they be able to have an enjoyable Christmas together?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As is the case for most of John Lyde’s productions, Christmas for a Dollar is respectable and above average.  This includes good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is a bit generic, but it’s fine.  Sometimes the sets, props, and locations are limited, but they are mostly good.  Also, the editing lags at times, but on the whole, every part of this production shows good effort, which is all we can ask for, especially considering the resources available.  John Lyde is consistent in rolling out good productions.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, also like other films from John Lyde and his team, the plot is this movie is fairly limited in its scope and tends to lack overall purpose.  While the characters show some realism and honesty, it’s hard to know where the story is going since there are several different rabbit trails it follows without really discovering a driving or underlying theme.  The characters could have been something, but some of the awkward dialogue holds them back.  Like other movies from this creative team, Christmas for a Dollar contains a lot of nice ideas that don’t come to full fruition.  This story needed a bit more work before going to production.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite the unrealistic costuming, this cast was definitely trying.  They overcame a rough start of awkward and forced lines and emotions to improve throughout the latter half of the film.  They seem like they are receiving some good coaching most of the time and really seem like they care about their roles.  This is more than can be said of most casts.

Conclusion

John Lyde and his creative team certainly care about their movies: this much is evident.  However, too often, their ideas get lost in translation and do not fully come through.  Films like this one tend to come off as nice little kids’ movies with no mass appeal outside of a small audience.  It’s a shame, because it seems like they could go further a lot of the time with their ideas.  Maybe one day soon they will finally break through to the next level, because they certainly have the ability to do so.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Steps of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Faith Houston believes God has called her to move to Texas on blind faith and try to get a job at a Christian horse ranch that ministers to troubled kids.  Though her family is against it, Faith plunges ahead into unknown territory to see what God has for her.  However, when she arrives in Texas, she soon discovers that not everything will be as easy as she thought it would.  Yet she perseveres and finds out what God really wants for her life.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Much like A Man Called Jon, Poorchild Films has discovered better production quality as of late.  Video quality is clear and camera work is great.  Audio quality is fine and the soundtrack is as good as can be expected.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and diverse.  Really the biggest issue to point out here, of course, is the editing.  Some scenes are too choppy while others lag too long.  But in the end, this is a nearly model production that they should be proud of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Yet also in a similar vein as A Man Called Jon, and especially Hiding in Plain Sight, Steps of Faith, though it is ninety minutes long, just doesn’t contain enough content to sustain a feature-length film.  Even if there was more content here, it is still a very basic and predictable storyline that contains very flat and boring characters.  Dialogue is very uninspiring and uncreative.  The least a writer can do with this type of formulaic story is make the characters accessible, but this does not happen.  Instead, time is wasted on pointless sequences and forced comedy that’s not funny.  In the end, Poorchild Films needs to seriously invest in some screenwriting.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Much like their other films, this movie recycles a lot of familiar cast members, yet some of them show improvement from other performances.  Emotions are mostly believable and line delivery is pretty good.  There are just some minor errors throughout that add up, as well as the dry comedy.  Overall, this film hovers right around the average range.

Conclusion

In the end, it still appears as though Poorchild is getting better at what they do—if they continue to improve in each area, they could be onto something great very soon.  If they seriously invest in some better screenwriting, then they are on their way to greatness for sure.  The day that plots of Christian films overall improve is the day that the entire industry is turned upside down.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

A Horse Called Bear (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Ethan’s mother dies in a car wreck, he inherits everything she owned, especially her horse, called Bear!  Therefore, he decides to forsake all of his other possessions and his college scholarship to learn ‘computers’ and go to live with his aunt and uncle so he can be near his new horse.  As he wrestles with his life’s purpose and meets new friends, Bear is always there to bring them all together.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This is likely one of Crystal Creek Media’s best productions, as it has good video quality and professional camera work, although some of the camera work tends to be too artistic.  Audio quality is fine, though the soundtrack is incredibly boring.  The same old sets and locations from all the Crystal Creek films, with some exceptions, are used again.  Finally, there are a lot of editing problems, including too many lagging scenes and not enough fluff being edited out.  There are too many repeated and useless sequences, as well as scenery sequences, that just fill time.  Basically, though they have made some strides, they still have some work to do.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s extremely difficult to grasp the purpose of this film.  The plot summary above is basically it, sans a few extra rabbit trail subplots that never seem to come to anything.  There are too many meandering and disconnected elements, thus causing the story to overall lack focus and direction.  From one scene to the next, it is hard to tell what is really happening or what the viewer is supposed to focus on.  Dialogue is extremely formal and empty at the time, thus creating cardboard characters.  There are too many trite and plastic Christian platitudes with no substance or meaning behind them.  Next time, the Crystal Creek team needs to give better scrutiny to their plots before letting the movie go to production.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Utilizing the same cast members over and over again can be cheap and easy, but it doesn’t pay off unless you have some serious acting coaching.  With this many films under the belts of these cast members, they should be getting better with experience, but they’re not.  There is a severe lack of emotion among this cast and too many lazy performances.  Unfortunately, this is another disappointing effort.

Conclusion

We still believe that the Crystal Creek team has good intentions—they just need a lot of direction and deepening.  They certainly persevere as they continue to put out film after film.  Since they have this drive, we ask that they use each film as a learning opportunity to get better and better.  Their production skills have slightly improved over time, but other areas are still suffering.  Perhaps as they continue to truck along, they will keep learning how to get better.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Lucky’s Treasure (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

May Landis knows there’s a coin hidden somewhere on her property, and she spends her life looking for it, much to the chagrin of her husband, Henry.  However, one day, May is sure she has found it, but she pays for it dearly.  Henry is sent into depression and drinking following his wife’s untimely death and is reluctant to take in his granddaughter Emily when she comes to live with him to go to college, but he agrees if she will take care of May’s horse Lucky.  Then Emily starts searching for the coin, even though there are also ‘bad guys’ searching for it.  Will they ever be able to find it in time?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

When compared to his past projects, Saving Winston and Camp Harlow, Shane Hawks’ production quality has somewhat increased.  However, the production of this film is still not up to industry standard.  Video quality and camera work are professional, but audio quality is lacking, especially in outside scenes.  The soundtrack is also very stock.  There are too many musical montages that waste time.  However, sets and locations are clearly given thought.  Yet editing is almost nonexistent as lots of useless content is included.  In the end, though Lucky’s Treasure looks better than past films, it’s still not there yet.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

If you could think of the most stereotypical and juvenile plot premise that involves a horse, a girl, a ranch hand, a treasure, and some ridiculous villains, then it would be Lucky’s Treasure.  Though it is Shane Hawks’ most complex plot (not saying much), its presentation is very disingenuous and lackadaisical.  Time is spent on the most childish things, like the cheesiest high school college romance since Barbie and Ken.  Every character fits into the most plastic mold you can think of—dialogue (the parts you can understand) sounds like it’s been bought from a stock dialogue company.  Things happen because they need to as time is filled with montages, romance stuff, activities of daily living, vague treasure hunt concepts, and lectures on French history.  With no real direction or purpose, Lucky’s Treasure (the horse is actually fairly insignificant) meanders along a predictable progression until time runs out.  Basically, this storyline is so stereotypical and stock that it in no way warrants creation.

Acting Quality (0 points)

With perhaps the most thrown-together cast ever, Lucky’s Treasure just keeps getting better and better.  The cast members post very awkward and unsure performances.  Some lines are mumbled while others seem phoned in.  Some are overplayed while others are underplayed.  The costuming is also atrocious.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to believe that any time was spent on this portion.

Conclusion

It’s noble that Shane Hawks and his team want to keep making movies.  They have the rare opportunity to do something great with the resources and platform they have been provided.  But they are utterly wasting it.  Our advice at this point for Hawks and company would be to stop trying to write plots and focus on directing and producing.  Find a better writer and get some help with your casting and coaching.  At the very least, do the best you can with what you have, because this is by far not the best you can do.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Part 5 (MTASBTNEWOT 5)

In our vast Christian entertainment viewing experience, we sometimes come upon films that we can hardly justify writing a full review for.  Therefore, for your convenience, so you don’t have to go watch those free films that invade your suggested watch list in on-demand video services, we’ve provided a quick overview here.  Someday we might post more, if we’re fortunate enough to find more.

 

Strange….

For Such a Time

Why do we need so many Esther films?  This one looks like it was recorded with a handheld camera for a church play.  They obviously purchased all of their costumes and props at Walmart and decided to film a historical story in a modern house full of white people with too much makeup.  Production is terrible in all aspects and nothing these people are doing resembles acting.  This is so low quality that it doesn’t even warrant creation.

 

Just taking some pictures of flowers

The Bouquet

One of the wonders produced by Nasser Film Group, this one portrays Kristy Swanson and a whole bunch of other awkward cast members in a knockoff Hallmark movie about a group of people all hanging around the same property together trying to rehabilitate a dying flower business.  With laughable references to the internet and technology and the most juvenile forced romances ever, only watch this one if you need a good laugh.

 

Enough said

Midnight Stallion

In another face-palmer from Nasser, Kris Kristofferson attempts to portray a fifty-year-old man with a teenage daughter, although he was close to eighty years old at the time of this movie’s filming.  Hardly anything can be focused on at all in this formulaic, stereotypical, and predictable horse-saves-the-farm story except for Kristofferson’s terrible plastic surgery, constant grunting, and scenes of him pretending to ride a horse.  Whoever keeps casting old coots like Kristofferson needs to quit film making.

 

Well that’s all for now!  Maybe we’ll post another one someday…maybe not…

Texas Rein {The Ride Home} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Cassie Roberts receives word that her father is having medical complications, she is forced to return to the small town of Texas she grew up in, the one she tried to get away from.  While back in town, she is reminded of her horse riding days and reluctantly agrees to help her father and his young trainer to train her old horse for a reining competition.  Will she be reminded of what she left behind and of the new life she can start anew?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While Texas Rein has good standard production elements, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality, there are still some other issues to raise.  The soundtrack is very stock and uninspiring.  The sets and locations are quite limited to a few houses and outside areas and don’t even give off that small town feel.  Finally, the editing is quite poor and causes the film to be very choppy and confusing—just a collection of random scenes.  There are also too many musical montages.  In short, while this movie looks good on the surface, it’s really just an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

So a character returns to their hometown they don’t want to be in because of some extenuating circumstance and finds a reason to stay (usually a horse is involved) and meets a significant other and so on and so forth.  We’ve seen this plot before and this is a 2016 movie, so why are we seeing it again?  Besides the predictable plot structure, the characters therein are extremely juvenile and simplistic.  The dialogue is typical and full of small town statements.  Nothing really substantial happens as the passage of time is hard to follow.  We can’t feel like these people are real or are doing real things as their unrealistic high school dramas are resolved too easily.  Basically, there’s really nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This is really a very poor casting job.  The actors and actresses are awkward, wooden, and robotic in their line delivery.  They don’t express any believable feeling or emotions.  On the bright side, this is possibly Erin Bethea’s best role to date.  But otherwise, this is a big disappointment.

Conclusion

It’s great to want to make a movie, but sometimes you need to take a step back and see if it really is worth marking.  Texas Rein probably would have done better as a short film, to work as sort of a springboard for better things.  With no creative plot content and very weak characters, this was unfortunately not a story worth telling.  Also, it’s great to have production elements down, but having such a poorly coached cast is unacceptable.  Perhaps things will improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Christmas Edition (MTASBTNEWOT Christmas)

In our vast Christian entertainment viewing experience, we sometimes come upon films that we can hardly justify writing a full review for.  Therefore, for your convenience, so you don’t have to go watch those free films that invade your suggested watch list in on-demand video services, we’ve provided a quick overview here.  For now, here’s a collection of Christmas films that fall into this category.

 

It’s very hard to explain

Beverly Hills Christmas

This is barely a Christmas movie at all except that it’s based on the typically bizarre magic premise you find in many knockoff holiday films.  Dean Cain and a Meryl Streep lookalike star in this movie that’s filled with wacko works-based theology and abstract vague fantasy lingo and concepts.  Apparently some dead woman has to get into heaven by making her spoiled brat daughter act good, so she decides to bring a nice kid back to life by shooting lightning into his skull even though Dean Cain told her not to touch people.  It’s a shame this off-the-wall movie wasted a decent character arc and a remotely interesting idea.

 

Look, a rose!

Natalie’s Rose

Also barely a Christmas film (or a Christian one), this time about a horse named—guess what—Rose.  Basically, this movie wastes an hour of your time on farm footage and sitting around talking before coming to the shocking conclusion: the horse is a “special” horse that turns into a rose.  [ENTER GIANT FACEPALM HERE].  No joke.  The production is terrible and most people won’t even make through the entire slogfest to see the main character having hallucinations about glowing horseback riders at night.  How this garbage gets made is beyond us.

 

DAX!

The Heart of Christmas

When you use kids with cancer as props and parade vain Christian actors and actresses in front of the camera in some kind of lame attempt to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in a shameless commercial soliciting you for money, we don’t have much respect for you.  Sure, St’ Jude’s does some great things and helps families in need, but can’t we just have a normal movie without all the advertising, drama, and pageantry?  They didn’t even try to make this true story a realistic plot.  It’s really shameful when you have characters telling you to make donations.

Healed by Grace [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Riley Adams is a talented dancer, but when she is involved in a car accident, her life changes forever.  Now partially paralyzed and being forced to relearn speech and motor skills, Riley feels like her life is over since she can no longer dance like she used to.  However, she soon discovers a special form of physical therapy involving horses that changes her entire perspective on life.  Through the newfound therapy, she not only finds a new lease on life, but a new chance at faith and love.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

With obviously limited resources, Healed by Grace is plagued by cheap production problems.  Video quality is grainy and camera work is shaky.  The sets and locations are fairly limited, but the usage of props is pretty good.  The soundtrack is okay, but we would have liked to hear something more dynamic.  There is really no editing present here; if there had been editing, this production probably would have improved.  However, there is care and thought put into this film, making it stand apart from your average sloppy and thrown-together Christian movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Despite its obvious production flaws, Healed by Grace demonstrates heart and effort.  The creators actually seem to care about what they are doing, despite their limited resources.  The plot’s message is very touching and realistic.  Though the plot is slightly simplistic, it’s based on a believable premise and is a generally interesting idea.  The dialogue is pretty good and the characters have interesting arcs.  Though there is little content here, the writers did the best they could with what they had.  We would have liked to see a little more complexity, but it’s definitely a good start.  Some things happen off screen, obviously due to budget constraints.  The ending is authentic but we would have liked to see a little more.  Overall, this is a great starter effort with room for improvement.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the cast is very amateur, they are trying harder than most.  They demonstrate a willing attitude to act well, even though they sometimes fall short.  It’s not easy to effectively act like you are disabled from a car wreck, but the main actress pulls this off well.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are average.  Costuming is realistic throughout.  Overall, this is an applaudable effort.

Conclusion

In summary, Healed by Grace is a true-to-life story that is accessible by Christian audiences.  Though many facets of the film are amateur, the creators still show that they care about what they are doing rather than just slapping a horrible film together and sticking the name ‘Christian’ on it.  It’s hard to make independent Christian films, especially starting out.  What’s important is that you, as a Christian film maker, give it your best effort and leave the results up to God.  If He has called you into film making, He will give you the resources you need.  You just have to be faithful and do your absolute best.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Love Finds You in Valentine (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Kennedy Blaine, a recent law school graduate, inherits her family’s Valentine, Nebraska ranch property, she is faced with the requirement to visit the property before she tries to sell it.  When she arrives, she finds two caretakers who loved her parents, even if the young man is a bit rough around the edges.  Kennedy also receives a treasure as a part of her father’s passing: the diary of her mother, which chronicles their story of forbidden love.  While in Valentine, Kennedy must not only face shady characters trying to get their hands on her property, but also long lost relatives who won’t give her the love she wants.  Before she knows it, Kennedy finds herself caught up in the excitement of her parent’s ranch—and the mysterious young caretaker who constantly haunts her.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, Up Entertainment has mastered the art of creating a professional-looking made-for-TV film.  The camera work is excellent, as is the video quality.  The sound quality is good, especially in outdoor scenes.  Sets and locations are diverse, making for realistic surroundings.  The sad thing is that this otherwise perfect production is usurped by issues that are easily fixed by a team this professional: editing and soundtrack.  The soundtrack is quite silly and sounds borrowed from Hallmark.  As for the editing, not enough care is taken to generate interest from the audience.  There are too many wasted segments of scenery and horseback riding, especially when these parts could be used for better purposes.  But in the end, Up schools made-for-TV productions on how to do it right and they should be looked to for advice.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

As previously mentioned, if the scenery and horse segments had been toned down and used for deeper plot and character development, this movie would have landed on the Hall of Fame.  As it is, there is a framework of complexity that is rarely seen on television.  We only wish there had been a deeper utilization of the few yet intriguing flashbacks.  The characters are a little more than one-dimensional, but they struggle to make themselves special in a world of stock romance characters.  The dialogue is above average, but not much more than that.  There are several unrealistic elements in the premise and some odd plot holes.  There is a slight feel of a silly small town film.  The Christian message is too soft for this type of movie—it could have been more meaningful than this.  Finally, the end is forced and tacked on.  There was no reason to insert an unwanted ‘suspenseful’ climax into this film, especially since it’s not even realistic.  This is perhaps the biggest detractor to the plot.  In the end, Valentine left a lot of potential lying on the table.  Next time, Up needs to play their cards better.

Acting Quality (3 points)

With no glaring errors, the acting is the strongest element to Valentine.  Line delivery is professional and emotions are believable.  The actors and actresses enhance the characters they are given.  This acting job is better than some films that make the Hall of Fame.  Yet it also stands as another example of disappointment and wasted potential in this movie.

Conclusion

Up Entertainment has mastered the art of creating an inspirational romance movie that is more than a romance.  Now, it’s time for them to take it to the next level by being more innovative when it comes to the plot.  Charm came closer to crafting a complex plot, but this was partly due to its loose adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.  Romance writers need to take a page from Rik Swartzwelder’s playbook and create a romance plot that is deeper and more complex than usual.  Viewers desperately want this, even if they don’t realize it.  We need romance that means something beyond surface feelings.  Unfortunately, though it is more enjoyable and realistic than a Hallmark movie, Valentine misses the mark on this front.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

Saving Winston (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When she is left behind by her partners in crime, Ashley is caught by the police and arrested following a break-in she assisted with.  After being released from juvenile detention, she is assigned to kinship care under her Aunt Diane.  Ashley’s aunt hopes to provide a structured atmosphere on her horse farm for the troubled teen and hopes to lead her to faith in Christ.  But as Ashley’s past keeps calling her back, Diane finds herself at the end of her rope.  That is, until Ashley grows close to a struggling horse on a neighboring property and tries to nurse him back to health.  Little do Ashley and Diane know that healing can come from unexpected places.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Ugh.  That pretty much describes this production.  It looks like it was filmed with a camcorder, sometimes shaking around in someone’s hand, sometimes on a tripod, and sometimes sat on a table some distance away.  More often than not, characters are cut out of the shot or are only partially in the shot since there is obviously no adjustable camera equipment.  Other camcorder qualities include tinny sound and grainy video.  There are lots of wasted ‘artistic’ shots of leaves, grass, and trees, accompanied by clanky piano music.  The sets and locations are basically people’s backyards and living rooms—not that there’s anything wrong with this, but they’re not utilized properly.  In short, Saving Winston is extremely and obviously cheap; no professionalism is exhibited here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

So, what exactly is the plot here?  Why does this plot even center around a horse that gets less than 50% screen time?  It seems like there could have been an interesting plot about juvenile delinquency issues, but there is just nothing here.  The characters are hollow, fueled by lifeless dialogue.  With so few characters, excellent dialogue is needed, but not received.  The aunt character, who is supposed to be the Christian guide of the plot, comes off as abrasive and rude.  Saving Winston just boils down to a collection of scenes depicting people driving around, working with horses, doing Bible studies, and having juvenile arguments.  Box Office Revolution has never reviewed such an empty plot.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This very small cast was neither given good coaching nor interesting lines to work with.  Victoria Emmons has demonstrated the ability to act better in other movies, but not this one, probably due better crews in other films.  In Winston, line delivery is either forced or mumbled and emotional delivery is borderline comedic.  Unfortunately, there is once again nothing good to highlight here.

Conclusion

Everyone has meager beginnings, but it doesn’t have to be this bad.  Winston should have been a short film that concisely and clearly communicated its intended point.  Many new filmmakers have used short films to begin their careers; Shane Hawks could have easily done this and saved time and money.  As it is, Saving Winston made no impact on the market accept to further tarnish the reputation of Christian films.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Camp Harlow (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Alex likes being a bully because of the status it brings her in her circle of friends.  What her victims never see is the broken home she lives in and how miserable she is on the inside.  Restless because of the approaching summer, Alex takes up the offer of a boy she likes to go to a high-end summer camp, not knowing that it is Christian based.  When she arrives, she is resistant to the love of the counselors there, but she soon feels her walls cracking as she comes to grips with the person she really is.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

The production quality of Camp Harlow is basically inconsistent.  The video quality is mostly clear, but the camera angles are all over the place.  There are several long segments of musical montages, which seem to cover up a low budget production, such as poor microphone work and lack of dialogue.  The editing is straightforward, likely because there is just not much content here.  There are a lot of wasted scenes involving characters that are rarely focused on; some seem to be overt advertisements for the actual Camp Harlow.  In other words, though the video is clear, there is not much else to say.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The idea behind the plot is intriguing and noteworthy, but there is simply not enough content to sustain the movie.  Thus, there is a lot of filler content, such as procedural camp activities and forced dialogue.  Because most of the dialogue is very wooden and awkward, the characters are mostly not developed well.  The only positive elements here is the character arc of Alex.  It is realistic that bullies often have broken home lives and therefore project their pain on other people.  This truth was at least portrayed in Camp Harlow.  Unfortunately, the surrounding negative factors drown this out.

Acting Quality (1 point)

AJ Olson is good in her debut, but she may be the only good actor in this cast.  The other actors appear to be either forcing their lines or just going through the motions.  It seems like some of them could be better if they were coached differently.  At this point, Box Office Revolution wonders if PureFlix ever has acting coaches.

Conclusion

In an attempt to be meaningful, Camp Harlow comes off as preachy without anything to back it up.  No one respects a low quality movie unless it shows a lot of promise and had a very small budget.  The important intended message of Camp Harlow is lost, in keeping with the themes of most PureFlix movies.  There is more to making a great movie than just upgrading camera quality, even though this is a good start.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points