Not Today [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Caden is a spoiled teenager who thinks he owns the world and can do whatever he wants.  So he decides to try to convince his mother and stepfather that he and his friends need to go to India to “experience the world.”  Surprisingly, they agree, so Caden sets out to discover what he is looking for to satisfy his empty soul.  All the while, his mother prays tirelessly for him in the hope that he will come to his senses.  Little does she know God’s plan for him as Caden stumbles upon the dark world of child trafficking and slavery and determines that he must do something about it.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Not Today is a highly unique production, to say the least.  At the beginning of the film, there are tons of odd special effects and captioning drawn on top of the screen to try to enhance the story, but this thankfully subsides as the movie goes on.  There is a professional use of international on-set locations, but some of the camera work is shaky, seemingly on purpose to try to create some kind of documentary effect, even though this isn’t a docu-drama.  Video and audio quality are both clear, however, and the original soundtrack is effective.  Yet there are issues with editing, including choppiness and abrupt scene transitions.  But the production improves in the middle as a whole and some of the minor issues fade away.  However, it’s not enough to make this production above average.  It’s a good effort, but it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Though this premise is slightly forced, it is no less important to discuss in film.  Unfortunately, too much of the film relies on the issue the writer is trying to present, namely human trafficking, and leaves other things undone at first.  For example, the characters start out as very empty and stereotypical, but improve through the film through intriguing character arcs.  Though things are rocky at first, the story improves in the middle and carries a powerful message.  Similarly, the dialogue begins amateurish but becomes deeper and more meaningful as the plot goes on.  There is a lot of content here, along with some interesting psychological elements, but we would have still liked to see more development from some of the characters and less wasted time at the beginning.  Also, the ending is quite rushed and patched up, so we can’t really appreciate what’s happening.  In the end, this is an average plot that we feel could have been better, but it ends up meaningful.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like other elements, the acting starts off juvenile and forceful, but improves as the movie goes on.  The character arcs seemingly cause the line delivery and emotional delivery to become more realistic.  Nonetheless, international casting is realistic and effective.  The frustrating thing is that this was a professional cast, so they certainly could have been better.  But like the rest of the film, this portion just comes out as average.

Conclusion

Though Not Today is a slight advertisement for the human trafficking non-profit behind it, it is still an effective messaging tool and drives its point home in the end.  No doubt a lot of effort was put into the international casting and filming, so this could have detracted from other parts of the movie.  For the most part, many audiences will find this film enjoyable, and it may be worth your time.  It’s not one of the horrible films out there—we just feel like it could have been better.  Nevertheless, you should still probably give it a chance.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Creed of Gold (Movie Review)

The permeations are insanely complex

Plot Summary

Cody Williams was entrusted a secret by his parents, but it is a secret that could change the world forever.  When he moves to America to go to school, he feels that it is his destiny to use his secret—a list of the world’s most powerful elites—to make a difference and bring down the Federal Reserve.  With the help of God and some newfound friends, Cody sets out to do just that, but they encounter trouble along the way from those who want to silence them forever.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Creed of Gold is supposed to be some serious action adventure epic, but it’s just not.  Unfortunately, Crystal Creek Media still doesn’t have production quality down.  From poor lighting to dizzying camera angles to cheap special effects and CGI, this one is a real doozy.  With clearly no boom mic to speak of nearly all of the dialogue is voiced over in post, and it’s very obvious that they are voiceovers.  Any audio that is not voiced over is very poor, and the ‘action’ soundtrack is very loud and annoying.  In short, if you don’t have the resources to make a good action production, please don’t make one at all.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

What is this plot?  From the confusing prologue to the silly unrealistic premise of a bunch of college students trying to hack the Federal Reserve, there is no sense or continuity here.  Random things just happen for no reason, subplots jump all over the place, and leaps in logic are constantly used to drive the plot.  Despite the constant in-your-face anti-Fed propaganda and many long and drawn out conversations about isolating topics, the plot is still extremely complicated and offers no explanation as to how characters go from point A to point B.  Due to the droning conversations, the characters are extremely one-dimensional and the villains are very cheesy.  Creed of Gold just feels like an idea that never figured out what it was supposed to be.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there is nothing good to say here either.  The acting is very wooden and robotic.  Little emotion is demonstrated from this cast, and there are too many obviously fake accents.  I wish there was something good to say, but there’s just not.

Conclusion

We think the Crystal Creek Media team means well, but they have been short on delivery.  Since Creed of Gold is almost a National Treasure knockoff, we strongly suggest they reconsider what types of plots they are writing.  Also, until more resources are available for better production quality, action adventure films are probably not the way to go.  We believe they have potential, they just need some direction and better backing.  Perhaps they will improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

Final: The Rapture (Movie Review)

Making international calls on a deserted island

Plot Summary

In an instant, millions disappear in what Christians call the Rapture.  This leaves the planet in total chaos and unrest.  The lives of four people are followed as they experience the fallout from this cataclysmic event.  A rich football player in America wrestles with the fact that his wife has disappeared.  An atheist professor finds himself stranded on a deserted island after his plane crashes.  A girl from Argentina cannot remember what happened to her as she tries to piece the events of her life back together.  A businessman from Tokyo wonders if his Christian friends were right about the end of the world.  They will all have to struggle to survive in this new world.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

It’s hard to remember the last time we saw a production this annoyingly horrible.  For starters, the camera work and video quality are medieval, like the whole thing was recorded on a flip phone.  The audio quality is perhaps the worst we have ever heard, from a loud soundtrack, to audio constantly cutting in and out, to distorted screeching dialogue, and to incessant background noises and cheap sound effects.  The sets, locations, and props are very amateurish and cheap-looking.  Finally, whoever edited this disaster should have quit to save their reputation since they had virtually nothing to work with.  The film is very choppy and jumps all over the place, sometimes recycled old footage and sometimes using black and white footage randomly.  The viewer is constantly reminded of the location and time through subtitles since there is no other way to understand what’s going on.  In short, this is likely one of the worst productions in the all-time history of film making.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The plot can do nothing to redeem this trainwreck, since there is very little real content to speak of.  Filled with obvious dialogue and stiff, robotic characters, the storyline has zero continuity as random subplots jump all over the place and meander aimlessly.  The characters are either obnoxious strawmen or cultural stereotypes.  There are many bizarre asides, moments of unintentional comedy, and random things that just happen.  Also, as expected, Final copies the typical apocalyptic plot progression but makes it their own by zooming through it at breakneck speed before crashing with a nonsensical end that is somehow supposed to be continued.  In other words, this is Left Behind 2014 on steroids (or is it actually the other way around?).

Acting Quality (-1 points)

As these amateur cast members screech, squeal, and scream their way through this disarray, they either come off as lackluster or singsong.  They are generally very obnoxious and over the top, obviously lacking coaching as they forcefully deliver their lines and emotions.  We are unsure who is to blame for their ear-piercing delivery—the audio quality or the cast members themselves.  Any way you cut it, it’s a mess.

Conclusion

With such low quality everything, what possessed the creators to make this garbage?  Did they really think that they were going to make more of these, as this is presumably the first in an obligatory unfinished apocalyptic series?  This is hands-down one of the most absurdly low quality films of all time, to the point that it should have been made it through post-production.  The entirety of this wreckage should have been scrapped and never used again.  It’s things like this film that drive us crazy.

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

Island of Grace [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

While in route on a business trip, Mark, Megan, and Chris survive a plane crash in the south Pacific and find themselves stranded on an abandoned island.  Forced to fend for themselves in the wild, they wonder if anyone will ever find them.  Megan finds herself torn between the two men as she tries to conceal her Christian faith to impress Mark, even though Chris, an outspoken Christian, does not want her to.  In the end, they will all have decisions to make that will impact their lives forever.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

While the effort is nice to film at a different than usual location, namely an island, this choice actually does more harm than good.  This is mostly due to the extremely loud and constant outdoor background noise in the island scenes, which mostly consists of incessant wave and waterfall noises.  Besides this, other sets are quite limited and the usage of props is cheesy.  The video quality is below average and the camera work uninspiring.  Besides the terrible audio quality previously mentioned, the soundtrack is very pedestrian.  Finally, there is no editing present—what you see is what you get.  Despite the unique concept behind the film, there was little to no justification for this film being made.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though this plot is trying to depict a serious survival situation, this idea is treated flippantly as a majority of the movie is spent hashing out a superficial high school love triangle while on a deserted island.  Important issues are portrayed in a petty way and are overshadowed by silly relationship issues.  Thus, the content is very shallow, as is the dialogue.  Even though the plot focuses on primarily three characters for over an hour, we don’t get to know any of them very well—they are just people reciting lines and being swept along by circumstances.  There are no plot twists and the ending is as superficial as the rest of the storyline.  In short, what started out as an interesting idea quickly devolved into unimportant fluff.

Acting Quality (0 points)

With the tiny amateur cast that carries the movie on their shoulders, they needed to come through, but they did not.  Coaching is obviously absent as line delivery is very lackluster.  Emotional delivery is plastic and uninspiring.  Costuming is okay but nothing groundbreaking.  The bottom line is that this film failed in every category.

Conclusion

We kind of feel sorry for the creators of Island of Grace because they could be nice people.  Unfortunately, another film with another petty portrayal of relationships is not what the market needs, especially if it’s trying to depict a survival situation.  This genre should be gritty and suspenseful, not light and laughable.  If God gives you the opportunity to make a film, you should leave it all on the field and make a mark on the field.  This is what mainly frustrates us—film makers not taking their calling seriously, because it is certainly a calling if God has given you the opportunity to create.  Please do not take it lightly and seek to make a difference.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Left Behind 3: World at War (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

With Nicolae Carpathia increasing his grip on international politics, President Fitzgerald of the United States is highly skeptical of the United Nations leader.  The President’s suspicions are only raised when his vice president is killed in a sudden car bomb.  He also receives an anonymous tip about secret plans that threaten to overturn the delicate balance of the world.  Elsewhere, the Tribulation Force continues to seek converts and spread the gospel as the world becomes darker and darker.  When an unexpected evil strikes the planet, they must dig deep in their faith and band together under the banner of Christianity.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

After two previous productions failed even though they had money behind them, this creative team finally put the money where their mouth was and spent it correctly on World at War.  The camera work and video quality are excellent.  Props have a major upgrade and appear very realistic.  This movie finally lives up to its international intrigue expectations by providing wide ranging sets and locations to the viewers.  It also delivers on this franchise’s previous claims of action entertainment by pulling off action scenes very well, including professional use of special effects.  Watching this movie actually makes you feel like you’re watching an apocalyptic film with international ramifications.  The only complaints to bring up here are some minor editing issues.  Otherwise, this is a production to be proud of for once.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

World at War is actually an engaging apocalyptic plot that holds the attention, which is an unfortunately rare find in Christian film.  Subplots built up from the two previous installments are used very well, and even though this storyline departs greatly from the novels, it is still enjoyable.  New subplots are complex and hold the viewer’s attention until the end.  The dialogue is finally well-constructed and the characters are finally believable.  The apocalyptic concepts and surroundings are finally realistic and highly possible in the real world.  Although there are some unnecessary elements, there are not a few suspenseful twists that make this an apocalyptic plot to be proud of.  Finally, World at War packs perhaps the most epic action ending in Christian film to date, putting many other action film attempts to shame.  Yet two things derail this movie from being Hall of Fame: the lack of buildup from previous films and the lack of continuation.  The writers set us up with an engaging franchise reboot, if you will, yet did not deliver with a follow-up.  What happens next?  We may never know.  But for now, this is one of the most applaudable Christian action films on the market.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Acting also greatly improves in this installment not only because of improved coaching but also because of better additional cast members.  Once again, Kirk Cameron posts one of his best (probably his last) acting performances.  Line delivery is effective, but sometimes emotions are over the top.  In the end, there are only minor errors here.

Conclusion

It’s so frustrating to watch films that barely miss the Hall of Fame because of the potential they did not live up to.  World at War had everything going for it—except for better predecessors and a real follow-up.  If the franchise was going to be dropped here, it would have been better for World at War to either stand alone as a separate apocalyptic film outside of the series or for the absurd Left Behind reboot of recent to become the fourth movie rather than just a rehashing of the first installment.  It’s unfortunate, but it’s unlikely World at War will be remade for a myriad of reasons.  But it can at least serve as a testament to what can be done in Christian film if proper money and effort are applied.  We need many more films like this one on the market.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

Left Behind 2: Tribulation Force [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

With the world still reeling from the Rapture, those left behind who became Christians band together to form what they call a Tribulation Force to stand against the forces of evil.  Their leader, Bruce, encourages each of them to not hide from the new evil world but to find a way to reach other for Christ in it.  Rayford struggles with a decision to pilot the plane of Nicolae Carpathia, the suspected antichrist.  Buck Williams chases down a story regarding a messianic prophecy expert and two mysterious men at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.  In the strange new world they live in, they also discover everyday struggles and the realization that following Jesus is no longer easy.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The second installment of the original Left Behind series is a low point.  While video quality and camera work are okay, there are a host of other production errors.  Special effects are cheesy, especially when it comes to action scenes.  Many scenes have very poor lighting.  The sets and locations are pretty good, but they are littered with cheap looking props.  The soundtrack is pedestrian.  Furthermore, the editing is very sub-par and fails to cut down quite a few long and drawn out scenes that drain the viewer’s attention span.  Essentially, not much effort was put into this creation.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Once again, for an apocalyptic thriller, there’s not much apocalyptic or thrilling about Tribulation Force.  The film takes a very melancholy tone, choosing to spend time on silly conflicts like lover’s spats and peripheral character issues.  There is little central focus as the plot meanders from job decisions to church services to turning the church into a hospital to chasing leads in the Middle East.  There is also not enough suspense or plot twists as the monotone dialogue centers on theological discussions and information dumps.  There are attempts at twists and psychological\spiritual elements, but they fall flat.  There are too many one-dimensional characters that are juggled and we can’t really get to know any of them.  Like its predecessor, Tribulation Force just gets ready for the inevitable next film without giving the viewer any reason to watch it except for the book series popularity.  The actual end of the plot is quite cheesy and non-suspenseful.  In short, if you missed this film, you didn’t miss much.

Acting Quality (1 point)

At least they returned all the same cast members.  I hate it when movie franchises try to change out actors and actresses and pretend you didn’t notice.  There is slight improvement among this cast and Kirk Cameron delivers arguably one of his best career acting performances.  My how time has flown.  This cast could have actually been great with better coaching.  Alas, what could have been.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, John Patus and company elected to follow the standard Hollywood path of bringing a popular book franchise to the big screen and relied on the series’ popularity to carry it.  There is little reason for this film to even exist except for the fact that it needed to for the series to continue.  If you skipped to the third film, you didn’t miss anything in this one.  This is the central problem to movie sagas: each one needs to be a good movie by itself without the other ones holding it up.  There are few who have gotten this right.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Left Behind [2000] (Movie Review)

Kirk Cameron, the early years
Kirk Cameron, the early years

Plot Summary

In an instant, millions vanish all around the world, causing the planet to descend into chaos as planes go down, cars drive into buildings, and unrest erupts everywhere.  Pilot Rayford Steele finds nearly half of his plane’s manifest (haha) missing.  Reporter Buck Williams is on the flight at the time and believes it has something to do with the vast globalist conspiracy he has uncovered.  As order dissipates around the globe and as many theories are posited as to what happened to those who disappeared, those still remaining look for a world leader who can bring global peace to the chaos.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a late 90s\early 2000s production, the original Left Behind film has many of the marks of this era of filmmaking.  Opening credits sequences were common back then, but they weren’t ever justified.  The video quality and camera work are fairly well produced.  However, action scenes are not filmed or produced very well and include poorly crafted CGI and other special effects.  Kirk Cameron provides some slight yet unwanted narration throughout the film.  Elsewhere, location subtitles from JAG are awkwardly inserted and the soundtrack is cheap.  Finally, the editing is pretty good, but as will be discussed next, there is too much content to cover and not enough continuity.  In short, this ‘classic’ Christian film has some good quality, but not enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on the blockbuster apocalyptic fiction series by popular authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, the original Left Behind film is not without its plot errors.  The premise is trumped up, lacking a touch of realism, but this may get a pass since it was based on the international politics of 15+ years ago.  The movie is focused on big world-changing issues, but they come off as simplistic and not groundbreaking enough.  The creators perhaps took on more than they could handle as many subplots are juggled throughout.  While it’s commendable for this early film to take on a new genre in Christian film (apocalyptic), the plot lacks the intrigue necessary to make it great.  For example, there are too many slow and melodramatic scenes—the storyline is anti-climactic and contains to many convenient occurrences.  The dialogue is full of information dumps that overemphasize apocalyptic elements.  This builds empty characters that are swept along by the plot and are thrown together for no particular reason.  On a positive note, the climax scene at the end is slightly interesting and well-crafted.  But overall, this first installment spends too much time getting ready for the next film and not enough time building the characters and a realistic apocalyptic landscape.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Apocalyptic action movies require dynamic acting, but this cast lacks this quality.  Line delivery is stiff and not engaging.  Emotions are overdone and too dramatic.  Kirk Cameron is a better actor than he is of late, but that’s not saying much.  In short, there’s not enough positive here.

Conclusion

This was definitely a groundbreaking Christian film that brought a popular Christian novel series to the big screen.  It was a hit, since the Christian market was starved for quality.  However, this does not mean it was a great film.  It had a lot of good ideas behind it, but not enough quality to back them up.  They had an amazing budget for the time, but it seems like it was mostly squandered.  Needless to say, the old is just marginally better than the new.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

The Climb [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Derrick and Michael are professional mountain climbers who collaborate after assisting in a mountain rescue mission together.  With the backing of a top mountain climbing sponsor, they endeavor to scale a massive peak in Chile in a way that no climber has ever done before.  But the more they spend time together, the more obvious their differences are.  Michael is an outspoken Christian who believes Derrick needs to take more responsibility for his personal life.  But as they clash, they also find a common bond and becomes extremely important in a pivotal moment of crisis.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Even in the earlier days of Christian film, when Worldwide Pictures was the only reliable producer on the market, they were still committed to quality production.  The Climb is no exception.  Camera work and video quality are state of the art for the era, including complex outdoor filming and action shots.  The sets and locations are fairly diverse, including great mountain scenes and realistic surroundings.  Props are used effectively and appropriately.  However, the soundtrack leaves much to be desired.  Also, the editing job isn’t the best it could be, as some scenes last far too long.  But overall, even though this film has obvious flaws, WWP made sure that its production quality was above average.  If only all low quality Christian films adhered to this practice.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As the film arm of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, WWP was always committed to presenting a clear-cut gospel message in their films; The Climb is no exception.  However, coupled with this message is a major turn-off for most audiences.  Non-Christians in the movie are portrayed as very ‘bad’ and reckless, while Christians in the movie are portrayed as very ‘good’ and wise.  Important issues that are presented in the film are too black and white; causes and effects are too obviously stated.  Thus, the characters are not able to be related to.  Their dialogue is forced and ridden with empty textbook theology; a connection to real life is not made and leaves the viewer feeling cheated.  While the end is interesting and thought-provoking, there is much wasted time throughout the film that will cause many viewers to glaze over.  In short, there was so much that could have done here—the plot is unique and interesting—but it was wasted.  It’s so frustrating to watch movies like this.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Using the typical model of some popular actors and other not-so-popular, The Climb assembles an okay cast.  On paper, it seems to work, but not in reality.  Line delivery is sometimes good, but sometimes not.  Emotions are not realistic—either too extreme or too muted.  Basically, this cast had the potential to be successful, but they just didn’t quite make it, thus contributing to further frustration surrounding this film.

Conclusion

Worldwide Pictures actually had a great thing going.  They had funding, good production, and name recognition.  But unfortunately, The Climb only contributes to the stereotype of Christian films—they appear out of touch with real people and portray otherwise important issues in very black and white terms.  Christians are not perfect, yet this film makes it seem like they are.  It’s a shame to see this money go to waste, but hopefully someone was converted by watching this movie.  The gospel message is clear, and we can’t fault anyone for that.  This film can simply serve as a lesson on how to improve Christian movies in the future.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Mark 2: Redemption (Movie Review)

Eric Roberts as himself

Plot Summary

After jumping out of that plane to save their lives, Chad and Dao find themselves on the run for their lives in Thailand as they try to remove the secret chip from Chad’s arm while being pursued by agents of an all-powerful rising world leader.  The Rapture has occurred, leaving the world mired in chaos.  As they try to grapple with the God of the Bible, Chad and Dao find themselves involved in multiple international conspiracies, including a human trafficking scheme that involves Dao’s sister and Chad’s former employers.  As they fight for survival, who will prevail in this brave new world?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

In keeping with the usual poor PureFlix production mode, clear video quality is all that can be found here that is remotely positive.  Anything else related to camera work is dizzying and annoying.  Much of the footage is recycled, both flashback footage and non-flashback footage, which demonstrates extreme laziness.  Other scenes of the film are extremely long and drawn out, trying to delay the inevitable to build up some kind of fake suspense.  Action sequences are over the top and poorly executed.  The use of special effects and sound effects is very amateurish and obnoxious.  For such a big plot, the sets and locations are quite limited and the surroundings are almost entirely confined to Thailand, PureFlix’s favorite international location.  There is little to no editing—I’m convinced that the production team just went with what they had from filming.  Basically, The Mark 2 is same song, different verse for PureFlix.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Picking up where The Mark left us hanging, The Mark 2 is the most slow to development suspense plot ever.  Inevitable confrontations between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters are painfully dragged out over a ninety-minute runtime full of coincidences, convenient plot devices, information dump dialogue, stupid action scenes, and scenes of characters sitting around or pacing around and talking.  There is basically no purpose to this plot as John Patus once again shoves his apocalyptic opinions down our throats in the most awkward fashion possible.  Multiple scenes appear to be directly copied from the original Left Behind series, which is no surprise with Patus involved.  Only this time, the antichrist character is borderline unbearable and sports the fakest European accent possible.  In the middle of the film, a cheesy Christian message is shoehorned in, along with a random human trafficking subplot that tries to improve the runtime.  The mark of the beast concept, though slightly interesting, is only toyed with in the film and never seems complete.  In the end, as the characters tell us through narration what we’re supposed to learn, it is unclear whether or not the story is to continue—obviously not, since there’s no Mark 3, but what were they really expecting?  Did they actually have any ideas beyond the Rapture?  Basically, we learned nothing from this plot, thus making it completely useless.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This typical C-grade PureFlix cast is complete with fake accents, lame attempts at diversity, racial stereotypes, and Eric Roberts.  Multiple cast members appear to have no place in the film, opting to pace around and talk about important things.  Other cast members appear to take themselves too seriously and try to be as serious as you can be in a PureFlix action plot.  At least not all of the acting is bad, but across the board, line delivery and emotions are very poor.  But what else is new?

Conclusion

Why are so many PureFlix action plots at least partially set in Thailand?  Also, if we are to endure so many apocalyptic Christian films on the market, can’t we at least see one that doesn’t involve the alleged ‘Rapture’ in some fashion?  Haven’t we seen that enough from the original Left Behind series, that horrible new Left Behind, the first Mark film, The Remaining, Jerusalem Countdown, In the Blink of an Eye, the Revelation Road series (with the exception of The Black Rider), Six: The Mark Unleashed, etc.?  With the money spent on this film and every other wasted apocalyptic film, you would think that it could have been saved for a truly groundbreaking Christian action\adventure or suspense movie that would have made a difference in the culture.  But instead, we are left with a littered collection of could-haves and cut-rate productions.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Caged No More (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Aggie never thought it would turn out this way.  She had always cared for Elle and Skye, the daughters of the family whose house she cleaned.  But when they disappear along with their father, Aggie feels like she has to care for the distraught mother left behind.  However, when the mother commits suicide, a string of events are set into motion that alert Aggie to sinister activity that Elle and Skye might be caught up in.  Therefore, she takes a leap of faith to get the help she needs in order to get her girls back.  As the journey takes her across two continents, Aggie clings to faith in God and to the hope that she will find her girls again.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

It seems like the creators of Caged No More had good intentions, but not the resources to pull it off properly.  They likely bit off a larger portion than they could chew.  At least the video quality is clear, which is something most new Christian movies are finally getting right.  The audio quality is passable.  The camera work is okay; sometimes it tries to be too ‘dramatic’ and it comes off wrong.  However, the lighting is very inconsistent.  Some scenes are very dark, seemingly on purpose, but it doesn’t make any sense.  What’s more, the sets are too limited for this scope of a plot.  The surroundings are fairly realistic but sometimes seem empty.  Speaking of scope, the editing of this film is deplorable.  As will be discussed next, Caged No More is a collection of spliced together sequences forced to fit together.  In short, while the effort is applaudable, the delivery is frustrating to watch.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Caged No More is built on a very choppy plot that is patched together with constant narration that either reminds us what just happened or explains something that happened off screen.  There is no coherence between subplots, and the one interesting subplot is wasted and underdeveloped.  The storyline contains too many leaps in logic and is based far too much on coincidences and happenchance.  The characters are thin and empty, crafted with stiff and cardboard dialogue.  It’s really a shame that this review has to be so negative, because the genre this film is trying to break into is interesting.  The idea behind this film is quite interesting, but it is very much wasted potential.  Between the vague ending and the rushed plot, this film felt like it was just speeding to the sequel, but it gave us nothing to be interested in for in the sequel.  At this rate, there is little purpose in creating a sequel; money would be better spent on a remake.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

These cast members seem like they mean well, but they have been thrown into the mix with little to no coaching at all.  Emotions are very overdone and not believable.  Line delivery is forced and awkward.  Kevin Sorbo playing two different characters just doesn’t work at all.  Christian ‘celebrities’ are shoehorned into the cast only for the sake of having their name on it.  In short, there is some potential here, but it is not tapped.

Conclusion

Caged No More is a sad production in many ways.  It really could have been a great genre-breaking work based on an important topic, but it fell very short of the mark.  It pretends to be something bigger than it is.  Buried inside of it are good ideas, but they will likely be wasted as this movie is forgotten over time.  We desperately need different genres of Christian\inspirational films, but this is not the way to go about it.  Human trafficking is a highly important topic that needs to be exposed, but this isn’t the way.  I hope a lesson can be learned here that will make a difference.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

The Encounter 2: Paradise Lost (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After a twist of fate throws a collection of strangers together, trapped in a Thailand resort during a storm, strange things begin to happen.  A wanted international criminal and his sidekick and wife, the two owners of the resort, and a ‘drug enforcement’ agent are all faced with the reality of their lives as they meet Jesus Christ face to face.  They are all forced to ruminate on the choices they have made in the past in order to determine how they are going to move forward.  Will they cling to their bitterness, rage, and vices, or will they turn to Jesus and accept the free gift He offers to each one of them, regardless of their pasts?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In a change from the norm, The Encounter 2: Paradise Lost boasts above-average production quality.  The camera work is professionally presented and the video quality is better than not.  The audio quality is consistent across the board.  The sets and locations are diverse and fairly realistic, with a few exceptions.  The surroundings have an interesting feel, but it seems like more could have been done here, especially since many scenes seem borrowed from Escape.  On the down side, David A. R. White brings with him to this film a cheesy action feel that includes waste-of-time sequences and unrealistic elements.  Furthermore, the editing of Encounter 2 is all off.  The film begins with a time lapse presentation and then randomly abandons it.  The passage of time in general is hard to follow and a lot of content is crammed into a small window of opportunity that is squeezed out by philosophical monologues and unrealistic fight scenes.  But in the end, this is definitely an improvement for PureFlix and shows what they can do, even though it also shows what they could be doing better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

As mentioned before, too much is shoved into the nearly 110-minute runtime, thus isolating the important aspects.  The few main characters that are presented are given a lot of screen time, yet by the end, we only see half of them.  By the end of the film that focuses on the struggles of five key characters through the use of flashbacks and philosophical dialogue, we should feel like they are real people, but this is not completely true of this film’s core characters.  There’s nothing wrong with having a small cast of characters, but they need to be deep, complex, and realistic.  The Encounter 2 doesn’t make it all the way on this front.  Yet there are many interesting and creative elements to this storyline.  The flashbacks, as mentioned, are a good touch.  The issues presented are believable, but some of the ‘solutions’ to the issues are not.  Some ambiguity exists in the plot, but not enough.  Bruce Marciano’s philosophical monologues are better this time around, but they still can become draining.  The spiritual elements that underlie the plot are very intriguing and commendable, but the totally-not-obvious Satan character is over the top.  In the end, the plot of The Encounter 2 is a mixed bag with a creative ending, but it doesn’t do quite enough to lift this film out of average-ness.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Robert Miano demonstrates in this film that he has the ability to be an excellent villain, which does not explain why he acted so mysterious and lofty in his Biblical roles, The Book of Esther and The Book of Daniel.  Yet Miano is the best actor in this cast.  Bruce Marciano is always fine, but at some point, his roles become extremely predictable.  Elsewhere, David A. R. White is his usual cheesy action hero self and other actors and actresses either overplay or underplay emotions.  Line delivery is overall inconsistent, but costuming is fine.  Overall, the acting work is just average.

Conclusion

The Encounter 2: Paradise Lost is a huge improvement on The Encounter.  The creative idea of having Jesus show up in the flesh in the middle of a hostage situation is very commendable.  The psychological\spiritual elements throughout are also noteworthy.  But this film is tripped up by its large amount of content and low amount of overall quality.  The plot is spread too thin and the characters are too shallow for the time spent on them.  In the end, this is an enjoyable film, but it’s also another one of those frustrating movies that we wish could be remade.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Last Flight Out [2004] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Dan, a repossession agent, has been billed by Tony Williams, the father of the man whose death Dan blames himself for, to find his daughter Anne, a missionary doctor who is now lost in the Columbian jungle.  What’s more is Dan used to be in love with Anne, and now she’s on the run, with a struggling Christian village, from ruthless drug lords.  Dan, an agnostic, must take on the impossible task of airlifting an entire village out of a remote jungle area in order to fulfill his mission.  In the end, Dan will have to decide what he really believes about God and life.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Even in its last stages, Worldwide Pictures always set the tone for Christian movies in their era, the late 90s and early 2000s.  For an independent action film, the production of Last Flight Out is quite good.  The camera work is solid, including angles in action scenes, as well as video and sound quality.  The props are well utilized and realistic.  While the sets and locations are limited, they are used very well.  The only issues to bring up here are some poorly edited sequences that tend to isolate the audience and some slightly cheap special effects.  There are multiple very small issues here that keep this production from being all that it could be.  But overall, Last Flight Out continues its theme of top quality production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Action adventure plots are hard to create without falling into typical plot clichés.  For the most part, Last Flight Out avoids textbooks errors.  The dialogue is realistic and to the point, yet it does not develop the characters to their fullest potential.  This is a shame, since there are few characters that carry the whole plot.  Realistic events occur throughout the film.  The overall story is also very linear with too many filler scenes.  There is nothing inherently wrong with the plot—it’s just very simplistic and straightforward.  Action adventure plots need to be dynamic, with twists and turns.  While Last Flight Out has an acceptable plot, it doesn’t breach the above average threshold.

Acting Quality (3 points)

For such a small cast, it is highly professional.  The actors and actresses are obviously well coached and know what they’re doing.  Emotional delivery is believable and spoken lines are authentic.  There are no negative points to raise here.

Conclusion

Last Flight Movie was so close to the Hall of Fame.  Had it a more dynamic plot and\or slightly better production, it would have been placed on it.  The unfortunate thing is that this was Worldwide Pictures’ last film to date.  They stopped just when they were getting good.  The flagship nonprofit, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, however, is still in existence, and it seems like a good time in Christian films to start back up again.  They really had something going in this early era of Christian movies, so we challenge them to use their perhaps now better resources to put out another evangelistic screenplay for all to see.  The Christian movie scene needs more quality voices, which was something Worldwide was back in its time.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

The Perfect Wave (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Ian McCormack has always been in search of adventure and has always wanted to escape from what he perceives to be confining, namely responsibility and the domestic life.  After selling his car, he finally convinces his parents that as an adult, he needs to go out into the world and ‘find himself’.  An avid surfer, Ian has always been searching for one elusive thing: what he considers to be ‘the perfect wave’.  So he journeys from one surfing landmark to the next, along with a group of buddies, in order to find what he is looking for.  But his journey changes one day when he finds Anabel, a mysterious girl living in Indonesia.  He has never truly loved before, so when Anabel disappears, he feels like he has to search for her.  But what he doesn’t know is that what he has been searching for all along is something to fill the void in his soul.  Little does he realize that he will have to come face to face with what he really believes about the God he has only heard about as a child.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For a freshman movie, The Perfect Wave is a great start in the production department.  The sets and locations, perhaps the central factor of the movie, are excellently chosen and presented.  The camera work is great, including skillful action shots and clear video quality.  The musical score is decent.  The only two caveats that keep this film’s production from being all that it could are the choppy editing and the inconsistent sound quality.  Sometimes dialogue is hard to hear because of loud background noise.  The editing confuses the viewer—too many things happen off screen that should be on the screen, and vice versa.  Yet despite these problems, The Perfect Wave puts many Christian movies to shame when it comes to production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The true story of Ian McCormack was definitely one worth portraying on the big screen.  However, after watching the story play out, we were left with the feeling that something was missing.  The story is non-linear, which is not surprising for a film portraying true events, and the characters are obviously flawed, but this plot just didn’t quite make it all the way.  There are some surprising twists and turns, but the dialogue is inconsistent—sometimes profound and sometimes simplistic.  Some characters seem unnecessary.  There is bit too much edgy content.  But in the end, there is a great Christian message.  It seems like the movie was written for its psychologically thrilling end that clearly communicates the gospel.  The end is worth waiting for, but some people will be lost in the middle.  Overall, the plot is average and had a lot of room for improvement.

Acting Quality (2 points)

With a professional cast, The Perfect Wave scores plenty of points here.  Scott Eastwood and Rachel Hendrix are great in their roles, but some others leave something to be desired.  Granted, this is still an above-average cast, but it seems like more could have accomplished with greater acting.

Conclusion

More obscure true stories like this one need to be adapted to movies for multiple reasons.  For one, they are better than writing another small town made-for-Hallmark romance.  For another, they let both Christian and non-Christian audiences know that God is at work in the lives of many different types of people.  God can work however He wishes, and The Perfect Wave shows this.  The unfortunate thing is that this movie was not good enough to be considered Hall of Fame, yet it is still a movie worth watching.  We look forward to what is next on the agenda for Bruce MacDonald and company.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

This is Our Time (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ethan, Catherine, Luke, Ryder, and Alexandria, friends through college, have finally reaches graduation and are ready to go out and change the world.  However, the world they find outside of the college classroom is not the one they anticipated.  Catherine and Luke seem to be following their lives’ purposes when they embark to serve the Lord in India.  Catherine and Ryder are set on making an impact in the business world.  Ethan feels stuck working for his lonely father’s restaurant, even though he dreams of going to graduate school.  Each person has a different path to follow and each friend must discover God’s purpose for their lives.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Unlike most PureFlix distributed films, This is Our Time has good production elements.  The camera work and video quality are both pretty good.  The sound quality is inconsistent at times.  The sets and locations are pretty good, considering the story takes place in America and India.  The editing is unfortunately sub-par; there are too many scenes that appear to be filler.  Some events take place off screen and confuse the viewer.  Overall, This is Our Time has a pretty good production effort, but it is not quite there yet.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

This is Our Time has a very unique plot structure that is not typical to most inspirational plots.  Usually, when more than three subplots are crammed together in a movie, it comes off as choppy, but in this instance, it works fairly well since the subplots are all related to characters who graduated together.  The topics discussed in the film are accessible to average viewers.  There are some interesting twists throughout the film.  However, there are just too many negative factors in this plot.  Some situations are very trumped up and contrived.  Most of the dialogue is empty and thus, the characters are left wanting.  The worst part is that it didn’t have to be this way—we feel that Lisa Arnold has more potential than this.  There are several important messages in this film that are lost due its low quality.  In short, we believe that a larger, more dedicated crew would have greatly improved this movie.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This cast had potential, but they are obviously not coached well.  A lot of the line delivery is very forced and the emotions are not believable.  Once again, we believe that it didn’t have to be this way.  There was simply too much left on the proverbial field.

Conclusion

This is Our Time joins a collection of Christian films that desperately needed a rewrite and\or a redo.  Had Lisa Arnold had a better team surrounding her in the production of this movie, it could have reached its full potential.  Quality control is the real issue here—the tools are there, but they are not placed in the right hands.  In the future, we hope to see Lisa Arnold recruit people who can help bring her intriguing plots to life.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points