Producer(s): Brad Allen, Jeremy Boz, Chuck Howard, Martin Michael, Kevan Otto, Tom Sanders, Tim Warren
Starring: Casper Van Dien, Catherine Oxenberg, Tom Schanley, Jaci Velasquez, Monte Markham, Angela Kerecz, Callie Brook McClincy, Kelsey Sanders, Rusty Martin Sr., Austin Craig, Michael Joiner, Torry Martin
Plot Synopsis: Attorney Benjamin Stills is nearly sentenced to prison and finds faith in God after killing a teenage girl in an accidental car crash from texting while driving.
It seems like Zach and Dave Truett have always been dealt a bad hand in life. Their mother died, and their father soon after fell into alcoholism. Dave suffers from a medical condition, so when Zach tears his ACL at a party, his chances of a football scholarship, their only clear way out of their small town, are jeopardized. This forces Zach to do the soul-searching he had always avoided since their mother died, and it leads the brothers to unexpected places.
Production Quality (2 points)
As the first production funded and facilitated by the Tebow brothers, they have definitely shown that they can aggregate funds and put them to fairly good use. For the most part, this production is quite good and hits all the right notes, including good video quality, effective camera work, professional audio quality, and a great soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props are also adequately used and constructed. While the music is good, one drawback is the many dizzying sports montages that seem to eat up most of the runtime. Because of the time spent on this part, other scenes in the film are awkwardly and abruptly cut off with poor transitions. However, on the whole, this is an above-average production that is great for a first time effort.
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
Unfortunately, the money put into the production didn’t reflect well in the plot department. While something good is trying to be portrayed in this story, it doesn’t come through well at all, mostly due to the quick, clipped scenes that leave little room for proper development. Much of the dialogue refers to off-screen content or is very punctuated; this makes for awkward conversations that are inadequate in building characters effectively. While there are some attempts to take a real look at issues facing small towns in America and the people in them, too much time is spent on sports and training montages, which makes for a fairly choppy story presentation that doesn’t flow very well at all. There are too many missed opportunities as mindless sequences crowd the runtime, and many of the characters are too basic and one-dimensional. Difficult topics are mishandled with cliches, and unexpected time jumps leave the viewer disoriented to the story’s progression. Besides a handful of good scenes near the end of the film, this movie mainly talks about things without really showing them to you and fixes things without any heart behind them. In better screenwriting hands, this could have been a great exploration of relevant issues facing ordinary people, but we are left wondering what could have been.
Acting Quality (1.5 points)
On the whole, the acting of this film could have been good, and while there aren’t any glaring errors, it’s still a bit thin. Better coaching would have likely brought out the potential in the cast members, and even so, it’s not as bad as it could have been. However, it’s not really dynamic either, which makes this an average section that rounds off a middle-of-the-road film.
In summary, Run the Race is fine for a freshman film effort, but with higher standards being set in the Christian entertainment market, new film makers will need to aim higher if they want to make their mark. Good productions have become more of a benchmark than they once were, and acting should at least be above average. The films that will truly set themselves apart moving forward are those that have dynamic plots and effective storytelling techniques. Perhaps in the their next attempt, the Tebow brothers can wield their fundraising skills to support a truly talented screenwriter.
When David Newman’s son dies tragically from a texting and driving accident, the doctors come around looking for his son’s organs to harvest so they can save a dying white girl who has a budding musical career ahead of her. David is trying to take over head pastor duties from his Scripture-reading-robot father, but the pressure is too much, especially when his wife fully embraces advocating for organ donation in the schools. Kate Hernandez feels like she has no hope left when her daughter is thrown into jail for texting and driving, but somehow, all of these characters come together in the end in an underserved church sing-off so they can feel good about themselves again.
Production Quality (2.5 points)
Despite past production snafus, Kevan Otto has found himself more financially successful in A Question of Faith due to PureFlix’s assistance. This newfound funding has paid off, as there are very few errors in this production. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all professional. The soundtrack leaves something to be desired, but it’s not that significant. Sets, locations, and props are all appropriate and well-constructed. The biggest issues to point out here are some small editing issues due to the confusing plot presentation. Yet when you compare this great production with the plot that accompanies it, it’s like daylight and dark.
Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)
Kevan Otto has not lost his unusual storylines of old, yet A Question of Faith manages to somehow be worse than WWJD, Lukewarm, Online, and Decision. Even though it seems like on its face that this movie is going to be a ninety-minute public service announcement on the dangers of texting and driving, the plot actually has a very sick and twisted obsession with organ donation. Don’t get me wrong—organ donation is fine if you want to do that, but trying to force the issue like this is downright strange and off-putting. Combine that with the plastic and empty portrayal of Christians (as usual) and basically no substantial dialogue, this plot is a real doozy. Time is wasted on meandering ideas that have no real purpose or focus except to be threaded together by that annoying guy who’s always slapping Bible verses on everyone’s problems. Tragedies are treated very lightly and callously, thus warranting some of the characters to ask other characters if they even care, which is a valid point. In the end, the only purpose to this film is to push public service announcements and strange causes and culminates in a ridiculously endless sermonizing concert sequences that rivals God’s Not Dead. Needless to say, Kevan Otto still hasn’t learned anything.
Acting Quality (1 point)
A lot of these cast members are fearfully lifeless, but then again, they really don’t have much to work with in the line department. Emotions are bland and most performances are very stock. T. C. Stallings always posts above average performances, but everyone else seems lost and confused. It seems like the idea here was to paste a bunch of ‘big name’ cast members into this movie and hope it stuck. It didn’t work.
These days, all you have to do to get a large budget signed off on your film is a random cause, some recognizable cast members, and maybe a big musical number. Don’t get us wrong—it’s extremely important to promote great causes in films—but this isn’t the way. Even if this was a palatable cause, it’s not presented well at all. None of these characters are able to be related to as people; they’re just pawns in an obvious money-making game. Any opening weekend hype surrounding this film is sure to die away as Christian audiences once again quietly wonder where all the good Christian movies are.
After experiencing the tragic death of his beloved mother, Caleb Burns just wants everything to stay the same. Everything does stay the same for a time, until Caleb’s father announces that they will be moving from Franklin, Tennessee to Atlanta, Georgia after the summer is over. Thus, Caleb and his friend Blake launch a summer master plan to not only do the things they want to do before the move, but to also try to convince Caleb’s father to change his mind. Caleb and Blake also start a club dedicated to Caleb’s mom that does good deeds all around town. Over the course of the summer, they learn more about themselves than they anticipated and discover just how much of a difference one summer can make.
Production Quality (2.5 points)
In keeping with their past reputation, Echolight Studios, along with its partners Triple Horse Studios and Abington Ridge Films, is certainly dedicated to building high-quality Christian productions. Nearly every production element of Sweet Sweet Summertime is flawless. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all highly professional. The original soundtrack suits this film. Sets, locations, and props are also very appropriate for this film and demonstrate quality. The only negative production element to raise is the editing, as there are one too many montages and the advancement of time is a bit too rapid. Yet, as always, this is a top-notch production that should be commonplace in all Christian films.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)
Also in keeping with past trends, Echolight and their team tend to leave much to be desired when it comes to their plots. Sweet Sweet Summertime is a fairly predictable and formulaic coming-of-age film that basically writes itself from beginning to end, yet the writers did the best they could with what they had, which is all we can ask. There is too much unnecessary and heavy-handed narration that stunts character development, yet there is also dialogue that assists in making the characters realistic and accessible. While this story has been done before, this rendition of it is certainly not as cheesy as it could have been and many audiences will find it enjoyable. The ending is very rushed and tidy, yet there are plenty of viewers who will like it. Overall, while we would have liked to see more creativity, at least this team put their best foot forward.
Acting Quality (3 points)
This is the sort of cast that we should see in every Christian film. They are highly professional and well-coached. Line delivery is flawless and emotions are very believable. It is rare that you see a film with no acting errors in it, but Sweet Sweet Summertime is one of those films.
Echolight has solidified themselves as a reliably professional studio when it comes to production quality. They also know how to assemble a respectable, error-free cast. Yet time and again, Echolight plots tend to leave something to be desired by choosing pre-written storylines that lack creativity. While films like Sweet Sweet Summertime will have some impact on its target audiences, it will unfortunately be easily forgotten in time. In order to have a lasting impact in film, the plot must be dynamic. The day that Echolight uses a dynamic plot will be the day that the Christian film world is turned upside down.
As Roxy, a college student, witnesses the slow but sure takeover of a one world government, she chronicles her thoughts, beliefs, and discoveries in a detailed journal that is eventually discovered by agents of the new world order. Shaw 408, the agent who discovers the journal, is unsure of his role in the takeover regime and finds himself intrigued by the journal’s contents. As Zurn, the leader of the new regime, tightens his grip on the world by ordering everyone to receive a microchip inserted under their skin, the world descends into chaos. Who will survive?
Production Quality (3 points)
It’s clear that the Bearfruit Films team has a commitment to high quality productions, as their effort on Rumors of Wars shows in every production element. Video and audio quality are error-free. The original soundtrack is effective and appropriate. The apocalyptic sets, locations and props are excellent. The action-based camera work, which is often difficult to execute, is done quite well. Finally, there are no obvious editing errors, thus making this a perfect production job. This is rarely found, so we greatly anticipate Bearfruit’s future work.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
Rumors of Wars is a unique brand of apocalyptic storyline that actually doesn’t bite off more than it can chew by trying to cover tons of apocalyptic high points. Instead, the story stays in a controlled atmosphere to build a good dystopian premise without jumping through time too quickly or zooming all over the world. The mixing of the past and present subplots is interesting and is done fairly well. However, this overall concept needs a little more explaining and development. The characters are most okay, but some of the villains are cheesy. Surprisingly, the antichrist character is actually different and creative. Finally, Rumors of Wars does commit a key apocalyptic error in creating a passive-aggressive this-might-be-continued-someday ending. But otherwise, there is a lot of potential here and room to grow.
Acting Quality (1.5 points)
Full of recognizable actors and actresses, this cast is a mixed bag. Sometimes they are over the top and other times they are very much on point. For example, this is not T. C. Stallings’ best performance, but Ben Davies is better than usual. It’s different from cast member to cast member, thus making this an overall average performance.
This whole idea would work so much better either as a series of films or as a miniseries. There are a lot of creative ideas and concepts hidden in here that require further development, which necessitates more time and money to do this. We hope that one day this movie concept can be continued or remade in some fashion. Regardless, Bearfruit Films has a talented team, so it will be interesting to see what they have planned next.
Rachel Joy Scott was an artistic free spirit who longed to change the world. When her father left the family when she was young, it left her confused and searching for affirmation in her friends. However, after a spiritual experience one summer while staying with her cousins, Rachel knew she would never be the same again. But she still struggled with trying to hang out with her old friends, who always tempted her to be like them. As Rachel tried to discover her true identity, she still felt like she needed to change the world. In the end, as tragedy hit Columbine High School, she did change the world, and touched many lives in the process.
Production Quality (2.5 points)
This is obviously a talented and dedicated production team, as they went all out to make this movie as realistic as possible. They stayed true to authenticity with the sets, locations, and props, demonstrating that this was not created lightly. Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are obviously flawless. The soundtrack is effective and thought-provoking. The only detracting factor in this movie is a slight editing issue that is mostly due to having too much content to deal with. But otherwise, this is a high quality production that shows both the commitment and the skill of those involved.
Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)
We say this all the time—it’s almost always better to portray a real life story in a movie. With guidance of real events and people, the Rachel Joy Scott story has been thoroughly and effectively brought to life in I’m Not Ashamed. The characters are highly accessible and relatable, as are the circumstances they experience. Rachel is a real person with real struggles and real problems, as are the other characters. The dialogue is excellent and builds strong personalities for the characters. The only caveat to raise here is the fact that since such a large story was taken on, some parts seem rushed through, but nothing bad enough to ruin this story’s overall point. The message that is communicated through this plot comes across very well and challenges Christians to live out their faith without compromising. This is a job well done.
Acting Quality (3 points)
Movies can be made or broken by their casting, but I’m Not Ashamed does not disappoint. Each cast member fits their character exquisitely. This is arguably Ben Davies’ best performance to date. All emotions are realistic and lines are delivered effectively. Costuming is realistic. There are no errors here.
It might have been tempting for someone with less than pure intentions to portray Rachel Joy Scott as a perfect saint, but this was not done by this writing team. She was a teenager who struggled to live out her Christianity, just as many of us do. Yet though she was surrounded by confusion and turmoil, she made a difference with the short life she had. Besides being a quality film, I’m Not Ashamed succeeds in communicating this important message. This is what Christian film should be about, so things are certainly looking up.
Nuclear weapons have been smuggled into America, and FBI agent Shane Daughtry and his team have been ordered to find them before they are detonated. They must reluctantly collaborate with an old weapons dealer, a corrupt CIA director, and an ex-Muslim spy in order to find the dangerous contraband before America and Israel are blown off the map. Little do they know is that their true hope lies in a Jewish researcher who has come by valuable information about his mysterious next door neighbor.
Production Quality (.5 point)
The good video quality is the only positive element to mention. Otherwise, this movie is barely watchable. The cheap action scenes are unbearable and poorly executed. The camera angles are below par and the musical score is what one can expect from such a film as this. The editing is as maddening as the jumpy action sequences. CGI and special effects are very C-grade. Nothing can compare with the incessant John Hagee product placements as the audience is spoon-fed his controversial views on eschatology and international politics. Unfortunately, the negativity doesn’t end here.
Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
It doesn’t really seem like David A. R. White and company really did any research on the inner workings of government organizations or the true nature of terrorists when they were planning this movie. The way that the plot unfolds is so unrealistic that it feels like a comic book. Leaps in logic and plot holes litter the landscape. The ways that the characters proceed forward with ‘leads’ is absurd. Searching the internet for ‘Iran Shipping Ltd’ and then snooping around in a house they own to see whether or not they have nuclear weapons probably takes the cake, but it’s not to be topped by a librarian assisting FBI agents in a confidential case. Every character is a ridiculous caricature and not believable. The only consolation is that this is an apocalyptic plot that doesn’t take place on an airplane, but that’s not saying much.
Acting Quality (0 points)
We are convinced that PureFlix believes that if you have enough action scenes in a movie, you don’t need to coach the actors. Such is the case in Jerusalem Countdown. The delivery of lines is lackadaisical and emotions are lackluster. So-called interrogation scenes are forced and awkward. In short, there is little to nothing good to say about this film.
Is this movie supposed to have a sequel? We certainly hope not, but ending the movie the way it does suggests that this film was only created to push John Hagee’s unusual worldview. Movies in the action adventure, suspense, and apocalyptic genres can be used to reach audiences outside of the church, but when films like Jerusalem Countdown crowd out the field and water it down. The next time an unbeliever hears about a Christian action film, they may only think of movies like this one and roll their eyes, as we do. We implore Christian film-makers everywhere to learn from the mistakes of movies such as this one and not repeat them.
Nick, Melissa, Hank, Catherine, and Kayla are all strangers to each other until they are forced to meet up at a quaint diner due to road closures one stormy night. Each has their own story and hurts, but the last thing they expect is to meet the mysterious owner of the diner, who calls himself Jesus. He knows many things about them that no one else knows but he actually demonstrates true care for them, something many of them have never experienced. Each of them must make the most important choice of their lives—will they listen to the words of Jesus or will they turn away?
Production Quality (.5 point)
The production pretty much derails this movie from the get go. For starters, the movie is purposely designed to have extremely limited sets—the movie only takes place a very small amount outside, partly inside vehicles, partly inside flashback locations, mostly inside the makeshift diner, and yes, inside the diner’s bathroom. The video quality is quite grainy and the camera work shaky. The sound quality is inconsistent. The only redeeming production quality is the editing, even though there is very little content to work with. In short, it would have done this movie wonders to have better production quality. With such a small cast and so few sets, there are no excuses to have such poor production.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
Although the encounter with Jesus in modern times is not really a new plot, there is nothing inherently wrong with this particular rendition. The characters are pretty good and the flashbacks effectively enhance them, but once again, with so few characters, there was more time to develop them, yet this was not done. This sort of small scale plot depends entirely on the characters, and since the characters are just average, it’s not good enough. We needed to know more about these characters besides their favorite foods, their occupations, their parents, and their surface struggles. Again, the flashbacks are great, but more is needed. The spiritual\psychological elements in the plot are interesting, but the devil character is very cheesy. In short, this plot concept had a lot of potential—especially if more psychological elements had been explored—that was not brought to the surface. The final result is just a stock plot.
Acting Quality (1 point)
This cast seems better than a lot of PureFlix casts; even though there is really no acting coaching, the actors and actresses do a pretty good job by themselves. However, like the rest of this movie, more is needed. Similar to how the characters carry this sort of small scale plot, the actors and actresses are vital. Unfortunately, there is just not enough positive here.
Though David A. R. White is the director of The Encounter, he does not insert his usual cheesy flavor. But at the same time, dynamic elements are not present. The tools are there, but they are not picked up and used. The Encounter had the possibility to showcase a unique movie genre, but it was left hanging. This film likely joins a group of Christian films that deserve a remake.