Selfie Dad (Movie Review)

Watch the Trailer for Hilarious New Christian Film: Selfie Dad

Plot Summary

Ben Marcus isn’t happy with his life. He always wanted to be a comic, but he definitely doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps. However, stuck in a job he doesn’t like and aloof from his family most of the time, one day, Ben suddenly stumbles upon how much money some people make on the UTOO video platform. Thus, he decides to use this as a launching pad for the comedy career he always wanted. Nonetheless, it leads him down a path he never thought he would go down.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a 2020 production, Selfie Dad sports a lot of pluses, including great video quality and camera work. Audio quality is also professional, and the soundtrack is acceptable. Sets, locations, and props are also good. The only minor concerns to note here relate to very cheap special effects (even though there are few of them) and some minute editing issues. However, this production is on the level we would like to see all Christian entertainment possess.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Despite some acceptable attempts at comedy, Selfie Dad is mostly full of failed humor that simply falls flat. While the character backstories are okay, the plot seems to meander around without really finding its actual point, fueled by inconsistent dialogue that mostly just forces the storyline forward. Some conversations are quite obvious with the messaging, including a lot of unnecessarily patriarchal ideals and typical gender stereotyping. A lot of the narrative’s important scenes are overly staged and spoon-fed to the audience, and most of the characters seem to say the same things over and over again just to fill time. Even with this, the passage of time is a bit vague, and things mainly happen just because they need to. With a lot of things going on at once, quite a few scenes feel unfinished and disconnected from the others, which makes it very hard to comprehend what the writing team even wanted to do besides string a bunch of cheesy asides together without a common thread to truly connect them. Further, the story’s model Christian characters are super-perfect, and all the stale conflicts are magically fixed by the film’s unearned musical conclusion, which seems to imply that the movie is much more important than it actually is. In the end, though there’s a small amount of potential in Selfie Dad, there are too many other problems that get in the way.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Another reflection of this film’s modern amenities is its professional acting. As such, there are only a handful of problems in this section, such as some overdone funny acting. However, for the most part, emotions are believable, and lines are delivered well. Unfortunately, Michael Jr. doesn’t post a particularly strong performance as the lead, but Chonda Pierce is good in her unfortunately small role. Other cast members are passable in their performances. Hence, this is an above-average aspect.

Conclusion

In Selfie Dad, one character (ironically played by Karen Abercrombie) hilariously asks another if she’s ever seen War Room. The other character says she doesn’t really like Christian movies. This exchange is absurd on a number of levels. For one, Selfie Dad‘s plot is almost synonymous with War Room: a dad is having trouble at work and never pays attention to his family. His wife is frustrated but is directed by a wise spiritual character to pray for her husband. The husband almost commits infidelity but, due to his wife’s prayers, is seemingly prevented from doing so. The dad gets fired from his job but is able to bond with his kids, including a teenage daughter, over activities they like. The parents reconcile their marriage. As added bonuses, Michael Jr. and Karen Abercrombie star in both screenplays, with Abercrombie playing the wise spiritual character in both instances. Moreover, it’s equally absurd to have a character state that they don’t like Christian films (a legitimate concern) in a movie that isn’t even that good. It’s evident that the creative team is aware of the problems in Christian entertainment, but they basically fell into the same old traps that others have also slipped into. This seems to imply a lack of understanding about the overall problems still plaguing the field. Overall, Selfie Dad is just another prime example of how good funding and marketing aren’t the automatic keys to success in Christian entertainment: the storyline is equally important.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Dancer and the Dame (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Demoted from his detective position because he took a conspiracy theory too far, Rick Dancer feels like an outcast in most people’s eyes.  But then he stumbles onto something new about his theory regarding the city’s richest philanthropist, whom he believes is corrupt.  Yet this only serves him orders for a psychological evaluation, which leads to him taking on a new partner—a traumatized police dog.  Rick will have to learn to work with her while trying to regain the trust of his boss all while he still chases leads regarding his theory.  In the end, he will have to decide if he is going to let himself care again in order to succeed.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In a break from the typical PureFlix model, most production element of Dancer and the Dame are okay.  Video quality is clear and camera work is pretty good; they’re getting better with action shots.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is annoying.  Prop usage is as cheesy as can be expected from a PureFlix action film attempt.  The sets and locations are fairly realistic but are also stereotypical.  As for the editing, there’s basically none of it.  The entire film is face value: what they filmed is what you get.  Every scene is run as long as it possibly can be and there’s really nothing else there.  But the rundown is that Dancer is pretty average on production, which is actually a step up from the norm.  This fact alone is disturbing.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

So essentially, this story is about a washed up cop doing office work at the precinct because his conspiracy theory about a local rich guy blew up in his face.  But he gets a second chance in his career when his theories start to be ‘proven’ true.  Then he’s sentenced to a suspect mental evaluation which consists of the psychologist pushing her opinions on him and then forcing him to take her dog off of his hands.  From there, doggish ‘comedy’ ensues as Dancer stumbles upon ‘clues’ like a children’s mystery (or maybe a Hallmark mystery).  The characters are flat and comedy is typical Tommy Blaze style.  Once again, another horrible portrayal of counseling\psychology in a Christian film.  The odd thing about this Blaze creation is that it’s not entirely committed to crass and cartoonish ‘jokes’, but instead tries to insert inspirational themes into the movie, such as the typical feel-good pet storyline.  This is not to mention the Christian-sounding messages awkwardly forced into key parts of the plot.  And what’s with the constant cheesy references to dog breeds ‘hidden’ in people’s names?  In short, this film is a usual Blaze train wreck—a little less zany than usual, but still a mess.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The sad state of Christian casting is that ‘secular’ actor Billy Gardell is substantially better at acting than most PureFlix actors and actresses.  David A. R. White, Tommy Blaze, Brad Heller, Carey Scott, and Anna Zielinski are all their typical selves.  There is really no regard for any professionalism, yet line delivery is not terrible, just awkward.  Basically, nice try, but not good enough.

Conclusion

Year after year PureFlix rolls out laughable films in the name of Christianity.  They are rarely received well and seem to accomplish little for the Kingdom.  We’ll never understand where they constantly get their money from or how they convince more popular actors and actresses to appear in their films.  If you’ve seen one dumb PureFlix movie, you’ve definitely seen Dancer and the Dame.  It’s better to not waste your time on another one.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Revelation Road 3: The Black Rider

Plot Summary

Two years after the Rapture, the enigmatic Josh McManus has a mission to do good and to right wrongs, even when it seems like evil is winning.  His latest mission takes him to a strict and legalistic settlement that tolerates no crime in order to gain medical attention for an injured girl.  In exchange for both of their lives, Josh must carry out a dangerous mission: search for a mysterious and troublemaking vagrant known as the Shepherd and bring him back so the settlement leader, Drake, can exchange him to his superiors for more life saving supplies.  In route to searching for the Shepherd, Josh and his unwanted tagalong, Sofia, must battle multiple villains and come to grips with what they truly believe about Jesus and His plan for the world.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Despite previous production struggles, Bradley Dorsey and Gabriel Sabloff have greatly improved this franchise.  The camera work improves dramatically in The Black Rider, as does the sound quality.  The surroundings and sets are innovative and creative.  Gone are ridiculous special effects, including that weird lightning!  This would have been a stellar production were in not for a collection of small issues—no doubt White influences.  For example, the CGI that is used is very amateurish.  Action scenes are overall not produced well, and there are too many of them, which is an editing problem.  The scope of the plot is so vast that precious time does not need to be wasted on silly fight scenes.  Yet these such portions squeezed out the deepening of plot creativity.  Nonetheless, this is the type of production that Pureflix has been trying to stab in the dark for years.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The abysmal non-plot of The Beginning of the End seems like a distant memory after viewing The Black Rider.  There is a unique psychological edge to this plot and creative concepts that give the film deeper meaning beyond car chases and gunfights.  An entire new cast of characters is introduced, and it actually works.  A new world is introduced two years after The Sea of Glass and Fire, and it’s better than before.  But this new world is a double-edged sword—it’s too big for the scope of this film.  If more of this world had been explained in The Sea of Glass and Fire, we would have a framework to understand, but this did not happen.  Foreign plot devices such as the ominous ULC are forced upon viewers without explanation.  However, the city-state government system works well in this apocalyptic setting and gives the movie that epic backdrop David A. R. White has been searching for.  Moreover, there are other speculative concepts that are introduced and not fully explained.  Yet the gospel message is philosophically communicated far better than ever before in a Pureflix movie, and all without forcing the message down the audience’s throats.  There is unfortunately still wasted time on childish fighting scenes.  The escapades of Josh McManus, a surprisingly good character, border on unrealistic and sometimes coincidental.  Some of the many villains in this movie are laughable, while others are believable.  Each character is crafted through mostly effective dialogue.  The ending of this plot is also a double-edged sword: it both introduces a key psychological element and confuses the audience.  It both isolates the viewer and makes them want more.  Any further discussion is beyond the scope of this review, but the bottom line is Dorsey and Sabloff really have something going here, something that needs to be continued.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Hands down, The Black Rider is David A. R. White’s best acting work to date.  Bradley Dorsey also contributes an excellent role to the film, perhaps his best.  Unfortunately, there is still some cheesy acting from certain cast members.  Kevin Sorbo in a thrift store disaster getup and sporting a fake insert-ethnicity-here accent is just too much to bear.  Action acting is still B-grade.  Other small issues plague an otherwise great casting job, such as that dumb sheet the Shepherd wears.  Otherwise, costuming is fairly responsible.  Line delivery is sometimes effective and sometimes forced.  Emotions are mostly believable.  In short, everything about this film is give and take: for every cheesy element, there is an excellent element, and vice versa.

Conclusion

The Revelation Road saga is a cinematic freak of nature—a film franchise with a redemption arc of its own that closely mirrors the rise of Josh McManus, the surprising crowning achievement of David A. R. White’s acting career.  Nonetheless, The Black Rider is a constant tug of war between the C-grade action of The Beginning of the End and the psychological creativity of The Sea of Glass and Fire.  The third installment suffers from the wasted time of the first two installments, where this time could have been used to build a better backstory instead of shoving in all into one movie, intending to fix a broken series in one stroke.  But The Black Rider is proof that broken sagas can be fixed.  Therefore, we are surprisingly anticipating the release of Revelation Road 4.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Grace Unplugged (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Grace Trey, desperate to make a name for herself in the music industry, feels stifled in the small town that contains the small church her father is the music minister of.  What’s more, she feels like her father protects her too much and thus rebels against his boundaries.  But when her father is faced with a chance to return to his glory days as a rock and roll star, Grace is shocked when he turns down his old agent.  Seeing her chance to escape, she markets herself to his agent and lands herself the opportunity she has been waiting for.  Little does she know about the world she has opened herself up to by going against the wishes of her parents in order to chase fame.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The production of Grace Unplugged is really not that bad.  The camera work is professional and the video and sound quality are as they should be.  Having an original soundtrack is commendable, even if this one is just average.  The sets are fairly diverse and on the surface, it looks like a modern movie.  The editing needs some work, but one can understand why it struggles with the very shallow plot that it has been provided.  Otherwise, there is nothing much to comment about here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As previously mentioned, while this plot is a seemingly interesting idea that is based on true events, it never finds the promised land, so to speak.  The plot is choppy and rushed, the Christian message understated, and the dialogue empty.  The characters seem forced; no time is taken to make them seem realistic.  Suggestive content is dealt with in odd fashions and there is simply too much runtime in this movie.  It takes up a lot of the viewer’s time without accomplishing much.  It drives to an end goal without attempting to draw one into the plot.  It is commendable to highlight the dangers of the music industry, but this movie is so slapped together that no one will notice.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The actors are either bland, vanilla, or trying too hard.  In her major debut, AJ Michalka seems trying too hard.  The supporting cast is either phoning it in or vying for more screen time.  Chris Tomlin and Jamie Grace seem tacked onto the movie; it could have been better if they had been given larger roles.  Again, there was really not much for these actors to work with, but they didn’t bring much to the table either.

Conclusion

For a modest budget production and an intriguing plot idea, more should have come out of Grace Unplugged.  This is an important issue that was not dealt with properly.  The emotional struggles of the characters are not tangible; everything just happens on the surface in route to an overstated conclusion.  Grace Unplugged is a prime example of potential that was left on the proverbial playing field.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points