Becoming Jesse Tate (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jesse Tate feels like an outcast teenager at her school since her father is in jail as the scapegoat of his workplace’s crimes.  It seems like everybody hates her, and she is ashamed to admit she is a Christian because of what has gone on.  Though people who used to be called her friends have shunned her, Jesse finds a new purpose in helping the prisoners her father knows, and this helps her grow close to God.  However, a mysterious individual keeps instant messaging her information about her dad’s trial, and Jesse fears that her father’s lawyer does not have his best interests at heart.  Will the truth come out before it’s too late?


Production Quality (2 points)

Much like Set Apart, Becoming Jesse Tate has a fine production.  This includes good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is a bit generic, however, and sets and locations tend to be limited to a few areas.  However, props are well-utilized.  There are a few small editing issues to contend with as well, but on the whole, this is a respectable, standard production that makes the later production of Angels Love Donuts even more perplexing.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there is very little potential in this plot as the premise is fairly silly and is based on unrealistic circumstances.  The ideas therein are very trite, and the dialogue suffers for lack of substance.  Thus, the characters are flimsy and plastic, not to mention how dumb the ‘villain’ characters are.  Because the characters are one-dimensional, it is difficult to relate to their struggles.  This idea as a whole is very short and limited—it needs a lot more development to be more than the cheesy mystery that it is.  This is not to mention the plot holes and lapses in logic that keep this story moving along to the desired conclusion.  The Christian message is also very sappy and cringeworthy as problems are fixed in ridiculously easy ways.  Basically, the existence of this story is barely justified.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

These cast members are fine and seem to care about what they are doing.  However, there are some moments of forceful line delivery and emotions, especially from the ‘villains.’  Some of the teenage actors and actresses are awkward at times and need further refining.  However, there are enough good moments to keep this section average.


It is difficult to measure what is gained from cute little Christian films like this one.  It’s all fine and good, but is a difference really being made?  The creator may mean well, but we need dynamic films that will make a difference, not more movies like this one.  A story like this needs deep characters to carry it along, because without them, as we saw here, it just becomes trite and unimportant, even if it was meant to be serious.


Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points



Set Apart [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Pastor John Gunn and his wife, who run an inner city kids ministry together, see a need for some teenagers to escape the gang life for the summer, they call upon John’s brother Randy and his wife Heidi to take the teenagers to their ranch out west for the summer.  The teenagers reluctantly agree to go, yet find it hard to change their ways.  However, they soon discover that there is more to life than what the streets are offering them and that God has a specific plan for each of them.


Production Quality (2.5 points)

Set Apart is a surprisingly professional production from the studio that brought us Angels Love Donuts.  There are virtually no glaring errors here as video quality, camera work, and audio quality are excellent.  The soundtrack is a bit generic, and there are some montages, but the sets, locations, and props are excellent.  There are also some abrupt and unnecessary cuts, but these small issues are not enough to derail this professional effort.  This film just goes to show what a studio can do if they put their best foot forward, yet it does not explain why production quality decreased in Angels Love Donuts.  Nevertheless, Set Apart is a well-done film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As this story is based on true events and involves the real people, there are clearly a lot of positives here.  There are good attempts to develop the characters through dialogue, but they still need a bit more development, so they are less one-dimensional and are not just stand-ins for issues that need to be covered in this film.  Nonetheless, there are great ideas and messages in this film, even if the conversations of characters tend to be a bit too surface.  It would be nice if there was more substantial content here rather than all of the ‘silly’ scenes and montages.  A little more conflict and character flashbacks\backstories might have been in order as well.  Also, the forced and rushed climax could have been eliminated.  However, on the whole, this is an enjoyable story many audiences will like.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

With a combination of professional cast members and real people playing themselves, this is a well-crafted cast.  It was a great move to have the real characters cast as themselves, and other cast members are equally well-coached.  Emotions and line delivery are great with only a few errors to note.  All in all, this rounds out a very respectable effort.


Films of this rating and caliber should be the norm of Christian film rather than the exception.  Even though this film is somewhat pedestrian, we should have a field of films filled with ones like this one rather than the sea of low-quality nonsense we have to constantly contend with.  Perhaps one day this will be the case.


Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points


Christmas on Salvation Street (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After his wife dies, Noah Davis decides to accept the invitation of a friend to become the pastor of a California street mission that serves the poor.  One of his daughter objects to the idea, while the other one goes along with whatever he says.  While in the urban areas of southern California, the Davis family ministers to the forgotten and the lost and finds themselves in some harrowing situations with a local gang and some foster kids.


Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the production of Christmas on Salvation Street is average.  Video quality is good, but audio quality is inconsistent since it is sometimes too loud and sometimes has too many echoes.  Camera work is also good, but there are some cheap looking sets and limited locations.  However, there is improvement in these areas throughout the film.  The editing is also fine except for one too many montages and reused scenes.  On the whole, as previously mentioned, this production is average and definitely has some room for improvement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

At first, the story behind this movie is an interesting idea, but it is seemingly too vague at first.  It is difficult to understand the motivations of the characters as the plot tends to meander with no real focus.  The dialogue also tends to be a bit pedestrian.  Most of the time, Christmas on Salvation Street seems more like the installment of an already-existing series or the beginning of one rather than a standalone film.  While sometimes it is unserious, it is clear that the writers meant well with this film, even if the idea is incomplete.  It’s also hard to see how this needed to be a Christmas film, and things tend to be too easily fixed in the end.  But at least there was an effort here to make it somewhat interesting.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Sometimes the cast members can be a bit too enthusiastic about their lines and emotions, but they settle in as the film progresses.  As time goes on, the cast members become more natural in their roles.  Emotions and lines, for the most part, are delivered effectively, which rounds out a nearly average film.


Films like Christmas on Salvation Street are problematic because they show potential to do more than actually deliver on.  Movies like this do not dwell in the basement of Christian film, but they are not in the top group either.  There are a lot of movies like this that don’t quite go the distance, but perhaps one day, their creators will break through and change the film world with more quality movies.


Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points


Angels Love Donuts (Movie Review)

The whiniest man alive

Plot Summary

John Money is a successful businessman, but he’s the whiniest man alive and doesn’t like anybody, even though he has a family that loves him, at least somewhat.  He only cares about the bottom line, so when he’s visited by a donut-loving angel of death who tells John that his days are numbered, John throws himself into finding a solution to his eternal problems.  He seeks out the answer to eternity in heaven, but he looks in all the wrong places.  Will he be able to discover what truly matters most?


Production Quality (1 point)

Though this film has a moderate budget, there are still a lot of unforced errors.  Video quality is somewhat blurry throughout, especially since there is a lot of weird soft lighting throughout the film.  Camera work is fine, however, as is audio quality.  However, the soundtrack is loud and annoying.  Sets and locations are mostly okay, but there are some cheesy props.  There is also not really any editing as this film is just a collection of very long scenes and montages.  In the end, this is a underwhelming production to say the least.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Can you seriously not come up with a different title besides Angels Love Donuts?  The cheesy comedy idea surrounding this title is just too much.  There are way too many attempts in this film to be funny, and a lot of comedy is dry and\or falls flat.  Thus, the dialogue and the characters are very cheesy and sometimes downright childish or annoying.  The driving purpose behind the film is too juvenile to be taken seriously; this film almost fits better in a children’s genre than in this format.  The story follows a predictable progression, thus there is no real creativity here.  It’s really hard to believe that movies like this are made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The lead actor is definitely one of the most annoying we have seen.  He speaks in a constant monotone whine.  Other cast members appear to be making fun of this film, and rightly so.  Some performances are overly practiced.  Emotions are hardly ever believable.  Unfortunately, there’s really nothing good to say here.


Movies like this will likely be forgotten as time goes on, yet they can be remembered right now due to its absurd nature.  The last thing we need is more Christian movies that demonstrate this level of nonsense.  From start to finish, this is just a total waste of time and ranks on the level of yard sale movies.  Hopefully in the future, we will begin to see less and less of these sorts of messes.


Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points


The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Gavin Stone, a washed-up child star, is trying to find his next big break when he gets himself in big trouble with the law.  As a settlement, the judge offers him a deal that includes required community service hours at a local church.  Gavin accepts the deal and returns to his hometown to stay with his father, whom he has not spoken to in years.  While working at the local church, Gavin stumbles upon a church play they are planning for Easter and decides to audition for it.  However, in order to get the part of Jesus, he has to pretend that he is a Christian.  But the longer he pretends, the more he becomes interested in what his new friends have to offer.  He will have to decide how long he’s going to keep up the charade and whether or not he wants the real thing.


Production Quality (3 points)

With an adequate budget, wise spending, and clear talent, the production team of The Resurrection of Gavin Stone proves that churches can make high quality productions.  There are no errors to point out here—camera work is professional and video quality is crisp.  Audio quality is flawless and the soundtrack is adequate.  The sets and locations are realistic and down to earth.  There are also no editing problems; everything flows perfectly.  In short, Vertical Church and the rest of this team set their minds to making a top-notch production, and it paid off.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Throughout her writing career, Andrea Gyertson Nasfell has always shown that she has a knack for writing real-life comedy, especially church satire—Gavin Stone is no exception.  Though this passed-around plot is formulaic and predictable, Nasfell takes it to its furthest potential, which is all we really ask of a writer.  Though this appears to be a stereotypical small town setup, it’s really not of the Hallmark brand (which actually gets a subtle jab at one point).  The characters are not plastic and cheesy, but instead are realistic and believable.  Dialogue is highly effective and drives the plot, as it must in a predictable comedy.  While the plot follows a stereotypical progression and this fact keeps it from being a higher score, this is the best anyone can do with this sort of idea.  Nasfell has always had a lot of writing talent, and Gavin Stone showcases this once again.  We can’t wait to see her break out into greatness one day.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Like the production team, the casting team went all out to make this portion quality.  One character even says “Acting is about being yourself through the character.”  This acting philosophy is reminiscent of the Kendrick\Erwin school of thought and is desperately needed in all of Christian film.  Actors and actresses do not need to be who they are not, but instead need to act naturally and professionally in their character.  Anjelah Johnson-Reyes demonstrates this extremely well in her first headlining role—she might be one of the best Christian actresses of our time.  All other cast members also demonstrate poise and professionalism in all ways, thus warranting a perfect score.


Dallas Jenkins, Andrea Nasfell, and the rest of the team demonstrate in this film that it really isn’t that difficult to make a quality Christian film.  With the right funding, a wise allocation of funds, a plot taken to its fullest potential, and a professional cast, anyone can make a Hall of Fame movie if they put their mind to it.  With creators like these, there is hope for the tide of Christian entertainment to continue to turn.  Now we ask Jenkins, Nasfell, Vertical Church, and everyone else involved in to use Gavin Stone as a springboard to even greater entertainment.  They are on the verge of the upper echelon and we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.


Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points


Full disclosure: We were provided by the creator with a copy of this film in exchange for a fair and honest review