7th Street Theater, Season 2 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

Though the cast of the 7th Street Theater is constantly changing, their messages are still the same.  They continually create plays about Christian topics over and over again and present their plastic worldview to supposedly sold out shows.  Since they are committed to doing the same things all the time, the only drama they have to contend with is constantly changing cast members.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The production of the second season of this series is more stable than the first, but it basically comes out the same.  Video quality is fine and camera work is regular.  Audio quality is also fine, despite a pedestrian Jasper Randall soundtrack.  There are once again no locations to speak of and the same old severely limited sets are utilized in this lazy production.  Editing is mostly off the table as well.  Basically, as if the first season of this series was pointless enough, this second season is even more so.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

There is literally nothing new about this season that hasn’t already been discussed.  The same old one-dimensional characters are paraded around—even when the character changes due to cast changes, it makes no difference.  Every episode feels like a repeat of an old one as they constantly repeat the same ideas, sequences, and conversations.  Still the biggest plaguing issue in this saga is the fact that it lacks true connection to real people as they spin their wheels and grasp for content.  A series can only be sustained through top-level characters and realistic circumstances—it would be nice to have some arcs too.  However, 7th Street Theater lacks all of these skills.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As previously mentioned, the only difference with this bland cast from the first season is the fact that they are constantly switching some of them around.  However, it doesn’t help the fact that these cast members, though they may mean well, are too overly practiced in their delivery.  Emotions are hardly ever believable.  Essentially, there is not much unique to say about this season.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

Once again, there is no continuity in this season as each episode is presented with no real relation to the others, except for a few lame attempts at ‘cliffhangers’ that no one is interested in.  There are still no character arcs and no story arcs.  There was little to no point in making season, much less this series.

Conclusion

While in some way the Christianos might mean well in what they do, they are still not good at communicating the messages they want to communicate.  However, some of the things they do communicate are off-putting and paint an impossibly perfect view of Christians who have no real struggles.  This series doesn’t exist in reality and thus is never going to make any real difference.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 14 points

 

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7th Street Theater, Season 1 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

When a Christian businessman decides to invest in a Christian drama theater, he hires a stage director, Rudy, an office manager, Johanna, and five cast members, Travis, Jon, Jamie, Kelly, and Andi, to put together weekly plays centered around Christian themes.  As the actors and actresses write the shows and rehearse them to perform them, they learn life lessons that they intend to teach their audiences.  They also do life together and form a community with each other.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Since this series is entirely based on a bunch of people sitting around in two to three theater sets, you can imagine how cheap and limited these sets are.  There are no locations to speak of, and props are kind of silly, although this concept is also embraced as normal.  A lot of production shortcuts are taken and are justified by the format.  Early in this season, video quality is blurry, but this improves throughout.  Camera work is relatively stable.  Audio quality is fine throughout, but Jasper Randall delivers his same old silly soundtrack that can be found in any given Christiano production.  Finally, editing is almost nonexistent as most scenes drag on way too long to pump the runtime.  Every episode also ends with an annoying freeze frame.  Basically, though this is an average production, it has a lot of work to do.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The Christiano brothers have never been known for their subtlety, and the 7th Street Theater saga is the most obvious messaging ever.  This series is a venue for them to push their forcefully fundamental ideas through extremely scripted and childish dialogue.  It’s full of typical goody-two shoes Christian characters who don’t make any ‘bad’ mistakes, as well as a few strawman non-Christian characters and allusions to ‘bad’ things that can’t be talked about.  This series overall demonstrates just how much the Christiano brothers live in their own little world, especially with the priceless episode that serves as apologetics for that horrid thing called Pamela’s Prayer, which is an entirely different topic that space does not permit a full analysis of.  Basically, this series is everything you can imagine from the Christianos, and worse.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With a severely small cast, over 400 minutes of runtime is too much to see them over and over and over again.  They are extremely bland and overly practiced in their delivery.  They come off as fake, plastic people and even have weird racial undertones.  Though there is some improvement throughout the season, this is a very poor job.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

This saga is allergic to continuity.  As one thing after the next happens, there is an extreme amount of redundancy and repetition.  There are zero story arcs and absolutely no character arcs—everything stays relatively the same throughout this pointless season.  Thus rounds out an unfortunately unsurprising failure.

Conclusion

Though there is probably some part of the Christiano brothers that means well in their entertainment, they have no idea how to subtly communicate a Christian message or even how to relate to real people.  In their world, Christians are goody-two-shoes plastic people who are insulated from ‘bad stuff’ and exist in a bubble where they all tell each other how good they are.  But when you think about it, this is probably just another day in the life for most Christian film makers.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 14 points

 

Remember the Goal (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Courtney Smith-Donnelly, an inexperienced coach, is given the job as the new cross country coach at Orange Hills Christian Girls Private School, many parents are skeptical of her ‘unusual’ training methods.  She insists on not wearing the girls out, but the parents want a winning team.  Under the threat of being fired, Courtney pushes forward and encourages her girls to remember the goal no matter what.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

At least since they have been making films for nearly two decades, the Christiano brothers have learned how to craft a professional production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit silly at times, but outdoor locations and indoor sets are on market standard.  The only real issue to point out here is the slightly poor editing job, which manifests in too many sports montages.  But in the end, at least the production quality of this film is fine.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, after all these years, the Christiano brothers have not been able to figure out how to craft a plot that relates the real people and real circumstances.  They still demonstrate a trite and sometimes childish outlook on life, which includes a silly and plastic handling of otherwise important issues.  The characters are also extremely thin and one-dimensional due to mindless dialogue.  There is hardly any content in this plot except for sports sequences and lingo and there are a lot of disjointed subplots.  But perhaps the most memorable part of this plot—for all the wrong reasons—is the forced and confusing parallels between Christianity and cross-country, as well as the ridiculous persecution the main character undergoes for training her team in a supposedly controversial fashion.  This component dominates the film and is downright laughable, not to mention all of the quick fixes in this film.  Basically, there is still nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the Christianos mostly departed from their usual cast in his film, there are still issues here.  The lead actress is often overly practiced yet unsure of herself at the same time.  Other cast members are fine, but emotions often seem forced.  Overall, this is an average performance.

Conclusion

Remember the Goal is a departure for the Christianos in that they have finally allowed a female character to take a lead role in a plot that does not involve them being confined to the house.  Yet it still contains a lot of their typical shallow elements and their limited outlook on life and faith.  Unfortunately, they’re not going to improve until they learn how to relate to real people and stop thinking that everything is a persecution ploy.  But after all this time, why would they change?

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Unidentified [2006] (Movie Review)

Strange invaders…

Plot Summary

Keith and Brad work for a magazine that is more prominent its own mind and when they are sent by their supervisor to investigate some UFO claims in some obscure small town in Texas, they can’t believe it.  They think it’s all pointless, especially when the locals refuse to talk about the sightings.  But when their friend Darren invites them to take a different look at the UFO phenomena, their whole world is turned upside down.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Sometimes the Christiano brothers put together a respectable production, but not in Unidentified.  The okay camera work is the only positive quality to speak of.  The video quality is quite cheap and there are too many cheesy special effects littering the film.  Though the plot goes all over the country, the sets and locations are fairly limited and mostly focus on the office set.  Finally, the editing is extremely choppy in a failed attempt to be dramatic.  In short, there are not enough redeeming qualities to make up for the rest of the nonsense in this movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

The Christiano brothers might as well have not even tried to make this a fiction plot, because it’s mainly a docu-drama filled with regurgitated UFO documentary talking points.  There are tons of disjointed subplots that are nearly impossible to follow and that are based entirely on coincidences.  Things happen because they need to as the dialogue is filled with information dumps and consists of long and drawn out conversations.  There is also tons of off-screen content.  A clear agenda is being pushed here, placing this plot in the propaganda category.  Even though there may be some truth to what is being said here, it comes off as disingenuous and is mostly clouded with legalism.  As usual, opposing worldviews are treated offensively, thus warranting negative points.  Finally, this film has the weirdest end since Decision that you have to see to believe.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Except for a few small positive elements, this cast is very unprofessional.  It’s not only a very awkward cast, but they are not coached very well at all.  Their line delivery and emotional delivery are overly practiced and robotic.  Some cast members come off as lofty.  In short, this rounds out a very embarrassing effort.

Conclusion

It is clear that the Christiano brothers have a legalistic agenda to push both in this film and in others like Time Changer and A Matter of Faith.  The sad thing is that spiritual issues like the ones alluded to in Unidentified need to be discussed on Christian film, yet people like the Christianos are the only ones who seem to do this, and always in the wrong way.  There is some truth to the UFO phenomena, but no one is going to learn it from this film.  Unidentified only serves to further solidify a Pharisaical and sometimes bizarre image in Christian film, especially Christian sci-fi, which is a needed genre.  Who will stand up to reverse this trend?

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Me and You, Us Forever (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Dave is left behind and divorced by his wife, he begins to think about what could have been.  As he begins to pine after an old high school girlfriend of his, one of his friends advises Dave to go to a church support group for divorced people.  There he meets a creepy woman who takes it upon herself to vicariously live Dave’s life and to help him in going back to meet the old girlfriend he’s pining after.  As Dave finally plans to go meet her, the suspense builds as he drives back and forth outside her house and borderline stalks her.  Will he ever get to talk to her again?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This awkwardly-titled film has one good merit, and this is some production quality.  While the video quality and camera work are good, as well as some of the sets, it’s beyond us why anyone would spend money on such a useless piece of entertainment.  Audio quality is also okay, but the soundtrack is snore-inducing.  There was clearly no editing in this film as tons of useless and empty footage was included, probably in an effort to make this painful slog longer than it was.  Besides a few production high marks (which should be standard), this movie is all downhill from here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In perhaps the most useless and pathetic plot we have ever seen, immature conflicts dominate the silly dialogue as a bunch of middle aged people whine about what could have been in high school.  As the scenes progress from melancholy to melodramatic to boring, nothing really happens as we are forced to witness Dave drive around, go to work, talk on the phone, go to support group, and hang out with a creepy and desperate woman.  Sometimes there are huge gaps without a single spoken word as characters just stare at things while the piano music plays.  Besides all this, there is no way to make this sort of plot interesting or palatable, so why make it at all?

Acting Quality (0 points)

As usual for Christiano casts, the cast members are overly practiced in their line delivery.  The emotions are empty and they generally leave much to be desired.  Unfortunately, the cast is so small, there is really no potential here.

Conclusion

What was even the point of making this plot?  The idea literally has no potential and is so absurd that we have to question whether going after (married!) old flames should even be encouraged among Christians.  Was this really all the Christiano brothers could come up with?  We would expect something much more sanctimonious and pious than this.  Where is the potential in watching a middle aged man pine after his old girlfriend, who’s now married?  Don’t even get me started about using divorce support groups as a dating service.  We can’t even comprehend the motive behind this film and must just leave it as a useless movie you shouldn’t waste your time on.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

A Matter of Faith (Movie Review)

Yes, this really did happen in this movie

Plot Summary

When Rachel Whitaker heads off to a ‘secular’ university to pursue a degree in pharmacology, she is immediately met with a challenge to her Christian faith as a biology professor informs the class that human life evolved from apes.  Though she wavers in her convictions, her father quickly discovers her dilemma and confronts the professor, only to have the professor challenge him to a university debate on the issue of creationism versus evolution.  As Rachel tries to talk her father out of the debate, he finds support from an unlikely ally as he digs deeper into the intrigue surrounding the professor.  In the end, which side will triumph?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

For its many faults, at least A Matter of Faith scored one point for production quality.  This is awarded for clear video quality and pretty good camera work.  However, this is where the positivity ends.  Audio quality is okay throughout, but some scenes are louder than others.  The sets and locations are pathetic and scream low budget.  The surroundings feel very plastic, like the characters are living in a textbook suburban city with no feeling at all.  The soundtrack is glaringly amateurish.  Finally, the editing is deplorable, just splicing a bunch of random scenes together that we’re supposed to believe are related in some way.  Unfortunately, this isn’t where the negativity ends.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Haven’t we had enough of the plot where the student is singled out for their faith by an atheist professor, especially with allegations of copying flying around?  A Matter of Faith seems to go out of its way to create a false dichotomy between ‘creationism’ and ‘evolution’ and throws ‘science’ around like a Frisbee.  The subtle message in the title seems to suggest that the creators don’t care about facts, just about destroying the atheist viewpoint at all costs.  Don’t get me wrong—there’s plenty of problems with ‘evolution’ and we need a meaningful dialogue on this topic, but this film only insults people who oppose its worldview and attempts to scare those who might agree with it.  Besides the philosophical concerns, there are many other problems wrong with this plot, which is actually just a collection of disjointed and unrelated snippets and scenes, mostly infused with an out of touch portrayal of life at a ‘secular’ university.  The storyline does not flow at all as it hops from one thing to the next.  The characters therein are highly stereotypical of a fundamentalist Christian worldview, depicting a controlling father figure, a wallflower mother, a confused younger woman, a heroic younger man, ‘bad boys’, and that evil atheist professor—basically the cast of Princess Cut on a college campus.  The premise of the film is trumped up and makes a strawman of the atheist.  However, the one thing that keeps this plot from going in the tank is a slightly interesting character concept that is wasted by the overbearing ‘plot’.  But in short, A Matter of Faith is a mess that doesn’t even seem to try to be discreet or polite to those who oppose its viewpoint.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This film has accomplished a rare feat.  Whereas many independent Christian films are notorious casting actors and actresses without giving them any coaching, the cast of A Matter of Faith seems to be coached too much.  This is evident in a general sense of over-acting, such as overdone enunciation of words and overly practiced body language.  Cast members say their lines like they’re reading cue cards for a public service announcement.  In an attempt to avoid glaring errors, the Christiano crew actually did not come out any better by turning their cast members into robots.

Conclusion

Did the Christiano brothers actually expect to convert anyone to their viewpoint with this film?  Is asking someone who believes in evolution if any of their family ancestors looked like apes (yes, that’s in there) truly a productive tactic to use?  Is attacking psychology out of left field a winning strategy?  We find it hard to believe that A Matter of Faith will even grow any Christians in their faith, as many are still confused as to what the real dichotomy between Biblical creationism and Darwinism (the truly dangerous philosophy) is.  Creating a strawman out of ‘evolution’ is counter-productive and confuses people.  Real people cannot relate to the events of this film, so it is likely that it will do nothing more than further fuel the fire of contempt between fundamentalist Christians and atheists.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Dustin, Albert, and Mark are friends who stick together and solve the deeper problems of their 1970s small town.  But one particular summer, they find themselves with a deficit of activities save for fishing and mowing lawns.  That’s when they inadvertently cross paths with Jonathan Sperry, an elderly local man who takes it upon himself to teach them fundamental principles for living—including the truth about Christianity.  Unknown to any of the three friends, their lives will forever be changed by the secrets they learn from the enigmatic Mr. Sperry.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Jonathan Sperry had a higher-than-usual budget, and it mostly reflects in the production quality.  The camera work is pretty good, especially considering the high amount of outside scenes.  The video quality is solid, as is the sound quality.  Sets and locations were well chosen and props give the film an authentic historic feel.  The musical score could have been better.  The real thing lacking here is a game-changing factor.  The editing is considerably good, but each production element just doesn’t quite live up to top standards.  Something intangible is missing, yet it cannot be denied that Jonathan Sperry is still a step above most Christian films when it comes to production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Adapted from true events, the plot of Jonathan Sperry has a lot of great elements.  The characters are authentic and many will be able to relate to them.  The dialogue is simple yet profound.  The events and circumstances they experience are believable and accessible.  The storyline is non-linear and has some minor twists and turns.  There is a clear Christian message throughout.  Yet this being said, one could consider Jonathan Sperry to be overly realistic and too slow for viewing.  There is some truth to this.  The film lacks a dynamic punch that will really capture the widespread attention of audiences.  Great care was obviously taken to be realistic, and this care shows, but we have to wonder if it is too authentic for its own good, so to speak.  Nevertheless, the movie offers a poignant lesson for those who watch it and those who likely calm artistic plots will not find themselves disappointed.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Similar to production, an air of professionalism is very evident.  The actors and actresses are coached fairly well.  Since the cast is small, it carries a large weight, and it does not necessarily stumble under it.  However, there are some minor errors that could have been corrected and thus keep it from being all that it could be.  But nonetheless, the acting puts many Christian movies to shame.

Conclusion

There is a place for movies like Jonathan Sperry in the Christian film world, but unfortunately, films like this one will never be blockbuster.  The truly unfortunate thing is that movies like this one are not the baseline of Christian-themed movies.  This should be the starting point, not the improvement.  Regardless, Sperry is something to build off of if only to showcase that the Christiano brothers understand the common man and that the only place they can go from here is up.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Amazing Love: The Story of Hosea (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

On a small youth group retreat, Pastor Stuart senses that something is amiss with the group of kids he is responsible for.  A new non-Christian girl is among them, and her presence is causing divisions among the Christian teens.  He decides to try to get through to them by telling them his creative and family-friendly rendering of the Biblical story of Hosea and his tenuous relationship with his wife Gomer.  Ultimately, each person must decide how they are going to respond and to show God’s unconditional love for all people.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The Christiano Brothers and Kevin Downes usually know how to produce a movie so that it passes as above average.  Amazing Love is no exception.  There are few overt errors in this film’s production quality.  The camera work is simple but not detracting.  The video and sound quality are fine.  The editing is fine, considering there is just not much content here.  The biggest problems with production pertain to the limited and cheap looking sets.  Some of the Biblical props and costuming seem low quality.  Overall, Amazing Love is good enough to make viewers watch.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The premise of Amazing Love is intriguing.  Youth group issues need to be discussed in movies.  Biblical narratives need to be explored.  One has to wonder if Hosea was the best choice, but Box Office Revolution believes it was handled tastefully, even if it is slightly unrealistic.  Due to the dual narrative, dialogue is simplistic and characters are shallow.  The fact that there are two stories in this movie show that there is just not enough content to make this a dynamic film.  But the creators did the best they could with what they had, and sometimes that is all we can ask.  There are some interesting twists that keep the attention.  This plot will make people think and it is better than a lot of Christian films.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The actors seem either wooden or childish.  Some of the acting is good, but some is not.  The more experienced actors deliver their lines better than others.  Casting might have been an issue in this modestly budgeted production.  Overall, the acting is just average.

Conclusion

Everyone needs to know that God’s love is unconditional, especially teenagers from broken homes.  The story of Hosea reminds everyone that God loves even those we considered to be hopeless and unreachable.  For a simple family film, Amazing Love passes the test.  Audiences need to be informed of Bible stories that are not often focused on.  Unfortunately, there was a low ceiling for this movie and it hit it.  But in the end, this is definitely not a movie to be ashamed of.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points