Turn Around Jake (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jake has a dream job, a flashy fiancé, and everything he ever wanted, until one day when it all comes crashing down.  He is forced by his boss to take the fall for something illegal the company did and is left homeless and on the run from the law.  Jake has nowhere to turn, so he is forced to go back to the home he ran from—including the father and the girlfriend he left behind to pursue his dreams.  What he finds is that everything he was looking for was right in front of him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In the recent days of PureFlix, they have mastered the art of doing just enough to make a production look good on the surface.  Turn Around Jake is no exception to this rule.  Camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all on par.  The soundtrack is one of those childish attempts at comedy tunes, but is mostly typical.  Sets and locations are fairly limited but are passable.  There is really no editing present as the storyline just follows a stereotypical progression.  In short, there is really nothing out of the ordinary to say about this production—it’s standard and a little above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Turn Around Jake is really nothing but a typical city-character-returns-to-struggling-hometown-and-fixes-things plots.  This is also mixed with a dose of a prodigal character plot.  Everything is there: the old girlfriend, the parental character, the city characters who try to pull him back, and the other rural caricatures.  Besides this word-out premise, there are a lot of absurdly childish characters, dialogue, and asides that really make no sense except that the writers tried to force a lot of comedy but failed miserably at it.  As the story rushes through a predictable progression that hits all the expected points, it peddles a very cheap Christian message that cannot be respected and feels like it was shoved in so PureFlix would carry it.  Essentially, there is nothing original, creative, or worthwhile here, thus warranting no points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While there is some good here, for the most part, this cast is over the top and awkward.  They are painfully lacking coaching as their attempts at being funny and witty completely fall flat.  As a bright spot, Jen Lilley continues to outshine otherwise laughable PureFlix casts.  It would be interesting to see her in a more upstanding film.

Conclusion

In the end, Turn Around Jake is business as usual for the inspirational film business.  Somewhere they keep a database of the very small and limited scope of reusable inspirational plots (we think Hallmark is the gatekeeper of such secrets) and every time a new film makers needs a story they can easily peddle to the masses, they pick one for themselves.  Among these plots are the closely related prodigal character plot, the hometown return plot, and the fish-out-of-water plot.  Turn Around Jake borrows elements from each of these conventions and mixes them into its own awkward comedy style.  Anything that involves all of these elements is probably doomed from the start.  How about trying something original?

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

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The Encounter, Season 1 [2016] (Series Review)

With this creepy look, who doesn’t want an encounter?

Plot Summary

When someone is going about their everyday activities, they never know what is about to happen or who they are about to meet.  They all have struggles and secrets that they don’t want anyone to know, but they would be free if they just knew someone they could trust them with.  But people never know when they are about to meet Someone Who will change their life forever.  They never know until they have their own Encounter with Jesus.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Encounter series follows a typical production formula that PureFlix has been using for years.  They check the boxes for making the production look good on the surface, including video quality, audio quality, sets, props, and locations.  The soundtrack is sometimes engaging but mostly standard.  Sometimes there is too much shaky camera work, especially in the poorly shot actions scenes.  The biggest issue here is that large amount of wasted time throughout the series.  Most episodes are 25-28 minutes long, but the plots are usually so thin that this is too much time.  The exception to this is of episodes one and four, which will be discussed later.  But in the end, this series demonstrates an overall typical and average production effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

For eight episodes, The Encounter rehashes the same types of ideas, concepts, and conversations over and over again, just with different characters.  Outside of episodes one and four, there is no creativity here, as the opening sequence tells you what’s going to happen in each episode.  Besides being predictable, these stories are also very quick and punctuated, like they’ve been made in a quick plot factory.  While there are some good issues raised in the series, there are too many quick fixes and easy solutions based on creepy and plastic Jesus dialogue.  Thus, the messaging is quite shallow.  However, there is some potential here, as the first episode is very interesting and should have been the focus of the whole series so we could have gotten to know these characters better.  Also, the fourth episode would have made an interesting movie, if done properly.  But overall, this series just hops from high point to high point and discards substance and realism along the way.  It’s a good idea done very poorly.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While there are bright spots in this large scale cast, there are also plenty of issues.  For one, it seems like Bruce Marchiano, who has done well portraying Jesus in the past, has lost his touch. Other cast members are typical PureFlix standbys and rejects who seem to be lazy and phoning in their performances.  But as it is, it just comes out as average.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

When the same ideas repeat over and over again in each episode and new characters are constantly being introduced, there is no chance or hope for continuity in this season.  There are no story arcs or character arcs.  We need to see what happens to these characters after their initial encounters, which is why it would have been great to have the characters from the first episode be the main focus of this series.  Yet the way it has been done is shallow and lazy, thus warranting no points here.

Conclusion

There’s nothing wrong with having Jesus intervene in everyday situations, but spitting out a whole bunch of episodes that are all basically the same doesn’t accomplish anything.  It’s easy to create a bunch of surface characters and then leave them; it takes true skill to craft meaningful characters that we can connect with.  It’s also a great idea to create a Christian series, but we need something better than this.  We need sustainable ideas that make people want to follow a set of characters across an arc.  PureFlix has the resources to do this, but will they?

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 14 points

 

Revelation Road 2: The Sea of Glass and Fire (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After witnessing the Rapture, Josh McManus sets out on the road trip of his life to discover the whereabouts of his family, whom he is unable to contact.  But making the trek back won’t be easy with a crazed biker gang on his tail, bent on revenge for how he stole their pride.  Josh is joined by Beth, whose grandparents were taken in the Rapture.  As they travel across the desert, navigating the strange new world they live in, Josh will have to come to grips with who he really is and what he has done in the past.  Not only him, but Hawg will also have to reconcile with the person he has become.  On a collision course, Josh and Hawg will both have to determine how they are going to change who they are.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Believe it or not, production quality improves from the first series installment to the second.  Video quality remains the same, but sound quality also improves.  Special effects are used more responsibly.  The weird lightning is still there, but it’s a step in the right direction.  The camera work is strange at times, but not nearly as bad as the first film.  The editing is still a work in progress, but there seems to be more effort put into this installment.  Overall, that’s the story of Revelation Road 2—the thought is there, but the execution is only half there.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The Beginning of the End was obviously driving to something, as that non-plot continually delayed the inevitable next film.  Thankfully, that something was actually worth waiting for.  Who knew that Pureflix would begin using flashbacks to develop characters?  Since when do the Whites and company create character backstories?  Stranger things do happen, and they happened in The Sea of Glass and Fire (whatever that title’s supposed to mean).  The core idea behind Josh’s character is very innovative, and seemingly beyond the reaches of the Pureflix creative realm.  Even Hawg is turned into a somewhat believable villain through flashbacks.  And Cat…oh wait, never mind.  But pitfalls still exist in this film—mindless violence rivals B-grade Hollywood action flicks and time fillers litter the plot.  Dialogue is better in the flashbacks than in the present plot.  The ending inevitably leads to another film, but we have to wonder if this is really necessary at this point.  Overall, this plot is a huge step in the right direction, but there is still work to be done.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Mostly due to the flashbacks, the acting slightly improves from the previous movie.  This is probably the best David A. R. White, Andrea Logan White, and Brian Bosworth will get when it comes to action acting.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are blasé, making this an overall underwhelming cast performance.  But hey, they got one point!

Conclusion

Revelation Road 2 is one of the rare Pureflix movies that really had something, but never found it.  The overarching idea behind the series, if you ignore the strange eschatology, is very creative and breaks genre barriers in Christian film.  Yet under all of this is a sad storyline, and this is the fact that four points is a monumental accomplishment for this creative team.  The Sea of Glass and Fire stands as an example of how good even this crew can be when they put their minds to it, but it also makes us hunger for more.  Unfortunately, that more is probably not going to happen, if history is any indication.  Basically, if this idea were put into the hands of another team, it would have been Hall of Fame and beyond.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Revelation Road: The Beginning of the End (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Josh McManus is a confused man.  As a traveling self-defense product salesman, he is used to meeting new people on a daily basis, but he is not comfortable with the secret man inside of him.  While travelling across the western America desert, strange things start to happen.  Pursued by mysterious biker villains and plagued by weather anomalies and electrical failures, he is finally forced to face off with his pursuers.  Hawg is a troubled biker gang leader with an agenda to take over random small towns in the western United States.  His disgruntled mentality tends to cause discontent in his gang, but they ride on, bent on destroying the mysterious Josh McManus.  All of the characters involved must not only come to grips with who they are, but with the strangely changing world around them.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Where to begin?  Let’s start with the positive.  The only reason this film’s production is not zero points is because there is at least clear video quality.  Otherwise, there is nothing good to discuss.  The camera work is obnoxious, with random dizzying cuts and zooms for faux-dramatic effect.  To ‘enhance’ action sequences, the camera jerks all around, getting weirdly close to important characters.  While we’re on the topic of action scenes, they are either very poorly executed or far too long, eating up huge chunks of the movie’s runtime.  Watching a David A. R. White action scene is usually dizzying, and Revelation Road is no exception.  Speaking of dizzying, the sheer overuse of special effects in this movie makes us wonder if it’s safe for epileptic viewers to watch.  Topping things of, the soundtrack is deplorable.  Therefore, as you can see, this is another horrific Pureflix production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With this movie packed so chock full with useless action sequences that add nothing to its overall purpose, whatever that is, actual plot depth is squeezed out of the picture.  The intended plot can be summed up in a nutshell: random guy drives to a random desert town to sell self-defense gear (does anybody really do that?) and gets caught in the middle of a store holdup, uses secret military training to defeat mindless biker villains, hangs out with the store owner and his family, observe strange weather anomalies with eccentric local policemen, calls his worried wife about stuff, plays vigilante with local deadbeats, and observes a strange ‘rapture’ from a local motel.  Elsewhere, we are shown the life and times of a bizarre desert biker gang led by a grunting leader and his sidekick, plus Andrea Logan White in a makeup disaster.  No character development occurs as the ‘plot’ jumps from one explosion and gunfight to the next.  Dialogue has a typical cheesy, off-the-wall Pureflix feel.  We are unsure what is trying to be communicated here except for another offbeat Christian apocalyptic concept.  This movie might as well be a commercial for the next one, as it delays the viewers any real substance for over ninety wasted minutes.  Finally, the ending is extremely confusing and isolating.  In short, Revelation Road is the story of the White action films: toss out convention and common sense and exchange it for cheaply constructed action sequences.

Acting Quality (0 points)

What more is there to say that hasn’t already been said?  With the same old Pureflix actors and actresses recycled in the Revelation Road saga, their acting skills do not improve.  When a collection of cast members is kept in such a bubble, there is no reason for them to improve when there is no constructive criticism or filter.  Through this film, emotions are forced and unbelievable.  Action scenes are sloppily acted and line delivery is lazy.  Unfortunately, there is nothing unique or surprising from this cast.

Conclusion

We promise we are really not out on some kind of Pureflix warpath, but when a company so consistently generates such low quality and bizarre content in the name of Christianity, they must be called out.  Revelation Road may be the pinnacle of the Whites’ action movie career.  It involves every possible element of a C-grade action flick.  With creations like this, only two conclusions can be determined: either Pureflix does not know how to make a good movie or they do not care to make a good movie.  Apocalyptic movies are usually bad enough, but this motorcycle madness takes things to a whole new level.  The end result is just another ridiculous Pureflix creation.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

The Book of Esther (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following the banishment of Queen Vashti from the royalty of Medo-Persia, King Xerses, lonely and confused, takes the advice of his closest advisors and decrees that all the young women be brought to him, given beauty treatments, and then displayed before him so that he can choose a new queen from among them.  Among them is a Jewish girl, Hadassah, who had been admonished by her cousin Mordecai to hide her cultural identity from those in the palace.  Against all odds, she is chosen to succeed Queen Vashti, just as the wicked advisor Haman is plotting to destroy the Jewish people from the face of the earth.  Queen Esther must decide that she must live up to the calling God has put in front of her in order to save an entire race from extinction.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The Book of Esther commits every Biblical movie error in every category, beginning with production.  The sets and costuming are very cheap, like this is a children’s church play.  It would be one thing if PureFlix did not have the funding to put on a better production, but this is not the case.  The camera work and video quality are passable, but the sound quality is very inconsistent.  There is really nothing to comment on regarding the editing, either good or bad.  In short, the first rule of Bible movies is to create a realistic and high quality setting, including backgrounds, sets, props, and costumes.  The Book of Esther does none of this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

The story of Esther is overused in movies, probably because it is easy to replicate and the plot suits most audiences.  But this film is not even a good adaptation—it misrepresents Biblical and historical events and includes unnecessary parts.  It seems like the viewer is being insulted and being treated like a child in a bad Sunday school class.  The film contains ridiculous over the top characters, more so than usual for a Bible film.  The dialogue is overly dramatic, like most Scripture screenplays.  There are also creepy undertones and insinuations regarding Haman and his eunuch.  A lot of content takes place off screen and this plot generally has no real potential and is even offensive is some ways, thus warranting negative points.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

As a whole, line delivery is horrible and emotion is absent.  The acting is either absurd or too theatrical.  The only exception is some small acting potential from Joel Smallbone and Jen Lilley, as their talents seem to be wasted on this nonsense.  Otherwise, there is unfortunately nothing positive to say.

Conclusion

Needless to say, The Book of Esther is another ruined Bible movie.  The audience will learn nothing worthwhile from it except that they probably don’t want to watch anymore films based on Scripture.  This movie is the embodiment of why Box Office Revolution feels the need to speak out for quality Christian films and against low quality ones.  It feels like PureFlix isn’t even trying when they make movies like this, which further warrants a very low score.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points