Ruling of the Heart (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Judge Edward Morgan is known for being heavy-handed and for enforcing the letter of the law without taking personal situations into account. However, when he’s stranded in a coffee shop one night, he’s confronted by people whom he’s ruled against, which forces him to take a second look at his closely-held beliefs as well as the past pain he’s been hiding from. Will he be able to change his ways before it’s too late?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, Ruling of the Heart is a fine production even if the sets, locations, and props are somewhat limited. Some of the lighting is also unnecessarily dark, and there are some cheap special effects throughout. Flashbacks also have an odd quality about them, such as inconsistently shaky camera work. The soundtrack is fairly generic, and although other production elements are acceptable, there really needed to be more here since this film was made in 2018. However, some of this may be due to the limited plot scope.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 points)

Unfortunately, whereas there was a somewhat interesting idea behind this film, its disregard for legal procedure and judicial realities doesn’t bode well. The courtroom situations depicted within the storyline don’t line up with real life, which really puts a damper on things. To make matters worse, the characters are quite bland and one-dimensional throughout the narrative, and the Christian message seems shoe-horned in. One of the saving graces is the use of flashbacks to try to develop character backstories, but they don’t go as far as they could have, and characters struggle to break out of their “issue” shells and to actually be accessible as people rather than as cardboard cutouts. The stock vanilla dialogue doesn’t help, and the fact that the plot forces things forward instead of letting things unfold naturally isn’t advantageous. Even still, the film seems to be long and drawn out despite the lack of substantial content. While there are some brief attempts near the end of the movie to craft character motive, it’s too little too late. Essentially, when setting out to create a narrative that’s confined without one set and based on a complex topic requiring further research, flashbacks need to be integral in developing characters, and accuracy of the depicted topic needs to be ensured.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Although there’s nothing specifically wrong with the casting and acting in Ruling of the Heart, there’s also nothing particularly dynamic or special about it. This section of the film is overall generic as there is some stilted line delivery and some average emotions that are balanced out by other better performances. Despite some unnatural and overly earnest portrayals, this portion of the movie is basically average.

Conclusion

In the end, Ruling of the Heart is a nice attempt to take a look at how personal experiences can unfairly influence a judge’s ruling, but in order for this concept to produce more of an impact, research needs to be done to make sure judicial situations are accurately portrayed. Further, characters need to organically developed beyond simply representing issues and should be relatable people via personality-building and backstory-revealing dialogue and flashbacks. Without realism of ideas and characters, a movie can’t properly get off the ground to make a difference, no matter how important the topic is.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Christmas Oranges (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rose is an orphan girl who lives in Mrs. Hartley’s orphan home.  However, when Mrs. Hartley and some of the children die of illness one fateful month, all of the orphans are sent to other places.  Rose and some of her friends are sent to live in the orphanage of the angry Mr. Crampton, who has strict rules and doesn’t want children messing around with his stuff.  However, the more Rose learns about Mr. Crampton, the more she learns that he is hurting during the holiday season and needs someone to love him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As usual for John Lyde and his creative teams, Christmas Oranges is a professional production.  This is evidenced by good video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is somewhat generic, but it is fine for the genre.  Locations are mostly fine, even though there are few of them, but the sets are limited in scope.  There are also some random scenes that are poorly lit for no clear reason.  However, on the flip side, the editing is surprisingly effective.  On the whole, this is a high quality effort that has become commonplace from this group.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

In a different turn from other stories from John Lyde and company, Christmas Oranges has a uniquely substantial plot that contains the accessible struggles of relatively believable characters.  Though there is narration that hurts things, the child characters are actually pretty good, even if the orphan premise is slightly cheesy.  There are also some silly ‘kids’ sequences and montages, along with some strawman characters.  However, for the most part, the dialogue and the ideas therein are mostly meaningful and do their best to avoid cliched Christmas concepts involving orphans.  Probably the best element of this storyline is its use of realistic character backstories to humanize the ‘bad’ characters.  On the whole, while this movie did not go as far as it could have, it is still enjoyable and is worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While most of the cast members are definitely professional, this section still tends to be a mixed bag.  Some cast members seem to be overdoing their performances just a bit.  However, on the whole, emotions are realistic, and line delivery is on point.  As a side note, costuming is historically authentic.  Overall, this rounds out a very professional effort.

Conclusion

The Covenant Communications\Paulist Productions\Mainstay Productions collaboration has been working for years to make respectable films, and for the most part, they have succeeded.  However, they have been plagued by an inability to get over the last proverbial hill that stands between them and film greatness.  Nonetheless, they have all the tools necessary to do so.  Thus, we believe that sometime in the near future, they will finally break through and make that dynamic film that has alluded them for years.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Changing Hearts [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

James Reed is a successful consultant in the big city, glad that he left his rural life behind. However, his old life starts calling him back when his father begins to have health problems, prompting James’ mother, brother, and sister to call on him to come help them run the family business: a rural bed and breakfast.  James returns home, saying he will stay for a week.  When he arrives, he finds his family’s business is not as good as they portrayed it.  But he also finds that he still has feelings for one of the employees there.  Even though James does not want to be home and his brother doesn’t want him there either, the Reed family will have to band together and work hard in order to combat a business rival who wants to buy out the bed and breakfast.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Starting off, Changing Hearts is the typical story of a cheap Christian movie.  The video quality and camera work is the strongest point of the production, giving this movie and good surface feel.  However, as we usually say, there isn’t much past the surface.  The sets are limited to the bed and breakfast building and property and some random ‘big city’ scenes.  There’s nothing creative about the soundtrack and at times, there is loud background noise that overpowers the scene.  There is really nothing to say about the editing—the movie just drags on and until it’s finally done.  Perhaps the worst element of the production is a scene at the end in which a large crowd of people is supposed to be depicted, yet it’s an obvious production blunder, with a handful of people copied over and over again to make it look like a large crowd.  Beyond this, there is nothing obviously wrong with the production of Changing Hearts, but there is nothing dynamic enough to cause it to stand out.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Leading off the previous comments, the plot of Changing Hearts is extremely linear, with no twists or turns or creativity.  It’s a simplistic prodigal son plot done quite poorly.  The characters fit nicely into their predetermined molds: the prodigal character, the angry brother, the parents, the love interest, and the optional villain (in this case, I can sympathize, since it disturbingly reminds me of a real life person).  Little is done to deepen these characters beyond their stereotypes.  Dialogue is not utilized properly and is very vanilla.  Characters are swept along by the inevitable plot that concludes abruptly and predictably.  Life lessons are obviously taught throughout, but not in a way that causes the audience to connect with the real life events.  The plot comes off in such a way that it seems like it takes place in a location outside of real life.  But if it’s meant to be an allegory, it’s not indicated.  In summary, this would have been fine for a first time film if more thought was put into it.  From the get-go, the plot is very limited in scope and potential, so the most needs to be made of every element.  This did not occur, thus warranting zero points.

Acting Quality (1.5 point)

In a strange twist, the acting is the strongest element of this film.  It’s rare that the acting overshadows the other elements; usually acting goes hand in hand with the others.  In this case, the acting is only better because it’s average and the rest of the film is sub-par.  There is nothing glaringly horrible from this cast.  Line delivery is pretty good.  Emotions sometimes seem plastic, but sometimes they are not.  This cast seems like it has a lot of potential, but it only comes out as average.

Conclusion

As time goes on, Christian films like this will unfortunately be forgotten and lost amidst a sea of cheap movies on thrift store shelves and yard sale tables.  It frustrates us to see this sort of potential do to waste.  Despite the uncreative plot, the tools were there to make this movie stand out, at least as a freshman creation.  But unfortunately, Changing Hearts is just another one of those movies that will fade away.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points