A Christmas Snow (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Kathleen hates Christmas and thus likes to make her restaurant staff work all the time on the holidays.  But she likes Andrew, so she decides to help watch his Christmas-loving (and slightly obnoxious) daughter, Lucy, while he completes a business trip before the holiday.  So when Kathleen and Lucy get snowed in with a random guy who saved Kathleen from some hoodlums in a parking lot, Kathleen thinks her life is over, especially when they are forced to play board games that remind her of her parents.  Will they ever be able to make it through the day?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The good thing about this film is that is has high production quality.  Tracy Trost and her team are usually committed to this, and it shows again in A Christmas Snow.  The positive elements include good video quality and camera work, as well as adequate audio quality and an okay soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are fine and are mostly utilized well.  There are really no glaring errors to note here.  There are just some small issues pertaining to some choppy cuts and transitions, but this is not enough to derail the production.  On the whole, this is an applaudable effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the plot of this film.  It is based on a stereotypical holiday-hating-character-is-forced-to-like-the-holidays-because-of-some-outside-event plot sequence.  It would be one thing if the characters were fine, since this is a character-based plot, but that is not the case here.  The main character in particular is quite obnoxious, as are some of the supporting characters.  This is mostly due to absurd dialogue and ridiculously forced comedy, such as statements like ‘chickatarian.’  There is really nothing creative about this story as it depicts a collection of random characters stuck in a house during the holidays again.  While there are some attempts to use flashbacks to build the characters, they fall flat.  The character arcs are far too steep, and the Christian message is too vague.  Unfortunately, this is a swing and a miss.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

For a majority of the film, the lead actress and the child actress of this film are quite annoying, in keeping with the characters they play.  This is demonstrated through forceful emotions and stiff line delivery.  They are clearly trying too hard, while other cast members just come off as off-beat.  Needless to say, this movie will be remembered for the wrong reasons.

Conclusion

There was a good idea behind this movie, this much must be noted.  Trying to develop a grumpy character through establishing flashbacks can be a great way to present a nice holiday story, but A Christmas Snow does it all wrong.  Unfortunately, although the production was good in this film, it was wasted on a poorly written story and off-putting acting.  Maybe next time, Tracy Trost and her team will improve upon their past films.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

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The Lamp [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After a tragedy takes their son from them, Stanley and Lisa’s marriage is on the rocks and they seemingly have no purpose in life.  As they try to sort through what’s left of their son’s possessions, Lisa is given a mysterious lamp by one of her neighbors, who tells her that it has special powers.  Though Stanley is skeptical and angry, Lisa chooses to believe that the lamp can help them.  Little do they know what is coming to them next.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, The Lamp has good funding behind it that produces a decently above average production.  All the typical elements are good, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also intriguing.  The editing is also fine as the story is presented well.  However, the sets and locations are fairly limited to a handful of neighborhood areas, houses, and a baseball field.  Also, the biggest nagging issue here is the use of odd special effects to ‘enhance’ the experience—yet they only end up coming off as cheesy.  Overall, this is a good enough production, but the cheesy special effects tend to put a damper on things.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Based on a novel by Jim Stovall, The Lamp is a very unique Christian storyline that, while it has an interesting point and purpose, it also has a slightly silly premise.  The plot is somewhat slow to develop, but the dialogue improves as it goes and helps to build the characters.  There is a good use of flashbacks, but they are sometimes too disorienting.  As previously mentioned, though there is a good point here, there are also too many goofy magical elements that are introduced and only downplayed later.  This makes for a confusing viewing experience.  Also, in the end, things are fixed too easily, although there is an interesting twist that many will find interesting.  Overall, many will enjoy the uniqueness of The Lamp and there’s certainly nothing wrong with it—we just feel it could have been better.

Acting Quality (2 points)

At first, the acting of this film is atrocious.  Emotions are very extreme at first and there is far too much yelling in the first half hour.  However, the acting does get better as it goes as the cast members settle into their roles better and deliver their lines more smoothly.  In the end, it becomes an above average performance.

Conclusion

The Lamp is a textbook average film—with good production backing, it looks good on the surface.  It’s based on a book by a popular author, so that also works in its favor.  It also has recognizable cast members.  While average is awesome in the Christian entertainment market, we want movies to take that next step into greatness.  It’s definitely difficult to do, but in the end, it’s so worth it.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

The Ultimate Legacy {The Gift of a Legacy} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a wealthy woman approaches Hamilton’s firm to construct a legal inheritance process similar to that of Red Stevens’ due to her terminal illness, Hamilton and Miss Hastings enlist Jason Stevens as a special consultant (?).  Within a month, the woman dies and her wild grandson, Joey, inherits her fortune and the famous Anderson House—with stipulations: he must agree to live at Anderson House for a year and complete a series of ‘gifts’ in order to receive his inheritance in full.  Skeptical and frustrated, Joey decides to play along with the will’s demands and suddenly find himself enjoying life in a whole new way.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

To put it frankly, the once respectable Ultimate Gift saga has been #Hallmarked.  The only positive aspects of this entire film is the decent camera work and video quality.  Otherwise, it’s all a wash.  The film is plagued by choppy and rushed editing, as disoriented viewers are taken on a roller coaster ride from one high point to the next.  The sets and surroundings are severely limited, rivaling Hidden Secrets for how long a random collection of unrelated characters can hang around a house together and be united by completing projects related to said house.  The sound quality is average and the soundtrack is typical Hallmark.  In short, corners were obviously cut in order for this made-for-television film to happen.  There is literally no justification for it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Anything that was bad about The Ultimate Life has been taken to new lows.  Ultimate Legacy is the most obviously ridiculous stupid rip off of an original film in the history of Christian film.  Peppered with childish references to Gift and overt copycat concepts of the first installment, Legacy makes for a sadly comedic experience.  The movie is based on an unrealistic premise of people hanging around a house with nothing better to do than devote all of time to another unusual inheritance project.  Legacy is also based entirely on legal and ethical issues by shoehorning Jason Stevens into the plot, who should have no business whatsoever in the Anderson inheritance case.  A perpetually angry character later chides a fellow character for not adhering to attorney-client privilege.  The irony!  Speaking of characters, they are either empty shells from better movies gone by or useless and unexplained caricatures driven by empty and amateurish dialogue.  Other dialogue consists of isolating architectural lingo and the plastic insertion of a trite Christian message.  The plot has no direction whatsoever except to poorly mimic as much of Gift as possible through a rushed and choppy timeline.  The ending is beyond silly and follows Hallmark’s latest habit of departing from typical inspirational conventions to exchange them for empty fluff.  To sum this disaster up, forcing a third movie installment to occur should never happen, especially when it’s built entirely off of overtly and badly copying the original idea.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Hallmark brings with them their typical casting baggage: overdone makeup and zero coaching.  The actors and actresses from previous installments are painfully forced into this film and are joined by a new head-scratching cast that doesn’t seem to know why they are there.  Line delivery is lazy for the older cast members and forced for others.  Emotions are overblown by some, while others seem dazed and confused the whole time.  In short, no thought or effort was put into this casting job.

Conclusion

If Hallmark and PureFlix wanted to be partners in crime for the destruction of a film legacy (pun intended), they could have done so without forcibly inserting previously better characters into their creation.  At least let us leave those characters in a more palatable place (I never thought those words would describe The Ultimate Life) rather than drag them down into Christian movie Sheol (look it up).  The legacy (yes, I did it again) of Jim Stovall’s creative ideas is forever marred by two film conglomerates who now make money off of trolling their audiences.  The best thing we can do now is pretend like Life and Legacy never happened and remember better days, such as the original Hall of Fame movie The Ultimate Gift.  One day we hope that inspirational film giants such as Hallmark and PureFlix will no longer be able to get away with such unethical activity as this film.

 

Final Rating: .5 point out of 10 points

The Ultimate Life (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jason Stevens has inherited his grandfather’s massive fortune, but he has lost his way in life.  He is successful at putting the money to good use helping others, but he seems to never have any time for his longtime girlfriend Alexia, who he does not realize has plans of her own.  On top of this, Jason’s family is suing him for the family fortune.  When he wakes up one day and suddenly finds Alexia has left the country, he doesn’t know what to do.  Therefore, he goes to his old friend Hamilton, who produces the diary of Jason’s grandfather so Jason can learn from his grandfather’s mistakes before he repeats them.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The video quality is clear, but unfortunately, that’s all that can be said for the production of The Ultimate Life.  The sound quality varies depending on the type of scene.  The camera work is also very random—sometimes good and sometimes shaky.  The sets and locations are pretty good and fairly historically accurate, but some of them are unprofessionally presented.  Perhaps the worst part is the editing.  It is already difficult enough to transpose a past plotline onto a present day plotline, but The Ultimate Life comes off as very choppy and hard to follow.  The scenes are all over the place, sometimes depicting a vague World War II battle and sometimes depicting an awkward 1940s high school (the actors seem too old for high school though) dance.  The bottom line is that where the resources were available to make this a successful movie, they were not utilized.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This plot is meant to be another book adaptation, but it is nothing like the book that bears the same name.  However, there wasn’t really much to work with in the book anyway.  In this film, the life of Red Stevens is displayed at breakneck speed, thus not allowing any time for character development.  While this could have been a very interesting tale of success, decline, and corruption, the story sputters along like an old car.  It seems like multiple different movie ideas were spliced together into one, since the story hops along through time, only hitting the highlights and those moments that can be easily connected to the first installment in the series.  The dialogue is mindless, and thus, the characters are empty.  The only good thing to highlight here is that this plot had potential—the story of Red Stevens is not necessarily a happy one, but it could have been used as an example of how to handle success and how to put family first.  But beyond this, there is nothing to say except that it seems like, rather than actually craft a meaningful plot to showcase an interesting topic, the crew thought up a whole bunch of tongue in cheek references to the more successful Ultimate Gift and transposed it on a post-Depression era backdrop.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The actors and actresses are given no help.  Therefore, the line delivery is very forced and no emotional expression is authentic.  It seems like this cast could have been better than they are in this film, but nothing materializes.  As a side note, it is difficult to cast multiple actors for one character across a timespan, but The Ultimate Life handles this pretty well.  But unfortunately, that is the only good thing to mention.

Conclusion

The Ultimate Gift was a great film, and it is understandable why a prequel was requested.  There was a lot of good content that could have been covered.  Red Stevens’ character arc could have been showcased.  The Ultimate Life could have been a great film, but ‘could have’ is not a winning phrase.  After the success of Gift, Life had no excuses to be so poor, but it did.  This is unfortunate, and The Ultimate Life joins a long line of Christian films that could have been.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

The Ultimate Gift (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jason Stevens has always had everything he ever wanted—at least everything that money could buy.  Growing up in a successful oil dynasty, he has never seen anything but money, fakeness, and broken relationships.  So when his patriarchal grandfather dies and the family gossip turns to who will get the largest share of the family fortune, Jason is uninterested and aimless in life.  However, his world takes a unexpected turn when his father’s lawyer informs him that he is the one who is to inherit the largest portion of the fortune—if he can pass a series of seemingly eccentric tests designed to help Jason learn what is most important in life.  As a result, Jason is forced to look at who he really is and what God really wants from him.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

The production crew of The Ultimate Gift showed true talent in this film.  The camera work is excellent, including video quality and angles.  The sets and locations are quite varied.  The story is supposed to take place in at least two different countries, and this feat is pulled of well.  The editing is great considering the fact that there is a lot of content in this film that could have cheesily been strung together.  The series of gifts is not choppy and comes off naturally.  In short, there are no production errors.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

As previously mentioned, it must have been hard to weave this type of content together into a clean plot line.  Screenwriter Cheryl McKay actually improved Jim Stovall’s book in this adaptation, building on the characters and the storyline and making it more palatable.  Dialogue is not forgotten in this miniature epic, even though it is concise.  There are several interesting plot twists and things do not turn out as most inspirational plots would.  Comedy and realistic drama are mixed well throughout.  The only concerns to raise here are that some of the characters are slightly shallow and stereotypical.  Otherwise, the plot content is very strong.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The Ultimate Gift cast is made up of mostly mainstream and professional actors, but they do the job well.  They have obviously been coached well.  Each one is appropriate in their roles and does the best with what they have.  In short, there are once again no errors here.

Conclusion

While The Ultimate Gift is not a perfect film, it is certainly high on the list.  It deals with a very unique topic in a very unique way.  It would have been easy for the movie format to come off as amateurish, but this does not happen.  One caveat is that there is not an explicit Christian message, but there are plenty of Christian values displayed.  In short, this film is not only an enjoyable view, but it should also serve as a great example to anyone who wants to create an independent Christian film in the future.

 

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points