A Strange Brand of Happy (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

David Weathersby has no clear direction in life, especially after being fired from his job by his hotshot boss, who is impressed with himself.  He feels like he doesn’t have any purpose and decides to languish away, so his roommate decides to introduce him to a random life coach he ran into so David can find a fresh purpose for himself.  But this introduction only creates a problematic love triable between David, his old boss, and the life coach.  Will this silliness ever be resolved?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In a change from previous Rebel Pilgrim productions, such as Hope Bridge and the awful Fenced Off, A Strange Brand of Happy at least has an above-average production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine.  The soundtrack is a bit silly, however, and there is some odd soft lighting throughout.  There are also a lot of cheesy animated interludes that give the movie a juvenile feel.  Also, a lot of the sets are relatively limited, as well as the props, and there are no real locations.  Finally, editing is just average and contributes to a slightly above-average, but not quite all-the-way-there production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Full of cheesy and quirky characters, this story is just a childish romantic ‘comedy’ based on a silly and manufactured love triangle.  Nearly all the humor is very forced and dry and is thus not funny.  There is too much pointless goofiness throughout, including silliness for the sake of being silly.  At times, this story feels like a joke, and it contains some very vague Christian themes.  With no real direction or purpose, this plot is just a bunch of random content assembled in a formulaic and predictable fashion, with a side of weird edgy elements and a very strange tone throughout.  Any meaning that is tried to be inserted at the end is too little too late, thus making for mostly a waste of time.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast is very stiff and wooden in their delivery, as well as awkward.  There is definitely not enough coaching here, although there are some good moments to note.  However, there is a lot of odd makeup work throughout, as well as some unnecessary yelling throughout.  In the end, this rounds out an overall low-average and basically low-effort film.

Conclusion

Rebel Pilgrim certainly knows how to make a strange brand of movies.  What exactly are they going for?  They’ve attempted the dramatic emotional exploration in Hope Bridge and the stupid comedies in Fenced Off and A Strange Brand of Happy, but what do they really have to show for it?  They also present a strange brand of Christianity in their films, so perhaps the title of this movie is not by accident.  Are they actually just trolling like The Asylum to see what some money they can make off of their efforts?  Your guess is as good as ours.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Fenced Off (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Josh and Anne has recently moved into a new house in a neighborhood that is considered ‘the hood’.  While Anne is away on a short business trip, Josh tries to settle into the house before beginning his new job, but he cannot help being unnerved by the surroundings.  He is seemingly the only white guy in the neighborhood, and he keeps thinking he is witnessing crimes occurring around him.  In order to cope with his new life, Josh will have to decide whether or not he believes in stereotypes or if he is going to love his neighbor.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Fenced Off is obviously a very cheap production.  The sets are very limited and the camera work is terrible, sometimes showing very tight shots and other times showing cutoff shots.  The sound quality is inconsistent and there are a lot of cheap music montages that cover up the need for a boom mic.  The video quality is at least clear, but the editing is bad.  Granted, there is an iota of content to work with, so it is difficult to know what they were supposed to do.  In short, based on the production quality alone, Fenced Off should have been rejected in the early stages or sent back for a makeover.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

There is only a small amount of potential in this plot, since it tries to deal with race relations and stereotypes.  However, in doing so, it seems to reinforce stereotypes and make a joke out of real life struggles.  It is hard to discern whether or not Fenced Off is an overt comedy.  Sometimes it seems like a sick satire.  The dialogue is grade school level and a majority of the movie is focused on Josh wandering around his house and property, pretending to do yard work, having childish phone conversations, getting a car wash, and yes—trying to cook meat.  The conversations between the retired couple next door have little to no point and are grasping for meaning.  There is also some edgy content that is misplaced and unwelcome.  In summary, while it is noble to try to talk about racial stereotypes and collaborations in a small scale plot, Fenced Off never finds the point and needed a severe rewrite from the beginning, since it seems like this is a rough draft that accidentally got recorded.

Acting Quality (0 points)

There is no good acting in this film, absolutely none, only awkward and forceful delivery.  Many lines seem impromptu and most of the actors seem unsure of how to perform simple everyday tasks like yard work and cooking meat.  One actress in particular seems to be making a joke of the movie since it seems like she is always trying not to laugh.  Some actors poorly mimic the racial stereotypes this movie is trying to speak out against.  It appears as though the actors were just handed a vague script and told to follow it however they wished since they were only going to do one cut per scene.

Conclusion

Fenced Off is an idea that needed a lot more brainstorming and thought put into it before it left the proverbial roundtable of discussion.  We have seen time and time again filmmakers who claim the name of Christ decide to just quickly make a cheap and rushed film about an interesting topic without putting any real effort into it.  The issues need to be portrayed, but how are they being portrayed?  In order to make a lasting impact, time and effort must be put into the movie’s production.  Otherwise, it’s just a waste of everybody’s time.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Hope Bridge (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jackson’s life has never been the same ever since his father committed suicide.  Searching for reasons why, he begins examining his late father’s belongings and begins to go to the places he went in order to discover his father’s secret double life.  In order to do this, he teams up with a girl he met in the office of his new psychologist.  Their journey takes them further than they ever expected as they discover a terrible family secret that could bring healing if reckoned with.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the production quality of Hope Bridge almost renders it unwatchable.  The camera work is very poor; the camera angles confuse the audience and the video quality is grainy.  The sets, in an assumed attempt to be realistic, are sloppy in their construction.  The editing is questionable, since some scenes repeat over again for no particular reason and since some scenes cut back and forth with no warning or meaning.  Any good elements in a movie can be greatly detracted from by poor production quality; such is the case with Hope Bridge.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Hope Bridge is a noble attempt to present the important issue of suicide in a meaningful way.  However, the attempt falls flat.  The plot is very vanilla and not dynamic at all.  The dialogue is head-scratching and un-compelling.  All the characters seem perpetually somber and appear generally lifeless.  Too much time is spent ‘investigating’ in night clubs and driving around and not enough time is spent developing the characters or presenting the issues in a palatable manner.  Furthermore, the few elements related to psychology and counseling are incorrect and misleading.  Were more correct elements included in regards to mental health counseling, this plot could have improved.  As it is, the only positive about the plot is its noteworthy attempt to discuss suicide and generational patterns.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While the actors did not have much dialogue to work with, the delivery of the lines is facepalm-worthy.  Some of the actors seem aloof and detached from the story while some seem mired in self-pity.  Believable emotion is absent.  One actor in particular seems to make sarcastic jokes out of everything—Box Office Revolution is unsure whether or not she is making fun of the movie or if she is just an awkward actor.  In short, the acting is another element that can make or break a movie with most audiences, and Hope Bridge does not pass the test.

Conclusion

Suicide is a very important subject that does need to be portrayed in Christian movies.  The same can be said for mental health and generational patterns.  While Hope Bridge tries to incorporate these issues into the movie, all that ends up happening is the creation of another low-quality Christian movie, thus a disservice to the Christian cause.  BOR realizes that everyone has meager beginnings, but they should not include unintentional detraction from Christianity.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points