The Farmer and the Belle: Saving Santaland (Movie Review)

Movie – The Farmer and The Belle

Plot Summary

Belle Winters is a model who’s been told that she’s aging out of the business. Thus, she decides to revisit a place from her childhood to find the secret to true beauty, which she believes was found on a bracelet she left behind. However, when she returns, she once again crosses paths with the pen pal she thought forgot about her. In seeing him again, what Belle finds is unexpected.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Despite being average, The Farmer and the Belle isn’t quite good enough for a 2020 production. Video and audio quality are good, and sets, locations, and props are acceptable. However, camera work is randomly shaky at times. The generic soundtrack is sometimes too obvious for the situations it’s played in. Editing is quite choppy as some scenes cut off prematurely. Nonetheless, there’s some improvement as the film goes on, but it’s still just run-of-the-mill.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Surprisingly, this plot begins with good attempts to develop character motive via a flashback prologue. Though the often-expository dialogue leaves a lot to be desired, there’s actually a basic narrative focus, including obvious themes albeit slightly juvenile ones. The tongue-in-cheek comedy is sometimes funny and sometimes not. At times, things happen simply because the writers want them to, and convenient turns transpire simply to suit the story’s purposes. The middle of the plot wastes a lot of time, seemingly kicking the can down the road, and a few sequences seem too staged and forced to exist. Overall, there is some potential in this section, but the contrived nature of the narrative and the lack of strong characters holds it back from being all that it could be.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Due to the back and forth nature of this section, the final score comes out as average. At times, the acting is professional while other times, it isn’t. Line delivery and emotions are overall inconsistent. Some scenes are more dramatic than others, but it’s not all bad. In the end, this mixed bag caps off an mostly underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

Movies like Saving Santaland are neither bad enough to be remembered nor good enough to be upheld. In the end, this screenplay is likely to fall into the same bin with other forgettable Christmas offerings that clamor for the attention of audiences. It’s definitely possible that holiday films are more likely to be viewed, so why not give the watchers something to remember rather than forget?

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Believe: The Misfit Pawn (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Julian is stuck in a job he doesn’t like, so he and his buddy decide to start recording their own songs and doing their own shows.  They get popular locally and gain some ground in the local show business.  Julian meets his new girlfriend at a bar, and she introduces him to a ‘big’ record label producer that puts Julian’s gig on the map.  However, they fall on hard times and Julian is forced to get a day job to support him and his girlfriend after she gets pregnant.  Julian soon finds out the hard way what the show business really expects from him, and he’s not sure if he’s willing to make the hard choice he has to make.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Believe: The Misfit Pawn is a mostly cheap production; it seems like it was filmed in people’s houses and yards.  Camera work is low quality, and video quality is inconsistent.  There are one too many dark scenes, and audio quality is marginal at best.  The ‘original’ soundtrack is vanilla and too loud at times.  As previously mentioned, sets, locations, and props are fairly limited and uncreative.  Finally, the editing is okay, but it’s really nothing to write home about.  Overall, this production is just one of those throwaway pieces that will easily be forgotten.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s very difficult to quantify the true purpose or point of this so-called story.  The plot summary is written as incoherently as the movie is written.  The Christian message is very muted, and a lot of the elements included are just offbeat.  The characters are very empty, and dialogue is extremely uninspiring.  Many of the scenes appear to be filler content, and there are no real attempts to engage the audience in a meaningful way.  As mentioned before, the storyline muddles around without explaining why we should be watching it or what we are supposed to be getting out of it.  The underlying worldview is a bit unusual, and the ending really doesn’t make much sense at all.  In the end, this story is purposeless and not worth your time.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With such a small cast, every little error is more obvious.  While there are some good moments with this cast that keep this section from being zero, there is very little acting coaching evident in this film.  Some lines seem off-the-cuff, and most of the seems appear to be one-takes.  Emotions are average, and this section is basically vanilla and boring.

Conclusion

What is there to do with movies like Believe: The Misfit Pawn?  What does this title even mean?  Why did I watch this movie?  Actually, I watched it because I had some Amazon credits to use up before they expired.  I wanted to check it off the list, so I did.  There’s really no other reason to watch this sort of garbage that’s called a Christian movie.  All we can do now is look forward to the day when movies like this are no longer being put out.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Priceless [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

James never intended to become a bad man, but he slowly slipped into a destructive lifestyle after his wife tragically died.  After losing custody of his daughter and being convicted of crime, James finds himself desperate for cash.  He agrees to help a ‘buddy’ out by hauling unknown cargo across the country to an unknown buyer, no questions asked.  But just before he reaches his destination, curiosity gets the best of him and he breaks the lock to see what is inside the box truck he has been driving for days.  Inside, he finds two young women in squalid condition and is faced with the ultimate moral choice: does he complete the job for the cash or does he break protocol and face consequences?

 

Production Quality (3 points)

It is refreshing and encouraging that there are new Christian film makers coming onto the scene every year to contribute to a growing army of creative minds ready to redeem the field once and for all.  2016 has been a year for many film makers to try to make their mark, but Priceless stands alone from them all, starting with exquisite production quality.  Shot on location (there’s a concept!) with professional camera work and angles, Priceless has all the goods.  Video quality is excellent, including diverse lighting done right.  Audio quality is flawless and the original soundtrack is an epic breath of fresh air.  Sets and locations are extremely realistic; outdoor scenes are executed well.  There are no editing problems.  There are few times we have an opportunity to say this: there are no production errors in this film.  The production is easily one of the best for a rookie effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Unlike the failed Caged No More, which portrays human trafficking in a far-off location away from ‘safe’ America, Priceless shoves the issue in your face—in the middle of small town America and American suburbia.  Though the beginning sequence is a bit rushed and the narration is heavy-handed, there are no errors beyond this.  The flawed character arcs are inspiring; we really feel like we can relate to the struggles of the characters.  Dialogue is effective in building the excellent storyline, as is the use of flashbacks.  The plot itself is very gritty and down to earth; there are no unbelievable elements or plot holes.  The Christian message is neither in-your-face nor muted, but is presented tastefully.  Edgy elements are handled properly.  The creators did all they could do with this plot, including a slight plot twist and an appropriate ending.  In short, except for some minor rookie errors, this is a plot to be proud of.  It not only presents the human trafficking problem to the audience in a realistic way, but it does so with authentic characters and an engaging storyline.  We can’t wait to see more from the Smallbones.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Taking a page from the Kendrick\Erwin playbook, the Smallbone team employed acting coaching and it paid off.  Though the cast is small, they carry the movie well.  In Priceless, Joel Smallbone finally became vindicated for past uninspiring performances that were likely the consequence of poor leadership in those films.  Bianca Santos is a very promising actress for the future.  Emotions are very believable and line delivery is on point.  Costuming is appropriate.  In short, there are no errors here.

Conclusion

Priceless receives an x-factor point for presenting a highly important issue in an exquisite manner.  While watching this film, I was reminded that this is why we do what we do.  Christian film makers who care use their God-given talents to create movies that make a difference in the culture.  Similarly, we feel God has called us to critique the Christian creative so that hopefully the field will improve as a whole.  Enslaved girls is why we do this.  Lost souls is why we do this.  Mobilizing activism is why we do this.  Making a difference is why we do this.  Under such films as Priceless (and other Hall of Fame films) can we unite for a common cause and no longer remember the days of failed low-quality Christian movies.  Budding film makers like Ben Smallbone and his team are lighting the way and giving us hope for a new day in Christian film.  Since this is how he has debuted, we cannot wait to see what he has to offer next.

 

Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points