The Theory of Everything [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Doug Holloway’s charter plane business is struggling, and his marriage is strained by busyness.  On top of all of this, he receives word that his biological father is having medical complications and may be ruled psychologically incompetent.  When Doug arrives at his father’s house, he discovers that he is half-crazy and is obsessed with solving his theory of the universe before he dies so that he can know whether or not God exists.   Will he find out before it’s too late for him?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Theory of Everything begins as a very rough production, including some unusually crazy camera work and strangely poor lighting.  There are also some odd sound effects and an odd soundtrack.  Another strange element is the unusual use of overlaid and disorienting audio throughout.  This goes without mentioning the wild cuts and transitions that make for a confusing experience.  However, the good thing is that there is production improvement throughout, even though it has a lot of strange elements in the beginning.  These factors are hard to overlook, but at least the production becomes more palatable as it goes on.  Ultimately, it is an average production that needs some further work.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The best thing you can say for this plot is that it is trying to be different.  However, in doing so, it is too confusing.  It includes random Christmas elements and a lot of other random ideas that need severe organization.  At times, there are far too many things going on at once.  Thus, the story tends to lack focus and overall purpose.  The characters begin flat, but they do become more realistic as the story finds a better focus in the second half.  For the most part, dialogue is fine.  However, despite the improvement near the end, things become too rushed, which is a product of the whirlwind beginning.  In the end, it comes off as an incomplete idea in need of some serious direction and reorganization.  While this was a creative idea, unfortunately, it needs a major rewrite in order to become understandable.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Like the other elements of this film, the acting begins a bit raw and under-coached, yet it shows definite improvement as it goes on.  The cast members settle into their roles better as the movie progresses, even though there are some annoying arguing sequences.  Yet for the most part, emotions are realistic and line delivery is on point, thus rounding out an above average section.

Conclusion

Regardless, this film cannot shake its rocky start, and it thus falls short of what it could be.  However, these ideas are good enough to be used in a different context, with better production quality and a more organized storyline.  Thus, The Theory of Everything joins the ranks of films that are almost there and are thus in need a remake or a redo.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

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Slamma Jamma (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Michael Diggs was a college basketball star before he was dragged into a crime and framed for the murder.  After spending six years in prison, he has come back home to find his brother wayward and his mother in poor health.  His former girlfriend has also moved on.  Thus, Michael sets out to make an honest living and try to put his family back together, but he meets a group of street basketball players who convince him to try out for a slam dunk competition.  Michael decides to go for it, especially when a crisis hits home that forces him to rely on his faith to make it through.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In a shocking break from Timothy Chey’s past production disasters, Slamma Jamma, though less funded that train wrecks like Final: The Rapture or David and Goliath, is on par with industry standards.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all professional.  The soundtrack is effective, though it is sometimes too in-your-face.  Sets, locations, and props are highly realistic.  The only real issue holding this production back is the terrible editing.  There are too many disconnected scenes and sequences that make for a very choppy viewing experience.  Sometimes scenes abruptly and unnecessarily transition to another, even if it seems unfinished.  Needless to say, some editing kinks still need to be worked out, but this is a huge improvement for Chey and makes us wonder how this even happened, given his history.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Slamma Jamma is a typical marketable true story sports plot where all of the characters fit into perfect molds and follow predictable trajectories.  While this is a pedestrian idea for the market, it is an extreme departure for Chey, which suggests a need for funding.  Gone are constant bizarre and manic references to Chey’s wacky worldview as they are replaced with stereotypical inspirational sports constructs.  However, it is an interesting and engaging true story, even though its large amount of content is crammed into a confining runtime that likely does not do the original story justice.  While the characters are somewhat accessible, they are not developed enough as time speeds by.  The whole storyline is too neat and pre-planned, which is completely uncharacteristic of Chey.  But hey, everybody’s gotta start somewhere.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Unlike past psychotic casts (see Suing the Devil), this cast is actually semi-professional and seems to know what they are doing.  Some acting coaching is present, even though there are still a handful of very over-acted sequences.  But on the whole, emotional and line delivery are very respectable.  One thing is for sure: you never know what’s going to happen next with Chey.

Conclusion

When compared to past Chey works, Slamma Jamma is a major improvement, which shows just how bad it was for him at one point.  Now he needs to move away from market predictability and flex those creative muscles he claims to have.  It’s time to do something different, only the right way, and without blowing millions of dollars on north African field trips.  If Chey can harness his creativity responsibility, mute his worldview, and surround himself with a good team as he did in Slamma Jamma, he might become the most surprising film maker yet.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

The Wager [2007] (Movie Review)

Creepy……..

Plot Summary

Michael Steele, a major movie star, slowly finds his life changing and being turned upside down as he tries to live the way he feels a Christian should live.  Nothing seems to work out and things only seem to get harder as he tries more to do what Jesus would do.  As his friends and coworkers call him crazy and shake their heads at what he is trying to do, Michael Steele finds himself wavering at times.  Will God really help him endure what he is going through?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

If one good thing can be said for this unusual production, it’s that time and money were definitely spent on the sets, locations, and props.  However, not much else positive can be highlighted.  Camera work is quite shaky and video quality is quite grainy.  The soundtrack is bad enough without forcing us to listen to Randy Travis attempt to sing.  Also, there are a number of annoyingly bizzare special effects throughout, including constant flashing that seems to be unfriendly to the epileptic.  Finally, editing is poorly done, thus leaving the film too choppy and punctuated.  In the end, to be a film of this profile, production should have been far better than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Based on a novel by Bill Myers, this really is not the best book plot that could have been chosen to be placed on the big screen.  The plot structure is quite unusual and includes confusing flashbacks that don’t serve much purpose.  There is not real plot content as the story hops from one thing to the next.  The characters therein are very one-dimensional.  Unfortunately, this includes a strawman portrayal of non-Christian characters and a squeaky clean portrayal of Christian characters.  While there is some semblance of a good message lost in translation, all the problems of this story are fixed far too easily, thus making it all seem very trite and plastic.  In short, this movie was written for a vague idea that never materialized.

Acting Quality (1 point)

After watching The Wager, one has to wonder why Randy Travis is ever cast in a movie.  What exactly good acting qualities does he bring to the table.  But hey, on the bright side, this film contains Candace Cameron Bure’s best role to date, surprisingly enough.  Other cast members, such as Nancy Stafford, are not all that bad, but there is a lot of negative here that detracts from the positive—mostly pertaining to Randy Travis.

Conclusion

What is to be accomplished by these sorts of films?  With half-efforts evident in all three categories, what did the creators expect?  Do people expect that they can just barely try to put a movie together and then it will just be fine since it’s a Christian movie?  Thankfully, we are seeing less and less of these types of films today, so films like The Wager can provide a major lesson to today’s film makers: ‘big name’ cast members and writers do not automatically make for a great movie.  Great Christian movies take true effort and care and are unfortunately hard to come by.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

The Moment After 2: The Awakening (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After the Rapture, the inevitable one world government materialized and began rounding up the Christians when they wouldn’t take the mark of the beast.  Thus, Christians began to form groups in secret to protect each other from the new one world order.  Former FBI agent Adam Riley, now a resistor, escapes from captivity and sets out to find the truth about the Christians in hiding.  His former partner Charles Baker is also called back to serve the one world order and to search for the elusive Jacob Krause.  As their paths cross once again, choices will be made that will affect them forever.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Awakening is a slight improvement from the first Moment After installment.  Camera work is the most marked improvement, as action scenes are shot better.  Sets and locations are also improved to give the film a bit more of a realistic feel.  Audio quality is fine, but video quality is slightly inconsistent.  Some scenes are not lit as well as others.  The soundtrack is just average.  However, the editing has its positive elements as the story seems to unfold.  In the end, this is an average production, but something is still missing.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Awakening has strong comparisons to Revelation Road and could be considered its predecessor.  As such, there are some intriguing elements in The Awakening, but it’s still not a very dynamic story.  Slightly more effort was put into the complexity of this installment than in the first one, and there is an interesting twist near the end, but there isn’t really much else good to say here.  The characters are still empty and the plot is filled with too many boring and meandering conversations.  The villains are quite cheesy and the apocalyptic elements are, as usual, manufactured.  Also, this film is inevitably continued into nothing, like many apocalyptic efforts after it, thus making the overall story very empty and pointless.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This acting performance is much the same as the first installment, just with an extra dose of Andrea Logan White in all her usual stiffness.  David A. R. White and Kevin Downes are also their usual selves with random outbursts and fake action-guy demeanors.  Brad Heller surprisingly remains sane throughout the film.  Overall, this is just another below-average performance.

Conclusion

Why start a series you never intend to finish?  This incident was not isolated to The Moment After series; the Whites and company repeated this again with Jerusalem Countdown, In the Blink of an Eye, and possibly The Mark series as well.  The fate of Revelation Road is still unknown, but the bottom line is that if you keep starting and never finishing the same apocalyptic plots over and over again, there’s a problem.  Rather than constantly flooding the market with half-ideas, how about finishing what you start and actually delivering something original for a change?

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

The Moment After 1 (Movie Review)

The old days

Plot Summary

In one moment, millions disappear and in the next moment, millions are left to wonder what just happened.  As the government tries to sort out the pieces, they send out FBI agents to investigate those left behind (haha).  Adam Riley and Charles Baker are just the agents for the job and they soon become caught up in an intrigue involving trying to find a mysterious former Jewish rabbi who seems to have special powers.  In the end, which path will they choose as the world descends into chaos?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Made in the late 1990s, The Moment After 1 has considerable production deficits.  Though video quality is decent and audio quality is okay throughout, there is a lot to be desired here.  Sets and locations are pedestrian and action camera shots are not what they should be.  The soundtrack is also very standard.  There is really no editing present as the plot slogs from one thing to the next.  In the end, this is just another below average production that does not live up to full standard.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Another year, another carbon-copy apocalyptic film.  Likely a precursor to every unfinished PureFlix apocalyptic idea (Jerusalem Countdown, In the Blink of an Eye, and the Revelation Road series), The Moment After 1 really has nothing to offer.  Empty characters, stock dialogue, and a predictable apocalyptic progression.  Rapture, fallout, Christian explanations and lingo, government takeover, blah, blah, blah.  This film offers nothing special and adds nothing to Christian entertainment.  It’s inevitably continued and offers no real surprises as Kevin Downes and David A. R. White interview a bunch of people about stuff.  Basically, if you watched any of the above mentioned films, you’ve probably seen this one.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though Brad Heller posts a better performance than usual, David A. R. White and Kevin Downes are their usual action-here-wannabe selves.  Though there are no truly embarrassing performances, there are no dynamic ones either.  Line delivery and emotions are below average and don’t really inspire.  Like the rest of film, this is just unimpressive.

Conclusion

Apparently there was a point in Christian film when creators thought the only action or suspense plots that could be made had to involved the Rapture and another apocalyptic lingo and concepts.  The LaHaye pre-tribulation theory has been conceptualized in film too many times to count, and the The Moment After 1 simply adds to the pile.  There is simply nothing interesting to note in this film and you’re definitely not missing anything.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Unidentified [2006] (Movie Review)

Strange invaders…

Plot Summary

Keith and Brad work for a magazine that is more prominent its own mind and when they are sent by their supervisor to investigate some UFO claims in some obscure small town in Texas, they can’t believe it.  They think it’s all pointless, especially when the locals refuse to talk about the sightings.  But when their friend Darren invites them to take a different look at the UFO phenomena, their whole world is turned upside down.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Sometimes the Christiano brothers put together a respectable production, but not in Unidentified.  The okay camera work is the only positive quality to speak of.  The video quality is quite cheap and there are too many cheesy special effects littering the film.  Though the plot goes all over the country, the sets and locations are fairly limited and mostly focus on the office set.  Finally, the editing is extremely choppy in a failed attempt to be dramatic.  In short, there are not enough redeeming qualities to make up for the rest of the nonsense in this movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

The Christiano brothers might as well have not even tried to make this a fiction plot, because it’s mainly a docu-drama filled with regurgitated UFO documentary talking points.  There are tons of disjointed subplots that are nearly impossible to follow and that are based entirely on coincidences.  Things happen because they need to as the dialogue is filled with information dumps and consists of long and drawn out conversations.  There is also tons of off-screen content.  A clear agenda is being pushed here, placing this plot in the propaganda category.  Even though there may be some truth to what is being said here, it comes off as disingenuous and is mostly clouded with legalism.  As usual, opposing worldviews are treated offensively, thus warranting negative points.  Finally, this film has the weirdest end since Decision that you have to see to believe.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Except for a few small positive elements, this cast is very unprofessional.  It’s not only a very awkward cast, but they are not coached very well at all.  Their line delivery and emotional delivery are overly practiced and robotic.  Some cast members come off as lofty.  In short, this rounds out a very embarrassing effort.

Conclusion

It is clear that the Christiano brothers have a legalistic agenda to push both in this film and in others like Time Changer and A Matter of Faith.  The sad thing is that spiritual issues like the ones alluded to in Unidentified need to be discussed on Christian film, yet people like the Christianos are the only ones who seem to do this, and always in the wrong way.  There is some truth to the UFO phenomena, but no one is going to learn it from this film.  Unidentified only serves to further solidify a Pharisaical and sometimes bizarre image in Christian film, especially Christian sci-fi, which is a needed genre.  Who will stand up to reverse this trend?

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Six: The Mark Unleashed (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In a film market far, far away, before the birth of PureFlix Productions, David A. R. White, Kevin Downes, and Stephen Baldwin (with a cameo from ‘Logan White’) all teamed up to create an apocalyptic film to remember.  This movie was unlike any other and focused on the hard-hitting topic of…the daily ins and outs of a futuristic men’s prison?  Caught in the grip a dictatorial international government and threatened with death in three weeks if they don’t take the Mark of the Beast, the men of the prison are…allowed to walk around however they please and write Bible stuff on the walls?  Busted for smuggling illegal stuff like painkillers and old movies to Eric Roberts and for stealing a pizza, Downes and White are forced to spend their three weeks in a cheesy looking set with a group of Christian prisoners who draw Christian-themed stuff on the walls of the prison without punishment.  Will they ever escape or will they be forced to take the Mark?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Watching Six: The Mark Unleashed is a surreal experience.  We can’t even believe this thing exists.  Everything about it feels like one big joke.  The fingerprints of Downes and White are all over this one, from the cheesy sets to the poor camera work to the bad lighting.  They went so overboard trying to look futuristic that it comes off as a Star Trek knockoff.  Are we really supposed to believe that the future of the world is peppered with Star Trek wardrobes and buildings?  What’s more, there is no coherent thought to the editing, as a vast majority of the ‘plot’ takes place in a giant concrete box billed as a prison.  Any other elements are completely isolating, as will be discussed next.  In short, this is nothing short of a production disaster, one that should have never been funded.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As Downes and White bumble their way through this ‘plot’, many characters are introduced and then quickly discarded with no explanation.  Vague concepts are constantly referred to that isolate the audience.  After being arrested and spending tons of time in the prison reading stuff off of darkly lit walls and talking to mysteriously creepy Baldwin, Downes and White employ absurd tactics to escape the freakishly bald Brad Heller, such as hacking using Tommy Blaze keyboard gymnastics and calling on an enigmatic figure to help them get to ‘the walled city’.  But never fear, for Brad Heller’s ‘spiritual bloodhounds’ are quick on their tails.  Do you get the picture of how ridiculous this ‘plot’ is?  By the end of the movie, there are more questions than answers.  What’s the deal with that one prisoner who sometimes acts as a double agent?  What ever happened to Eric Roberts’ smuggling business?  How did the people in the tent city escape the dictatorial rule?  Who’s Rahab and where did she come from and why do we care?  Why is Brad Heller wearing so much eye makeup?  Yet in the wake of all of this, the prologue and the epilogue of the film actually demonstrate a stroke of creative genius; they are likely the reason why this horrifying mess was even made in the first place.  It’s just too bad that they get lost in the swamp of nonsense.  In short, it is extremely unclear what type of message is supposed to be conveyed in this film, as the plot is very disjointed and schizophrenic.  Stuff like this makes you wonder how White and Downes ever made it anywhere in filmmaking.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It’s no surprise that the acting of this film is just ridiculous.  Emotions are extremely awkward and too many cast members are trying to be mysterious action heroes.  No coaching is employed as line delivery is forced and disingenuous.  Some lines are horribly slurred and annunciation is inconsistent.  Basically, no effort was put into acting, just like the rest of the movie.

Conclusion

Is any movie viewer supposed to take this film seriously?  It’s so absurd and out of touch that I would be embarrassed to recommend it to someone or even admit that it is supposed to be a Christian film.  What is gained from this level of immaturity?  Are we supposed to applaud the effort lest we be condemned for persecuting Christians or for not standing with ‘our own’?  Are Christian films allowed to be however poor quality they wish yet still be promoted in Christian circles?  We say no.  The line must be drawn somewhere.  Someone must hold filmmakers who claim the name of Christ to a higher standard if we ever expect to impact the field for Him.  Otherwise, we’re just talking to ourselves about the good things we do and making money off of it while the world looks on in disgust and\or confusion.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Jerusalem Countdown: A Prelude to Armageddon (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nuclear weapons have been smuggled into America, and FBI agent Shane Daughtry and his team have been ordered to find them before they are detonated.  They must reluctantly collaborate with an old weapons dealer, a corrupt CIA director, and an ex-Muslim spy in order to find the dangerous contraband before America and Israel are blown off the map.  Little do they know is that their true hope lies in a Jewish researcher who has come by valuable information about his mysterious next door neighbor.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The good video quality is the only positive element to mention.  Otherwise, this movie is barely watchable.  The cheap action scenes are unbearable and poorly executed.  The camera angles are below par and the musical score is what one can expect from such a film as this.  The editing is as maddening as the jumpy action sequences.  CGI and special effects are very C-grade.  Nothing can compare with the incessant John Hagee product placements as the audience is spoon-fed his controversial views on eschatology and international politics.  Unfortunately, the negativity doesn’t end here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It doesn’t really seem like David A. R. White and company really did any research on the inner workings of government organizations or the true nature of terrorists when they were planning this movie.  The way that the plot unfolds is so unrealistic that it feels like a comic book.  Leaps in logic and plot holes litter the landscape.  The ways that the characters proceed forward with ‘leads’ is absurd.  Searching the internet for ‘Iran Shipping Ltd’ and then snooping around in a house they own to see whether or not they have nuclear weapons probably takes the cake, but it’s not to be topped by a librarian assisting FBI agents in a confidential case.  Every character is a ridiculous caricature and not believable.  The only consolation is that this is an apocalyptic plot that doesn’t take place on an airplane, but that’s not saying much.

Acting Quality (0 points)

We are convinced that PureFlix believes that if you have enough action scenes in a movie, you don’t need to coach the actors.  Such is the case in Jerusalem Countdown.  The delivery of lines is lackadaisical and emotions are lackluster.  So-called interrogation scenes are forced and awkward.  In short, there is little to nothing good to say about this film.

Conclusion

Is this movie supposed to have a sequel?  We certainly hope not, but ending the movie the way it does suggests that this film was only created to push John Hagee’s unusual worldview.  Movies in the action adventure, suspense, and apocalyptic genres can be used to reach audiences outside of the church, but when films like Jerusalem Countdown crowd out the field and water it down.  The next time an unbeliever hears about a Christian action film, they may only think of movies like this one and roll their eyes, as we do.  We implore Christian film-makers everywhere to learn from the mistakes of movies such as this one and not repeat them.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points