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

 

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Apocalypse 3: Tribulation (Movie Review)

Creepers…

Plot Summary

Tom Canboro doesn’t believe in God or the supernatural, but his sister does and insists that he should before it’s too late.  However, one day, his brother-in-law begins to go insane, along with other people around the world.  Then Tom falls into a coma and wakes up to an entirely different world.  Everyone is following a world leader and receiving his required mark.  Will Tom turn to God before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Not much about production changes throughout this agonizing series.  Though video quality has finally improved, the film is filled with unwatchable and dizzying action scenes.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is cheesy.  Sets and locations are somewhat limited and there is some poor lighting in certain scenes.  In keeping with the theme of this series, Tribulation is full of more product placements from Jack Van Impe, John Hagee, and even T. D. Jakes for some reason.  Finally, the editing is all over the place and causes a confusing plot development.  In short, though tiny improvements are being made, it’s just not enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This installment is perhaps the most bizarre and sensational as it includes a lot of horror and creepy spiritual elements.  There are a lot of strange and bizarre sequences of violence, including sensationalized demonic activity.  The occult is portrayed in a childish manner yet there is still an obsession with the satanic.  All of this is combined with the forceful and ridiculous apocalyptic worldview that is being propagated in the midst of this madness.  The storyline is very incoherent as it jumps all over the place and fills time with information dump dialogue.  Most of the characters, especially the antichrist, are extreme strawmen and really have no potential.  In short, it feels like this movie was only made for the sensational appeal rather than anything meaningful, and it’s still horrible.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

In keeping with the theme of sensationalism, emotions are over the top and obnoxious.  Line delivery is mostly forced.  While there are some good factors, this cast seems overall disingenuous, especially when one finds out that a handful of these cast members didn’t even know they were in a Christian movie when they agreed to this lunacy.  I guess they should have known that a movie this bad would be labeled as Christian.

Conclusion

Besides everything else, how does this installment fit into the series?  There are some connecting elements, but this ridiculous series as a whole really has no continuity or sense whatsoever.  If PureFlix had been named as a contributor to this mess, I would have believed it.  Constantly pushing TV preacher talking points and products transposed on top of a C-grade horror film is only a recipe for disaster.  Once again, scaring people into Christianity is a failing strategy and only serves to feed someone’s obsession with the sensational.  But don’t worry, there’s only one more of these…

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Apocalypse 2: Revelation (Movie Review)

Bluriness…

Plot Summary

After the Rapture rocks the world and leaves millions of people searching for answers as to what happened, agent Thorold Stone is left searching for his family and wondering why the entire world has suddenly turned against Christians.  The world is also following the bidding of a rising world leader who promises peace to all if the Christians are eliminated.  With chaos ensuing around him, will Stone be able to find the truth he needs?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The second installment of this unfortunate series is much like the first.  There is barely any difference in the production quality of Caught in the Eye of the Storm and Revelation.  Camera work is still shaky and video quality is still blurry.  Special effects are very cheap and out of place.  Audio quality is average, but the soundtrack is loud and annoying.  There is some improvement with the sets, locations, and props, however.  But this film is still replete with Jack Van Impe product placements.  The editing is also poor.  In short, while there is some slight improvement here, it’s not significant.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The Apocalypse series is very thin on plot content and heavy on agenda-pushing.  Much of this film is dedicated to sequences of cheesy and stereotypical sitting around talking with robotic dialogue that is designed to force the plot along.  There’s also a lot of technological mumbo jumbo lingo and a weird obsession with virtual reality devices.  The plot has a predictable apocalyptic\suspense progression and is based on lots of coincidences.  Also, it’s worth nothing that it’s extremely hard to follow the cast of characters that is supposed to be portrayed in this so-called series.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s still difficult to find a justification for this series.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Made in 1999, this cast is far too theatrical.  Jeff Fahey is always a head-scratching cast, since he basically whispers all the time.  Emotions are either flat or overblown and line delivery is stiff.  Unfortunately, nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

Once again I ask, who’s going to watch this movie?  It has nothing going for it whatsoever.  There is no plot and certainly no notable production quality.  The casting is horrible.  Most Christians are and should be offended by this nonsense.  Once again, the world is laughing.  This kind of junk reaches no one and only adds to the caricature of Christian film.  But wait…there’s still more of these…

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

Apocalypse 1: Caught in the Eye of the Storm (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Helen Hannah and Bronson Pearl are two of the world’s top new reporters, but they are about to experience a breaking story like never before—the Rapture has come to the world and everyone left behind is left wondering what happened.  As the world descends into violence and chaos, everyone looks to a new world leader to answer their problems.  But at the same time, this leader turns everyone against those who hold the true hope for humanity—namely, the Christians.  Will Pearl and Hannah find the truth before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

As a production created in 1998, there really isn’t a lot good to say here.  Yet the fact that it was made in this year doesn’t mean it has to be this bad.  Video quality is cheap and camera work is maddening with constant zooming.  Sets, locations, and props are limited and cheesy.  Audio quality is poor with a loud and annoying soundtrack.  Many scenes have poor lighting and look like they were recorded in a closet.  Besides all this, the film is just one giant advertisement for Jack Van Impe, but it’s not even presented well.  With production this bad, nobody’s going to watch this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

I’m sure there is a good message in here somewhere, but with Van Impe propaganda constantly being shoved down your throat and with this plot being so bad, it’s hard to find.  All typical apocalyptic concepts are conveniently inserted and forced into the story in obvious ways as Van Impe finds a way to shove every single one of his beliefs into the plot.  With this going on, there is no real plot as a majority of the story is told through childish news reports.  Character development is non-existent, since dialogue is stunted as the pot rushes along quickly to hit the apocalyptic high points.  Unfortunately, there is really nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To fit with the rest of the film, this acting is very awkward and amateurish.  Line delivery is very measured and forced, while emotions are wooden.  This cast seemed like it had potential, but it was never found.

Conclusion

One can understand a ministry leader’s motivation to get their message and beliefs out there through means of entertainment, but this is just unacceptable.  Combining extremely low quality with propaganda is one of the worst combinations you can make.  While there is somewhat of a gospel presentation at the end of this film, who’s watching it?  Who wants a gospel packaged in this way?  As Christians, we need to move past the whole ‘scaring people with the apocalypse’ convention because it’s not working and people who need to hear the gospel are laughing at this.  But wait, there’s three more of these films…

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Left Behind [2000] (Movie Review)

Kirk Cameron, the early years
Kirk Cameron, the early years

Plot Summary

In an instant, millions vanish all around the world, causing the planet to descend into chaos as planes go down, cars drive into buildings, and unrest erupts everywhere.  Pilot Rayford Steele finds nearly half of his plane’s manifest (haha) missing.  Reporter Buck Williams is on the flight at the time and believes it has something to do with the vast globalist conspiracy he has uncovered.  As order dissipates around the globe and as many theories are posited as to what happened to those who disappeared, those still remaining look for a world leader who can bring global peace to the chaos.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a late 90s\early 2000s production, the original Left Behind film has many of the marks of this era of filmmaking.  Opening credits sequences were common back then, but they weren’t ever justified.  The video quality and camera work are fairly well produced.  However, action scenes are not filmed or produced very well and include poorly crafted CGI and other special effects.  Kirk Cameron provides some slight yet unwanted narration throughout the film.  Elsewhere, location subtitles from JAG are awkwardly inserted and the soundtrack is cheap.  Finally, the editing is pretty good, but as will be discussed next, there is too much content to cover and not enough continuity.  In short, this ‘classic’ Christian film has some good quality, but not enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on the blockbuster apocalyptic fiction series by popular authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, the original Left Behind film is not without its plot errors.  The premise is trumped up, lacking a touch of realism, but this may get a pass since it was based on the international politics of 15+ years ago.  The movie is focused on big world-changing issues, but they come off as simplistic and not groundbreaking enough.  The creators perhaps took on more than they could handle as many subplots are juggled throughout.  While it’s commendable for this early film to take on a new genre in Christian film (apocalyptic), the plot lacks the intrigue necessary to make it great.  For example, there are too many slow and melodramatic scenes—the storyline is anti-climactic and contains to many convenient occurrences.  The dialogue is full of information dumps that overemphasize apocalyptic elements.  This builds empty characters that are swept along by the plot and are thrown together for no particular reason.  On a positive note, the climax scene at the end is slightly interesting and well-crafted.  But overall, this first installment spends too much time getting ready for the next film and not enough time building the characters and a realistic apocalyptic landscape.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Apocalyptic action movies require dynamic acting, but this cast lacks this quality.  Line delivery is stiff and not engaging.  Emotions are overdone and too dramatic.  Kirk Cameron is a better actor than he is of late, but that’s not saying much.  In short, there’s not enough positive here.

Conclusion

This was definitely a groundbreaking Christian film that brought a popular Christian novel series to the big screen.  It was a hit, since the Christian market was starved for quality.  However, this does not mean it was a great film.  It had a lot of good ideas behind it, but not enough quality to back them up.  They had an amazing budget for the time, but it seems like it was mostly squandered.  Needless to say, the old is just marginally better than the new.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 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

 

In the Blink of an Eye [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

David, a detective, stumbles into the vacation of his life when he saves a famous pop star from a hostage situation.  David and his wife Lori, along with David’s partner Larry and his wife Sussette, are invited by the pop star’s boyfriend to spend a lavish weekend with them on their private yacht in the waters of Mexico.  But David quickly sense that something is not quite right with the pop star and her boyfriend.  Yet before he can do anything about it, strange things start happening.  Passengers begin disappearing and David keeps waking up to the same day repeating over and over and over again.  No matter what happens, the day repeats over again and David is the only one who can remember anything about the repeats.  In order to solve the mystery of his life, he must face the faith he has been running from all his life.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

For starters, In the Blink of an Eye has pretty good video and sound quality.  However, that is all that can be said.  The film also contains odd camera angles and confusing editing—this may be due to the odd plot structure, but it is difficult to understand the flow of the movie.  There are also plenty of unnecessary scenes that appear to just fill time.  In addition to this, the movie has limited and cheap sets and costumes, like they spent most of the money on the expensive yacht, cars, and jet skis.  There is also bad makeup work on most of the characters and cheesy apocalyptic special effects.  To make matters worse, John Hagee product placements litter the dialogue.  In short, there is little to be positive about here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This plot has basically no potential.  The premise is very trumped up and most of the plot is filler—nothing dynamic or interesting.  There is plenty of out of place and awkward dialogue; some of the lines seem impromptu.  Thus, the few characters within are mindless and empty.  This sort of plot concept, a day repeating over and over again, has been done before and is almost worn out at this point.  To top things off, the entire plot, including the confusing end, is based on bad theology regarding knowing the exact hour of the Rapture’s occurrence, which is directly contrary to the Scripture verse used at the end of the movie.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

It is commendable to cast David A. R. and Andrea Logan White together as husband and wife, but it is not worth it if they are not going to be coached properly.  Most of the lines are forced, and since the cast is so small, they carry the entire movie on their shoulders.  Instead of helping the movie, most of the actors are very poor casting choices, exhibiting overdone emotions and unrealistic actions.  There are really only one or two good actors.

Conclusion

There is nothing wrong with expanding the Christian film genres into action adventure and psychological thriller, but In the Blink of an Eye misses the mark.  The repeating day plot is overused and is rarely justifiable, especially in the fashion that this movie uses it.  Employing such a small cast and limited sets in exchange for using expensive vehicles suggests an air of vanity.  Our advice for the Whites is that they listen to constructive criticism in order to improve their film quality, because they certainly have the potential and resources to do so.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points