Movie Renovation: Left Behind 3-World at War

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

We will be hard-pressed to find a more impressive internal suspense and action-based production in Christian entertainment than the last installment of the first attempt at bringing the Left Behind trilogy to the big screen.  The production of World at War is not only actually well-funded, but it is also well-utilized.  We analyzed that the only main issues with this production were some editing problems, which are to be expected.  Otherwise, there is little else that can be improved in this portion.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

World at War completely departs from the original Left Behind novel narrative, which is a fact that is its greatest asset.  Actually, the fact that this movie is stuck in the Left Behind saga basically holds it back from being Hall of Fame.  Were this film transported outside of the Left Behind universe, it would suddenly become an epic suspense action film worthy of a high rating.  The concepts in this film, such as the intrigue surrounding the pandemic spread, are more creative than Left Behind ever was.  Also, the complex and non-typical characters who do not appear in the original book series, such as the President character and the character who leads the resistance, are better than the original Left Behind characters.  However, these more creative characters and subplots have little to no buildup from the first two movies, which is a fact that hurts their full impact.  This even more speaks to the necessity of having this movie exist outside of the Left Behind universe.  Also, the ending of this film is very creative, epic, and shocking, but it has no follow-up.  However, perhaps this idea can be extrapolated into a better film in the future.

Acting Improvements

The original cast of this film was mostly professional and well-cast.  There are few errors here, but a cast would always be better without Kirk Cameron.  Otherwise, there aren’t many major improvements to be made here—only small issues that add up.  This rounds out a very close effort.

Conclusion

It’s possible that World at War is actually the film that made it the closest to the Hall of Fame without actually making it on the list.  In reality, only one single thing needed to be done to push it over the edge, but that thing (isolating it from the Left Behind saga) could have possibly caused it to cease to exist.  Nonetheless, the concepts and ideas presented in this film can and should be used in later films to boost a suffering action\suspense genre in Christian entertainment.

 

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Joseph and Mary (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Joseph was tasked with being the earthly father of Jesus, the Messiah, while Mary was chosen to be the biological mother of the Savior.  However, they were just ordinary people who wanted to follow what the Lord wanted for them.  They watched as Jesus grew up before their eyes, and they were also apparently preoccupied with the life of a random rabbi who was their friend.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a new Bible production, Joseph and Mary is mostly respectable.  It’s clear that care was given to the authenticity of the production, even though the sets are somewhat limited and reused a lot.  Nevertheless, props are appropriate, and the outdoor locations are great.  This film checks all the typical boxes of good video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is adequate.  The only other problem to raise is the choppy editing that poorly handles the large amount of content in this movie.  But in the end, John Patus and the others at Leif Films are definitely improving over the years.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

So you want to make a movie about Joseph and Mary, yet you decide to use at least half of the runtime depicting an otherwise interesting story about a fictional rabbi who shadowed Jesus in the Lord’s early years.  This is a fine idea, but why not make the movie primarily about the rabbi?  Joseph and Mary are almost supporting characters in this story.  There is also unnecessary narration that hurts character development.  The healthy construction of the characters is also hindered by the rapid passage of time that follows the same characters as they keep meeting in the same places over several time periods.  There is also a tendency to hit the high points of the story rather than to settle down and let us get to know them as people.  The stoic and overly formal dialogue certainly does not help.  However, this film is an interesting perspective on the early years of Jesus through the eyes of a flawed and accessible character that is not Joseph or Mary.  Yet this good idea is somewhat soured by the strange ending sequence that leaves the audience wandering what this movie is supposed to teach us.  In the end, the Leif Films team is usually closed to good things, as evidenced in The Apostle Peter: Redemption, but they can’t seem to get there.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, there is not much good to say about the acting of this film.  For one thing, it is very poorly cast and lacks authentic cultural cast members.  Kevin Sorbo, a generic white guy, really has no business playing Joseph, besides the fact that he is awkward in this film.  Rather than being too BRITISH, this cast is too American.  The costuming is also somewhat cheesy, yet there are a handful of good moments that keep this section from being nothing.

Conclusion

Bible films are almost always problematic.  If the production isn’t a problem, it’s the casting.  If not that, then the plot suffers.  There are so many variables that have to be aligned in a Biblical film; after all, they are historical accounts.  Thus, they needed to be treated with more care.  We can’t have any more of these Bible plays coming out because even Christian audiences are getting tired of that.  We need dynamic authenticity, but perhaps the Leif Films team will keep trying and find the mark one day.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Saul: The Journey to Damascus (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After the Resurrection of Jesus, the Jewish religious leaders sought to stamp out all remaining traces of those who followed Him.  However, they were largely unsuccessful at stopping the spread of the Gospel right under their noses, so they employed a radical in their midst named Saul to lead the charge of ending the teachings of Jesus once and for all.  Though he had success at first, Saul slowly changed until he was shocked by his Damascus road experience and his life was completely turned upside down.  Then he proceeded to turn his world upside down, even as his former employers tried to kill him.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

John Patus, along with the Leif Films team, has had an up and down career mostly marked by apocalyptic failures (literally).  Yet he and the Leif Films team seem to work relatively well together in Biblical productions.  Although there is some randomly shaky camera work in this film, video quality is great and audio quality is professional, including an interesting soundtrack.  However, there are some odd and unnecessary special effects that put a damper on things.  The outdoor locations are quite good, even if the indoor sets and props need some work.  Finally, the editing of this film is inconsistent, although it’s not all bad.  In the end, this is an average production that definitely has room for improvement, yet it is a good effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Though there is unnecessary narration at first, it subsides and allows the story to unfold naturally.  Saul: The Journey to Damascus is actually an honest and accurate depiction of historical events that does not allow the extra-Biblical content to clutter things.  The Biblical characters are relatively well-developed and are real people that can be related to.  The main things that hold this plot back from being perfect are one too many slow and seemingly unnecessary scenes that put a drag on things.  Sometimes dialogue is good, but other time it just seems to fill time.  The ending is very effective and appropriate.  In the end, this is a very refreshing plot in a market that usually produces such poor storylines.  It gives great hope for the future of Biblical film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Acting is a mixed bag as the costuming is historically authentic, yet not many of the cast members are culturally accurate.  Some are British, while others are American or Canadian, but we know how difficult it is to cast Biblical films properly.  However, though this cast has plenty of talent and potential, some members need to coached a little better.  But overall, this is a mostly a job well done.

Conclusion

It’s refreshing to have a film that’s not across the board terrible, especially a Bible film.  It’s rare to have a film that has as many bright spots as this one, yet does not go all the way and reach Hall of Fame status.  Yet nonetheless, this is a film to be proud of and one to build off of.  It offers a Biblical film model that can be replicated and improved in the future.  Thus, it’s definitely worth a watch.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Deceived [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a secret space observatory in Nevada picks up a mysterious and erratic signal from outer space, a powerful billionaire who owns the observatory forms a team made up of his spiritual guide, two investigative reporters, and his company’s computer technician to fly out to the observatory to find out what happened.  Some of them believe they have been contacted by intelligent beings from outer space, while others believe something more sinister is going on.  The signal also draws the attention of a specialized squadron of troops, some of whom have questionable abilities.  As they all meet up at the observatory, who will prevail?  Will they ever discover the truth of what is really out there?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As an early 2000s Cloud Ten production, Deceived is mostly average in its production quality.  the biggest detractors are the grainy video quality and poor lighting in most scenes.  There are also too many cheesy special effects that are used in an attempt to be different and sci-fi.  However, the sets, locations, and props seem realistic enough.  Audio quality is also fine and the soundtrack is intriguing.  Finally, the editing job is decent and overall rounds out an average production.  It certainly could have been better, but it could have also been worse.  However, there is not much we can say for the plot.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With a cheesy sci-fi premise that’s full of technological mumbo-jumbo and empty dialogue, Deceived tries to be creative and different, yet misses the mark badly.  There is far too much time wasted on petty conflicts and not enough time spent on character development.  While some of the characters could be interesting, we barely get to know them in the midst information dump dialogue and monologuing.  The Christian characters are too perfect while the non-Christian characters are too flawed.  There are also too many spiritual elements that come off as a bizarre in an attempt to bridge the horror genre.  The ending is quite confusing and seems like the writers just ran out of ideas.  In the end, this is a very disappointing story that could have been interesting.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With a cast made up of semi-professionals, these cast members have their good moments, but unfortunately, the bad moments outweigh the good.  There are too many overly dramatic and theatrical performances.  Emotions are hard to connect with.  In the end, they do not live up to their full potential.

Conclusion

The early 2000s era of Christian film had some noble attempts to bridge different genres Christian film had never bridged before, and John Patus and Cloud Ten Pictures were on the forefront of this attempt.  However, for the most part, these attempts did not fulfill their fullest potential and settled for half-measures, probably because the market was so thin then.  Much has happened since these films came out, but they can certainly serve as an example of how and how not to expand Christian film into unique genres.  Yesterday’s disappointments can certainly be remedied in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Home Beyond the Sun (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Since Jenna was raised by a missionary, she feels that it is her duty to give back by becoming a missionary herself.  So when an opening presents itself in China, she jumps at the chance.  She travels to Beijing to work as a teacher to children there, but as she works there for a few weeks, she finds an entirely different mission field: orphans whom no one wants, not even the government.  However, the orphanage leader has to keep everything a secret since she is teaching the orphans Christian values.  Who will prevail in the end?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, though this movie means well, it is packaged in a very poor production.  After the long opening sequence that would be interesting if it was produced better, the audience is subjected to grainy video quality and poor audio quality, including a loud and cheap soundtrack.  Camera work is average, especially since most of the scenes are pedestrian shots.  However, the international locations are pretty good and demonstrate an attempt at authenticity.  Finally, editing is okay, but there is not much complex content that requires any rigorous editing.  In the end, it’s clear that this creative team has good intentions, but their delivery is lacking.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Additionally, though some care is revealed through this touching story about Chinese orphans, not enough care is given to making this a palatable plot.  Home Beyond the Sun contains a slightly amateurish portrayal of Chinese people, including some strawman cultural aspects and characters.  Though important social issues are raised, they are sort of forced down the audience’s throats and do not develop naturally through the use of realistic characters.  Instead, the characters use information-packed dialogue to drive the story along.  But at the same time, the story is quite slow and does not hold the attention; any conflict therein is too trite.  There is a better way to depict an otherwise important story about Chinese orphans, and unfortunately, Home Beyond the Sun does not cut it.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though there is some good here, the acting is overall quite amateurish.  There is some realistic cultural casting, but in all cast members, emotions seem plastic and line delivery is quite forced.  Yet it seems like this case has potential that could have been brought out through proper coaching.  But alas, coaching is not present here, thus creating another disappointing performance.

Conclusion

This really could have been an interesting movie.  It focuses on a different topic that needs to be depicted on the big screen, yet Home Beyond the Sun does so in such a way that makes it all seem so silly.  There are definitely good intentions here, but good intentions are not everything.  There must be follow-through that manifests itself in professional production, an engaging storyline full of realistic and accessible characters, and acting coaching that brings the cast members to life.  Yet when these elements are not present, even if a good idea is present, it makes for a very frustrating and disappointing film.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Apocalypse 4: Judgment (Movie Review)

Everything else has happened in this series, so let’s throw Mr. T in here too

Plot Summary

As the ONE has tightened its grip on the world, Christianity is outlawed and everyone must take the Mark of world leader Franco Macalousso, or they will be arrested and possibly executed.  The world must worship Macalousso or be doomed.  But when the world leader feels that excitement about hating Christians is wearing thin, he decides to stage a televised trial for infamous Christian Helen Hannah to get people interested again.  Enigmatic defense lawyer Mitch Kendrick is recruited to ‘defend’ her, even though it’s all staged.  But no one knows that Mitch is searching for the truth himself—will he be able to find it?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As this stupid series finally grinds to a halt, we can say affirmatively that production quality barely changed throughout it.  While camera work and video quality have improved in this final installment, nothing else has.  The audio quality is inconsistent and the soundtrack is quite loud at times.  Sets, locations, and props, in an attempt to look ‘futuristic’, only come off as cheesy.  Finally, like the rest of the series, editing is quite poor.  On the bright side, there’s no more product placements, but it’s unacceptable to have a series this long with such bad production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Was there really a justification for a fourth installment in this series that doesn’t include anything about the subplots that were supposedly continued at the end of Tribulation?  Helen Hannah remains to be the central Christian character of the series for some reason, but otherwise we are introduced to even more characters we’ve never seen before, including Mr. T.  The same ridiculous concepts this series has always pushed are present in this final film as well, but this time transposed on top of a staged legal battle.  Dialogue does nothing for character development as a lot of time the is filled exploring vague and isolating concepts.  It seems like the writers are constantly inventing ways to kill time without actually helping us to get to know all these characters they shove at us.  Finally, though the end is slightly interesting and has some potential, it cuts off with an abrupt transition to the nonexistent fifth film they obviously wanted to make.  Thankfully, their funding was finally cut.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

As Corbin Bernsen and Mr. T join this crowded cast, things really do not improve.  There are too many over the top emotions and shouting sequences.  There is some potential with line delivery, and this cast seems professional on the surface, but it’s just not good enough.  This is another disappointing effort.

Conclusion

Well, it’s finally over.  What did we learn?  When you can’t even create an average production, don’t make four movies.  When you don’t have any plot or character development to speak of, don’t make four movies.  When you can’t focus on a central story or character arc in your series and instead constantly come up with new characters and subplots with each installment, don’t make four movies.  When you cast all kinds of ‘big names’ but don’t bother to coach them, don’t make four movies.  Are you seeing a theme here?  The Apocalypse series is just another blight on Christian film and will hopefully be forgotten one day, but at least we can learn something from it…I hope…

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

The Apostle Peter: Redemption (Movie Review)

A creeper

Plot Summary

The Apostle Peter followed Jesus zealously once he was called, but when faced with the darkest hour in history, Peter fell away and denied that he even knew his Lord.  Yet after His Resurrection, Jesus forgave Peter and made him the head of His church.  All his life, Peter sought to never forsake Christ again, so when faced with martyrdom, he only wanted to please his Lord and witness to those around him—even a skeptical Roman soldier who was seeking the truth.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Productions PureFlix has had a hand in are usually average or above, as is the case with The Apostle Peter: Redemption.  However, we can’t help but feel that there could have been more here.  While all the typical elements—camera work, video quality, audio quality, and soundtrack—are okay for the most part, it feels like this production isn’t going the extra mile.  This is mostly demonstrated by fake looking sets and locations that are actually quite limited.  Some historical authenticity is present, but it seems too plastic.  The editing is fine, but leaves sometime to be desired.  In short, this is just a standard production that seems slapped together; it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

With themes similar to Apostle Peter and the Last Supper, this plot is very slow to develop and hard to follow.  Not much happens as unfeeling characters have boring and stiff conversations filled with stilted theatrical dialogue and discourses on obscure Roman politics.  We can’t feel like these characters are real or relatable people since they act like they stepped out of one of those horrid 1980s Bible movies.  They don’t really do anything except ramble on and pretend like things are happening.  The only redeeming qualities here are the okay use of flashbacks and the interesting end that is slightly meaningful if you make it that far.  Otherwise, this story is a big disappointment.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This film is poorly cast, and even though it stays away from the BRITISH errors, the cast members are still not historically authentic.  The costuming also seems fake and cheaply made.  The actors and actresses are stoic and robotic in their line delivery and unfeeling in their emotions.  John Rhys-Davies is the only exception here, as he is always the same in every movie he’s in.  As a side note, Stephen Baldwin seems like he’s in his natural habitat, since he’s as creepy as ever and exhibits random unwanted outbursts.  But basically, this is a mess.

Conclusion

It’s commendable to create Biblical films, but once again, this is not the way to do it.  This is an interesting look at the latter life of a Bible character, but the storyline simply does not hold the attention and seems disingenuous.  It’s hard to believe that this wasn’t just a movie thrown together for the sake of having a Bible movie.  We implore film makers to put effort into their work and to not create half-measures.  It is simply not worth it.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Left Behind 3: World at War (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

With Nicolae Carpathia increasing his grip on international politics, President Fitzgerald of the United States is highly skeptical of the United Nations leader.  The President’s suspicions are only raised when his vice president is killed in a sudden car bomb.  He also receives an anonymous tip about secret plans that threaten to overturn the delicate balance of the world.  Elsewhere, the Tribulation Force continues to seek converts and spread the gospel as the world becomes darker and darker.  When an unexpected evil strikes the planet, they must dig deep in their faith and band together under the banner of Christianity.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

After two previous productions failed even though they had money behind them, this creative team finally put the money where their mouth was and spent it correctly on World at War.  The camera work and video quality are excellent.  Props have a major upgrade and appear very realistic.  This movie finally lives up to its international intrigue expectations by providing wide ranging sets and locations to the viewers.  It also delivers on this franchise’s previous claims of action entertainment by pulling off action scenes very well, including professional use of special effects.  Watching this movie actually makes you feel like you’re watching an apocalyptic film with international ramifications.  The only complaints to bring up here are some minor editing issues.  Otherwise, this is a production to be proud of for once.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

World at War is actually an engaging apocalyptic plot that holds the attention, which is an unfortunately rare find in Christian film.  Subplots built up from the two previous installments are used very well, and even though this storyline departs greatly from the novels, it is still enjoyable.  New subplots are complex and hold the viewer’s attention until the end.  The dialogue is finally well-constructed and the characters are finally believable.  The apocalyptic concepts and surroundings are finally realistic and highly possible in the real world.  Although there are some unnecessary elements, there are not a few suspenseful twists that make this an apocalyptic plot to be proud of.  Finally, World at War packs perhaps the most epic action ending in Christian film to date, putting many other action film attempts to shame.  Yet two things derail this movie from being Hall of Fame: the lack of buildup from previous films and the lack of continuation.  The writers set us up with an engaging franchise reboot, if you will, yet did not deliver with a follow-up.  What happens next?  We may never know.  But for now, this is one of the most applaudable Christian action films on the market.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Acting also greatly improves in this installment not only because of improved coaching but also because of better additional cast members.  Once again, Kirk Cameron posts one of his best (probably his last) acting performances.  Line delivery is effective, but sometimes emotions are over the top.  In the end, there are only minor errors here.

Conclusion

It’s so frustrating to watch films that barely miss the Hall of Fame because of the potential they did not live up to.  World at War had everything going for it—except for better predecessors and a real follow-up.  If the franchise was going to be dropped here, it would have been better for World at War to either stand alone as a separate apocalyptic film outside of the series or for the absurd Left Behind reboot of recent to become the fourth movie rather than just a rehashing of the first installment.  It’s unfortunate, but it’s unlikely World at War will be remade for a myriad of reasons.  But it can at least serve as a testament to what can be done in Christian film if proper money and effort are applied.  We need many more films like this one on the market.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

Left Behind 2: Tribulation Force [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

With the world still reeling from the Rapture, those left behind who became Christians band together to form what they call a Tribulation Force to stand against the forces of evil.  Their leader, Bruce, encourages each of them to not hide from the new evil world but to find a way to reach other for Christ in it.  Rayford struggles with a decision to pilot the plane of Nicolae Carpathia, the suspected antichrist.  Buck Williams chases down a story regarding a messianic prophecy expert and two mysterious men at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.  In the strange new world they live in, they also discover everyday struggles and the realization that following Jesus is no longer easy.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The second installment of the original Left Behind series is a low point.  While video quality and camera work are okay, there are a host of other production errors.  Special effects are cheesy, especially when it comes to action scenes.  Many scenes have very poor lighting.  The sets and locations are pretty good, but they are littered with cheap looking props.  The soundtrack is pedestrian.  Furthermore, the editing is very sub-par and fails to cut down quite a few long and drawn out scenes that drain the viewer’s attention span.  Essentially, not much effort was put into this creation.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Once again, for an apocalyptic thriller, there’s not much apocalyptic or thrilling about Tribulation Force.  The film takes a very melancholy tone, choosing to spend time on silly conflicts like lover’s spats and peripheral character issues.  There is little central focus as the plot meanders from job decisions to church services to turning the church into a hospital to chasing leads in the Middle East.  There is also not enough suspense or plot twists as the monotone dialogue centers on theological discussions and information dumps.  There are attempts at twists and psychological\spiritual elements, but they fall flat.  There are too many one-dimensional characters that are juggled and we can’t really get to know any of them.  Like its predecessor, Tribulation Force just gets ready for the inevitable next film without giving the viewer any reason to watch it except for the book series popularity.  The actual end of the plot is quite cheesy and non-suspenseful.  In short, if you missed this film, you didn’t miss much.

Acting Quality (1 point)

At least they returned all the same cast members.  I hate it when movie franchises try to change out actors and actresses and pretend you didn’t notice.  There is slight improvement among this cast and Kirk Cameron delivers arguably one of his best career acting performances.  My how time has flown.  This cast could have actually been great with better coaching.  Alas, what could have been.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, John Patus and company elected to follow the standard Hollywood path of bringing a popular book franchise to the big screen and relied on the series’ popularity to carry it.  There is little reason for this film to even exist except for the fact that it needed to for the series to continue.  If you skipped to the third film, you didn’t miss anything in this one.  This is the central problem to movie sagas: each one needs to be a good movie by itself without the other ones holding it up.  There are few who have gotten this right.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 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

 

The Mark 2: Redemption (Movie Review)

Eric Roberts as himself

Plot Summary

After jumping out of that plane to save their lives, Chad and Dao find themselves on the run for their lives in Thailand as they try to remove the secret chip from Chad’s arm while being pursued by agents of an all-powerful rising world leader.  The Rapture has occurred, leaving the world mired in chaos.  As they try to grapple with the God of the Bible, Chad and Dao find themselves involved in multiple international conspiracies, including a human trafficking scheme that involves Dao’s sister and Chad’s former employers.  As they fight for survival, who will prevail in this brave new world?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

In keeping with the usual poor PureFlix production mode, clear video quality is all that can be found here that is remotely positive.  Anything else related to camera work is dizzying and annoying.  Much of the footage is recycled, both flashback footage and non-flashback footage, which demonstrates extreme laziness.  Other scenes of the film are extremely long and drawn out, trying to delay the inevitable to build up some kind of fake suspense.  Action sequences are over the top and poorly executed.  The use of special effects and sound effects is very amateurish and obnoxious.  For such a big plot, the sets and locations are quite limited and the surroundings are almost entirely confined to Thailand, PureFlix’s favorite international location.  There is little to no editing—I’m convinced that the production team just went with what they had from filming.  Basically, The Mark 2 is same song, different verse for PureFlix.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Picking up where The Mark left us hanging, The Mark 2 is the most slow to development suspense plot ever.  Inevitable confrontations between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters are painfully dragged out over a ninety-minute runtime full of coincidences, convenient plot devices, information dump dialogue, stupid action scenes, and scenes of characters sitting around or pacing around and talking.  There is basically no purpose to this plot as John Patus once again shoves his apocalyptic opinions down our throats in the most awkward fashion possible.  Multiple scenes appear to be directly copied from the original Left Behind series, which is no surprise with Patus involved.  Only this time, the antichrist character is borderline unbearable and sports the fakest European accent possible.  In the middle of the film, a cheesy Christian message is shoehorned in, along with a random human trafficking subplot that tries to improve the runtime.  The mark of the beast concept, though slightly interesting, is only toyed with in the film and never seems complete.  In the end, as the characters tell us through narration what we’re supposed to learn, it is unclear whether or not the story is to continue—obviously not, since there’s no Mark 3, but what were they really expecting?  Did they actually have any ideas beyond the Rapture?  Basically, we learned nothing from this plot, thus making it completely useless.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This typical C-grade PureFlix cast is complete with fake accents, lame attempts at diversity, racial stereotypes, and Eric Roberts.  Multiple cast members appear to have no place in the film, opting to pace around and talk about important things.  Other cast members appear to take themselves too seriously and try to be as serious as you can be in a PureFlix action plot.  At least not all of the acting is bad, but across the board, line delivery and emotions are very poor.  But what else is new?

Conclusion

Why are so many PureFlix action plots at least partially set in Thailand?  Also, if we are to endure so many apocalyptic Christian films on the market, can’t we at least see one that doesn’t involve the alleged ‘Rapture’ in some fashion?  Haven’t we seen that enough from the original Left Behind series, that horrible new Left Behind, the first Mark film, The Remaining, Jerusalem Countdown, In the Blink of an Eye, the Revelation Road series (with the exception of The Black Rider), Six: The Mark Unleashed, etc.?  With the money spent on this film and every other wasted apocalyptic film, you would think that it could have been saved for a truly groundbreaking Christian action\adventure or suspense movie that would have made a difference in the culture.  But instead, we are left with a littered collection of could-haves and cut-rate productions.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

The Mark [2012] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Chad Turner, a former criminal, has been chosen to be a human prototype for a biometric computer chip some call the Mark of the Beast.  After the chip is inserted into his skin, Chad becomes a different person, more powerful than before.  But he soon finds himself on the run from a powerful world leader, Joseph Pike, who seeks to take the chip and use it for his own means: world domination.  Chad takes a businessman, Cooper, hostage and convinces him to assist him in keeping the chip away from Pike.  But they suddenly find themselves trapped on a place in the middle of a global catastrophic some refer to as the Rapture.  With multiple assailants after them, Turner and Cooper must navigate the uncertain waters and avoid death at all costs.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Beyond a clear video quality, there is little to be excited about in The Mark when it comes to production.  The movie is filled with poorly constructed action scenes, wild explosions, and maddening gun-wielding chases.  Not much effort was put into sets and locations, as a majority of the film takes place on a plane, which brings to mind many other apocalyptic movies.  The editing is passable, but there is little true content to deal with.  The musical score is a stock action soundtrack.  Basically, this type of movie is been there, done that.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In this possible sequel to In the Blink of an Eye, several potentially interesting characters are thrown together on a transatlantic flight to discuss the world’s political scene and to escape from the antichrist’s henchman.  John Patus has used this plot before and used it again after this movie.  With the chip in his skin, Turner is basically an invincible character, not that plot devices like this have stopped action protagonists from being invincible before.  With mind-numbing action sequences, there is little to no actual plot in The Mark.  Character development and meaningful dialogue are traded for firing guns and yes—crawling around inside of a plane’s engine area while it’s in flight.  While Turner and Cooper could have been interesting flawed ‘heroes’ with agendas of their own, they were not.  The antichrist character is unbearably cheesy.  The bottom line is that the apocalyptic stuck-on-a-place plot has been done before and needs to be put to rest once and for all.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This particular PureFlix cast is not extremely cheesy, but they are just not that great.  In the wake of cheap action, emotions are discarded and line delivery is reduced to monologuing and pontificating.  Where there was potential in the actors and actresses, it is not harnessed.

Conclusion

Centering a plot around a character that has been forcibly given an artist’s conception of the Mark of the Beast is not entirely a bad idea.  Such an idea has the possibility to breach new genres and reach different audiences than usual.  However, movies like The Mark only cause the apocalyptic genre to become further viewed as cheesy and not worth anyone’s time.  As it stands, Christian apocalyptic movies mostly are not worth your time.  No matter where you land on eschatology, movies like The Mark are pointless and empty.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Left Behind [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

All Rayford Steele really cares about is his job as a pilot.  He’s disillusioned with his family due to his wife’s Christian faith and due to his daughter’s growing absence.  That’s why he’s buried himself in his work, overlooking the fact that both his wife and his daughter desperately want to see him again, as does his son.  After briefly reuniting with his daughter, Ray’s job once again takes in a different direction.  Chloe Steele returns home only to conflict with her mother over Christianity.  But before any of them can reconcile, a global tragedy rocks their worlds.  Before long, they realize that their lives will never be the same and they must grapple with the bigger questions they have been ignoring all along.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

The production of this Left Behind redo is the only remotely positive element.  However, the only good aspect of the production is the semi-decent camera work, including average angles and video quality.  However, the movie is also replete with cheap action sequences and poor special effects.  The soundtrack is a stock suspense score.  The editing is confusing, cutting in and out of scenes for no particular reason.  There are also a number of stupid jump scares that give the movie a very odd feel.  Unfortunately, the weirdness doesn’t end there.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Where to start?  The dialogue is among the worst, ranging from Christian clichés to action-adventure clichés to isolating technical lingo.  Thus, the characters are either bland or unbearable.  Also, there are a number of unnecessary characters that only seem to fill time in the already too-long story.  Besides all of this, there is unsolicited profanity and suggestive content throughout.  Overall, the plot line is aimless as it jumps from one trumped up action scene to the next and fills the rest in with wasted time, just trying to set up for a sequel.  There is no driving point as the movie drags on, making the viewer want to get to the end as quickly as possible.

Addendum: With John Patus involved in both movies, this new version of Left Behind is basically the same plot as The Mark.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

A word of advice: never cast Nicolas Cage for an action movie.  Some of the other actors are not awful, but overall, the delivery of lines is vanilla and unconvincing.  Jordin Sparks is a decent actor and deserves a second chance.  Moreover, there wasn’t much to work with, but the acting just gives the movie an overall B-grade feel.

Conclusion

The creators of this new Left Behind won a court battle with Tim LaHaye over using his concepts in a different way.  Box Office Revolution has to wonder why they couldn’t just create their own characters, but we can affirmatively say that winning the copyright way did not pay off.  This movie was really not worth making in any sense.  The creators now blame everything on ‘Hollywood taking away the Christian message.’  BOR holds that this is not the whole truth.  All that has been proven in this movie is that independent Christian films, except for the few exceptions, continue to contribute to their negative reputation by rolling out more and more unnecessary movies.  A word of advice: if you don’t have the budget for and\or a lot of constructive critical feedback on your movie, then don’t make it.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points