Movie Renovation: Road to Redemption

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

In keeping with most Worldwide Pictures films, Road to Redemption has a high-quality production, especially for the time period it was made in.  There are no issues to point out here except for the use of cheesy special effects that try to accompany the eccentric genre of the film.  However, if these small issues had been eliminated, then Road to Redemption would have had a perfect production.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

Road to Redemption is clearly a comedy, and it’s a pretty good one at that.  It’s also quite a departure for a typical Worldwide Pictures film, which is great.  However, sometimes the comedy is a bit cheesy, unless it is read in the context of satire, which is unfortunately unclear.  Some parts seem to be included just to be eccentric, and thus the satire is not clear enough.  For example, what’s up with the mafia subplot?  It’s funny, but is this supposed to be serious or not?  Also, character development is a bit lacking in some areas, and this is a needed element in any comedy.  We need some more back story from the main characters beyond their representing of typical family issues.  Finally, the ending too easily resolves the conflicts in unrealistic ways.  Thus, had comedy been more rooted in reality, had the satire been clearer, had the characters been developed better through personality-building dialogue, and had the ending been less unrealistically patched up, then Road to Redemption could have been a Hall of Fame film.

Acting Improvements

Much like the commitment to high-quality productions, Worldwide Pictures also always demonstrated a commitment to high-quality casts.  They were one of the few independent Christian film groups who seemed to employ acting coaching.  However, there were some opportunities for improvement in Road to Redemption, such as Jay Underwood in general, who plays Alan.  His delivery and emotions are annoying and whiny.  If his character was written like that, then it needed to be changed.  Also, the mafia cast members are a bit cheesy at times.

Conclusion

In the end, there were just a few minor issues that held Road to Redemption back from being all that it could be.  With minor production errors eliminated, with a clearer comedy premise more based in reality, with a more effective use of satire, with deeper characters, and with a slightly better cast, Road to Redemption could have found itself on the Hall of Fame.  However, perhaps someone can use the feedback here to make a better version one day.

 

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Come the Morning (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Constance Gibson decides to take her three children to the growing city of Los Angeles in search of her absent husband in the hopes that he has been able to start a new life for them all.  However, as they arrive in the strange new city, they find that not all is as they expected, and they will have to make some hard decisions in order to face the future.  Through it all, will they be able to press into their faith in God to get through the dark times?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For a production created in 1993, Come the Morning is excellent.  Worldwide Pictures has always been a standout company for their commitment to production quality.  Video quality, audio quality, soundtrack, and camera work are all what they should be in this film.  There was obviously great care given to the historical authenticity of this film’s sets, locations, and props.  The only small issues to point out here pertain to some slightly low-quality lighting in some scenes, as well as some quick cuts and transitions in the editing.  However, in the end, this is an excellent effort and is one that can serve as an example for future films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Unlike other Christian films newer than it, Come the Morning exhibits Worldwide Pictures’ ability to capture the real-life struggles of accessible characters.  This story is not afraid to portray gritty circumstances and contains a lot of good ideas.  The characters are very believable, yet they could use a little more personality through more complex dialogue.  They have a tendency to be swept along by circumstances.  It also seems like this story could be longer than it is, since it leaves a lot of potential on the proverbial playing field.  But regardless of this, Come the Morning is an accessible story that depicts a realistic story that many audiences will enjoy.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The acting is the strongest section of this film since there are no real errors to point out here.  This is a very encouraging acting job to witness, as emotions are all believable and line delivery is very much on point.  The costuming is also authentic, which show great effort.  This rounds out a very respectable creation.

Conclusion

We desperately need more Christian film making groups and creative teams who are consistently committed to rolling out movies that are quality on all fronts.  Five- and six-point ratings should be the norm in Christian film, as Worldwide Pictures always did.  If this were the case in Christian entertainment, we would be looking at a completely new field filled with greater opportunities and successes.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

The Ride {Rodeo} [1997] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Smokey Banks was one of the best bull riders in the field before he became consumed with alcohol and gambling.  After he finally hits rock bottom by getting himself in trouble, he will have to decide whether or not he wants to go to jail or if he wants to work at a troubled boys ranch teaching the residents how to be cowboys.  One of the boys, much to Smokey’s chagrin, becomes very attached to the fallen athlete and convinces Smokey to teach him how to ride a bull.  Little does Smokey know that his life will be forever changed as a result of coming to the ranch.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a late 1990s production, in keeping with usual Worldwide Pictures quality, The Ride is at least average, which was good for the time period.  The opening sequence is effective and seems like the most effort was put into it.  Camera work is good for the genre, though video quality is slightly grainy.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is generic.  Sets, locations, and props clearly had a lot of time put into them to make the film look realistic.  Yet the editing of The Ride is an issue as the film jumps around too much and confuses the audience.  Overall, this movie is passable and will be enjoyable to some audiences.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This plot is a slightly typical fish-out-of-water plot featuring a spoiled and famous ‘city’ character being forced to live in the ‘wilderness’, yet it is fairly well done.  The characters therein are quite stereotypical, however, and fit into predetermined molds.  There is also not enough plot content as time is used on too many filler scenes.  Nevertheless, most of the dialogue is good and there are attempts to be meaningful.  But in the end, the plot progression is quite predictable, including many expected scenes and a silly romantic subplot.  In short, this is a fine effort, but it comes off a little bit lazy and phoned in.

Acting Quality (1 point)

For a supposedly professional cast, these performances are not what they should be.  There is far too much yelling and emotions are too extreme.  Line delivery is forceful and robotic throughout.  However, performances do improve in the second half of the film, although it is a little late.

Conclusion

Worldwide Pictures had stronger films than The Ride.  This one was perhaps before their prime and before they had fully honed the skills of quality film making.  The good thing is that they did not stay at this lower quality for very long.  But it’s a shame that they stopped making films after Last Flight Out, because, as pioneers in the field, they could have continued to adapt and change and still be a force to be reckoned with.  Perhaps they will once again take up film making as a mode of evangelism one day.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Something to Sing About [2000] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Tommy has a gift for singing, but his past criminal record is holding him back from getting a good job that he desperately needs.  When he is tempted to go back to his old life to make some extra cash, suddenly an elderly woman steps into his life and offers him a helping hand.  She helps him find a job and gives him a whole new outlook on life by taking him to church and introducing him to the choir.  But when faced with new opportunities and when his past comes calling again, Tommy will have to make a decision that will impact his life forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In keeping with the usual practices of Worldwide Pictures, Something to Sing About is a quite respectable production, even though it is difficult to attempt a musical, regardless of the genre.  The opening sequence of this movie is interesting, as is the original soundtrack.  Camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all on par with what they need to be.  Sets, locations, and props also meet industry standards.  Really the only downside to this production is its musical structure that sometimes hampers with the continuity of the editing.  As previously mentioned, it is difficult to craft this type of production properly, yet Something to Sing About is overall above average and puts many productions to shame.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Besides being a creative urban musical, this story depicts the realistic struggles of believable characters that are built on good dialogue.  The Christian message is very accessible, even if the content tries a little too hard not to be edgy and the plot is a little simplistic.  There are some slight cultural stereotypes and cheesy villains, but for the most part, this is not noticeable.  The biggest things that hold his plot back from being all it could be are some silly coincidences, too many musical montages that cause some subplots to be underdeveloped, and large time jumps that hurt this story’s natural progression.  There is also an amateurish climax scene that would not have been missed.  Overall, this was a difficult effort to pull off, yet it has been done in a commendable way—we just feel that it could have been better.  But then again, no one has.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

This cast is highly professional and each member fits their character perfectly.  There are little to no emotional or line delivery errors.  It is rare to find a cast for a musical that can actually sing.  There are a few cheesy performances, especially from the villain characters, but they are not enough to detract from this high score.

Conclusion

It is very difficult to pull off any musical, so this team must be commended for reaching a score this high, because it could have easily gone awry in the wrong hands.  But we can’t help but feel Something to Sing About leaves too much on the field, especially with regard character development and complex subplots.  This film could have been epic but instead is average, which is not all that bad when you look at the field.  We would like to see a remake of this film, or at least a similar one that builds on this idea and makes it better.  However, we caution the creation of musicals because they are very hard to create and can easily become an embarrassment.  Make sure you have your ducks in a row before doing this and use this film as a blueprint.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

A Vow to Cherish (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

John and Ellen have been married for over two decades.  They have done everything together over the years and are still in love after all this time.  John and his brother built a successful business while Ellen was a recognized teacher.  They had two children whom they love.  However, one day, their seemingly perfect world comes crashing down when Ellen suddenly develops Alzheimer’s disease.  John is faced with hard choices as Ellen loses memory after memory and becomes increasingly confused.  Will he be able to stand up under the weight of it all and remain faithful?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though Worldwide Pictures did a majority of their movie making in the 1980s and 1990s, they perfected a production model that no other Christian film makers could successfully replicate at the time.  A Vow to Cherish is one of those productions—it has great camera work and good sets, locations, and props.  Audio quality is fine, although the soundtrack is a bit average.  Video quality is also acceptable considering the time frame, yet it could be a little better.  Some of the indoor scenes are poorly lit, but outside scenes are shot well.  Finally, the editing is quite good and makes for a good watch.  Overall, this is a great production for the time period and shows what a film maker can do if they truly care about quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Based on a novel by Deborah Raney, A Vow to Cherish is a very engaging and intriguing story.  It highlights the little-focused-on issue of aging and dementia as it portrays the progression of this debilitating disease very well, including a commitment to medical realism.  The progression of time in this sort of story can be difficult to properly handle, but A Vow to Cherish does so very well.  However, it is not without its issues, as the dialogue is largely designed to move the plot along and to tell information without showing it to the audience.  While the characters are mostly believable, there is a slightly unnecessary and unrealistic dichotomy between Christian characters and non-Christian characters.  Yet the struggles of these characters are meaningful and believable—thus, the audience is able to connect with them on some level.  But at the same time, there are too many underdeveloped subplots and characters that we would like to get to know better.  Overall, with an honest Christian message, A Vow to Cherish is a mixed bag plot with the potential to go further.  Thus, it warrants an average rating.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Worldwide Pictures was always able to assemble professional casts, and this film is no exception.  Line delivery is great, but some emotions seem forced and wooden.  Yet this cast does an excellent job portraying those who struggle with mental illness and those who care for them.  Overall, this is a job well done.

Conclusion

Even during the 90s, when good Christian movies were nearly impossible to come by, Worldwide Pictures demonstrated a commitment to producing quality films that were unfortunately unrivaled for their time period.  Though they are not the best, movies like A Vow to Cherish are still enjoyable today and definitely worth your time.  Current Christian film makers can learn a lot from the models used to make WWP movies; there are many newer films that unfortunately never made it to this point.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Road to Redemption (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

When Amanda decides to steal a bag of money from her boss, she and her boyfriend elect to bet it on a racehorse so that they can not only give the money back, but also keep a big portion for themselves.  What they didn’t anticipate was losing all of it at the races and suddenly finding themselves on the run from mafia hitmen.  Then Amanda has an idea—sweet talk her elderly grandfather into giving her the money she needs to pay back her boss.  But her grandfather has another idea: in order for Amanda to get the money, she has to go fishing with him at his childhood favorite location in Redemption, Montana.  Along the way, Amanda discovers something about herself and her family that she never anticipated—something more important than money.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For a little known independent project, the production quality of Road to Redemption is overall pretty good.  The money is obviously spent well, with great video and sound quality throughout.  The camera work is above average, including great action sequences.  Some of the sets and locations seem cheaply limited, but others are quite good.  There are some cheesy special effects, but the editing is fairly good.  Overall, there are a few minor production errors, but it is quite good in all, especially considering the age of the film and the limited budget.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Road to Redemption is a rare type of Christian movie—an action comedy.  There is plenty of real humor and satire throughout, as the story pokes fun of many overused suspense antidotes.  There are some cheesy elements throughout that could be passed as satire, but some of it is hard to discern.  While the plot has a slightly improbable premise, there is pretty good dialogue that builds the flawed characters.  Some character behavior is a bit silly, but when viewed through the lens of satire, it makes sense.  Worldwide Pictures always demonstrated a commitment to a clear gospel presentation in their stories, and they do so here.  The plot’s biggest tarnish is its predictable and unrealistic end that patches everything up too well and leaves more questions than answers.  Because of this, the plot comes out as just average, but it still provides comic relief.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This cast is mostly professional, and they appear to be coached well, which is something Worldwide Pictures did to set themselves apart.  There are some slightly forced attempts at comedy and some over the top emotions that keep the cast from being all that they could be.  But despite these missteps, the acting in Road to Redemption surpasses the average mark.

Conclusion

Worldwide Pictures found a way, in the earlier days of Christian films, to present a Gospel message to their audiences packaged in a quality Christian movie that is enjoyable and watchable.  No one was doing what they were doing with movies in the late 90s and early 2000s.  It’s a shame that they no longer are actively making films, but their work can serve as a model to follow today.  It’s also a shame that Road to Redemption didn’t make it to the Hall of Fame—it was so close.  But it still is a great comedy movie that we would recommend.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

 

The Ultimate Gift (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jason Stevens has always had everything he ever wanted—at least everything that money could buy.  Growing up in a successful oil dynasty, he has never seen anything but money, fakeness, and broken relationships.  So when his patriarchal grandfather dies and the family gossip turns to who will get the largest share of the family fortune, Jason is uninterested and aimless in life.  However, his world takes a unexpected turn when his father’s lawyer informs him that he is the one who is to inherit the largest portion of the fortune—if he can pass a series of seemingly eccentric tests designed to help Jason learn what is most important in life.  As a result, Jason is forced to look at who he really is and what God really wants from him.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

The production crew of The Ultimate Gift showed true talent in this film.  The camera work is excellent, including video quality and angles.  The sets and locations are quite varied.  The story is supposed to take place in at least two different countries, and this feat is pulled of well.  The editing is great considering the fact that there is a lot of content in this film that could have cheesily been strung together.  The series of gifts is not choppy and comes off naturally.  In short, there are no production errors.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

As previously mentioned, it must have been hard to weave this type of content together into a clean plot line.  Screenwriter Cheryl McKay actually improved Jim Stovall’s book in this adaptation, building on the characters and the storyline and making it more palatable.  Dialogue is not forgotten in this miniature epic, even though it is concise.  There are several interesting plot twists and things do not turn out as most inspirational plots would.  Comedy and realistic drama are mixed well throughout.  The only concerns to raise here are that some of the characters are slightly shallow and stereotypical.  Otherwise, the plot content is very strong.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The Ultimate Gift cast is made up of mostly mainstream and professional actors, but they do the job well.  They have obviously been coached well.  Each one is appropriate in their roles and does the best with what they have.  In short, there are once again no errors here.

Conclusion

While The Ultimate Gift is not a perfect film, it is certainly high on the list.  It deals with a very unique topic in a very unique way.  It would have been easy for the movie format to come off as amateurish, but this does not happen.  One caveat is that there is not an explicit Christian message, but there are plenty of Christian values displayed.  In short, this film is not only an enjoyable view, but it should also serve as a great example to anyone who wants to create an independent Christian film in the future.

 

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points