Squad 77 (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Allen Davis is a former military special forces operative who is pressed by a friend to train a squadron consisting of a random collection of young adults from churches in order to pull off a dangerous mission to deliver Bibles to missionaries in a harrowing location.  Though he is not completely honest about the mission’s true nature at first, he trains them hard to prepare for the worst.  Will they be able to make it through the mission alive?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Squad 77 is a classic example of biting off more than you can chew.  Action adventure and suspense films, especially in international contexts, need well-funded and responsibly-allocated budgets to meet expectations.  Unfortunately, though Squad 77 is trying to fit into these genres, it fails miserably in the production department.  This is evident in the wild and dizzying opening sequences, as well as the crazy camera work and poor video quality.  Audio quality is equally bad, with loud background sounds, dead air, overdubs, cheesy sound effects, and a generic soundtrack.  There are also dumb special effects used throughout, not to mention the poor lighting and horrific editing.  Essentially, if you don’t have the money to make it good, don’t make it all, unless you have a game-changing plot idea.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

However, Squad 77 does not have a game-changing plot idea.  The premise is silly and unrealistic, and basically half of the film boils down to endless training montages.  The plot throws a bunch of faceless and empty characters together for a vague mission of unrealistic proportions.  There is basically no substantial content to work with here, and what little dialogue there is comes off as very hollow.  Thus, there are no attempts to develop the characters.  It goes without saying that this story is not believable as the action premise is very forced and disingenuous.  Basically, this film really doesn’t have any positive elements.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Though this cast of random people does not show any substantial acting skills to their bland and blank delivery, it’s not like they were given many chances to act or to be coached properly.  Emotions are too awkward and robotic, but again, there was little to no support in the acting department.  In the end, this punctuates a disappointing effort.

Conclusion

If the creators of this film meant well, it doesn’t show.  It feels like this film was misguided and mishandled from the beginning.  With a small budget, it’s better to start out with a small production and a truly creative plot.  Unfortunately, Squad 77 joins a long list of independent Christian films that failed on this front, among others.  Perhaps future film makers will learn from these mistakes.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

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Worth: The Testimony of Johnny St. James (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Johnny was a seminary student ready to serve God, but when his wife dies in a drunk driving accident, Johnny becomes the drunk he never thought he would.  A friend decides to help him out by taking him to a local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, but little does he know what Johnny has planned.  Desperate for answers, Johnny decides to hold the meeting hostage until he finds what he is looking for.  Will he be able to reconnect with the faith he has lost?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

At face value, Worth has a good production that does not commit any glaring errors.  Video quality is on par and camera work is fine.  Audio quality is what is should be and the soundtrack is engaging.  However, there is basically only one set utilized, so there is not much creativity to see there.  There is basically no editing in this film as all of the content is presented at face value.  There is not that much wasted time per se, but what you see is what you get.  Overall, there is nothing inherently wrong with this production, but there is nothing ground-breaking either, thus warranting an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on true events, Worth is basically a ninety minute hostage situation.  There are no real twists or turns—the plot is just presented as is.  There are no flashbacks, only long and meandering conversations on philosophical topics.  Unfortunately, there are quite a few dead spots and sequences of repeated dialogue that hamper with any creativity present in this film.  While this film has a good message and some interesting ideas, it doesn’t hold the attention and would be better presented as a short film.  Like the production, there is nothing really wrong with this story, but it doesn’t do enough to engage the audience and it is mostly uncreative.  Plots like this need deep character development and flashbacks, which is something Worth does not have.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As usual, Eric Roberts has been cast for the DVD cover and only shows up to film a few scenes, in which he is overly impressed with himself.  Other cast members show some potential and interesting performances, but there are too many over the top emotions and forced lines.  Like the rest of this film, the acting is just average.

Conclusion

There is a place for films like this in the market, but when they are not made to their fullest potential, they always fall short of expectations and thus become forgettable.  Worth is one of those movies you might watch once, shrug about, and then never give another thought.  The true story depicted here is interesting and is worth depicting in a film, but this is not the right way.  Like many other films, good intentions do not equal a good movie.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Closer to God: Jessica’s Journey (Movie Review)

Grandpa’s angry

Plot Summary

Jessica is struggling in her battle with cancer while her mother struggles to hold it all together emotionally and financially.  The last thing her Jessica’s mother expects is for her father—Jessica’s grandfather—to show up at their house unannounced in the midst of it all.  Her mother has no choice but to let Jessica’s grandfather watch over her daughter while she is at work.  Through it all, will they be able to mend their broken family ties even in the midst of the battle with cancer?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Closer to God is another one of those productions that has good effort behind it but not enough funding or creativity to sustain it.  As is usual for these types of productions, video quality and camera work are fine.  Audio quality is good, but there is virtually no soundtrack.  Sets and locations are quite cheap and limited to a few houses and vehicles.  Another common element for this sort of production is blasé editing, which is also true for Closer to God.  There are a lot of lagging scenes and confusing transitions.  Overall, this is an average production that could have been more.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While based on true events, Jessica’s Journey follows the predictable progression of a simplistic disease plot.  It is less dramatic than this type of story usually is, but it is instead filled with a lot of activities of daily living and meaningless sequences.  The characters are somewhat flat and one-dimensional due to uncreative and non-starter dialogue.  Perhaps the most identifiable element of this film is the creepy grandpa character depicted above.  A majority of the story is him wandering around the house spouting unusual dialogue.  While there is a vague recollection of meaning in the ending of this film, the rest of it is simply too much for it to matter.  We are unsure what was trying to be insinuated by the grandfather character, who dominates most of the movie, but perhaps they had no control over this actor…

Acting Quality (1 point)

It seems like the grandfather actor has been set loose on this set with no real direction except to use annoying and overly-enunciated line delivery.  He overshadows the other cast members, some of which are fine.  However, casting Ben Davies as a character older than he is simply does not work at all.  Some emotions are overdone throughout this cast, but there is some positive here, yet not enough to compete with creepy grandpa.

Conclusion

Films like this are very safe and marketable, but they have no staying power.  They don’t make the difference they hope to make and they rarely return the money that is wanted.  They are especially bad when they are remembered for weird offbeat characters like the grandfather in this film.  Elements like that are all that is remembered of these types of films because they have no dynamic elements to truly affect the market.  Once again, this is another one to throw on the pile.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points