The Wager [2020] (Movie Review)

The Wager (2020) | Trailer | Cameron Arnett | Jim Gloyd | Bishop Stevens |  Ty Sheldon | John Wells - YouTube

Plot Summary

When Brucie loses some kind of supernatural wager with a spiritual being, Brucie is allowed to retrace the steps of his life to see how it happened and how things could have been different. Through mind-bending and reality-defying methods, Brucie criss-crosses through time to see his life in hindsight. Will be able to make the right choice before it’s too late?

Production Quality (2 points)

As a whole, The Wager has a fairly good production despite a lot of loud background sounds. Even still, the soundtrack is very interesting and seems too advanced for this film. Lighting is a bit inconsistent, but video quality is stable throughout. Sets, locations, and props are on par, and editing is acceptable. Thus, this rounds out an above-average section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Despite interesting character backstories, very generic dialogue consistently overstates the obvious in this narrative, thus causing the characters to be too cardboard and generic. Very expository conversations leave nothing to chance, spoon-feeding the viewer with a very pushy Christian message. Random and disconnected scenes cause the plot to lack concrete themes or purposes; silly coincidences and convenient turns also make for a frustrating experience. Large time jumps confuse the audience, as do trippy psychological sequences that lack sense and only waste time. Although this movie is full of hit-and-miss story presentations due to a meandering, stream-of-consciousness narrative, there is actually a grain of potential somewhere in this screenplay. Aside from all the clutter, several key concepts that are explored in The Wager have the ability to be great. However, the film continually gets in its own way, so only a small score can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Although there are some good performances among this cast, many of the scenes come off as very scripted and overly practiced. Emotions and lines are a bit forced and stilted at times. However, Cameron Arnette is always a standout actor, and as a whole, all the cast members improve with time. Thus, this is enough to warrant an average rating in this section.

Conclusion

In the end, The Wager is full of wasted ideas that need restructuring and repackaging. It’s clear that this creative team wanted to go in a certain direction, but they forgot to let the viewers in on where the movie was actually headed. Mind-bending psychological trips don’t exactly engage the audience or help the watcher connect with the characters. Therefore, this screenplay is an opportunity for the creators to reflect on what they want to convey in the context of film and apply these findings to future projects.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Dream Motel, Season 1 (Series Review)

Watch The Dream Motel | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Jesse and Matteo are angels who have been assigned to do various tasks on earth, one of which is to fix up an old motel in rural Georgia so that they can win the spiritual war of owning buildings around the world. If the angels can own enough buildings, they can apparently lead more people to salvation, but if the demons in disguise keep taking over God’s properties, they’ll somehow be able to bring more darkness to the earth. Can Jesse and Matteo stop them one motel guest at a time?

Production Quality (1 point)

Although the video quality and camera work are mostly fine in The Dream Motel, save for a few shaky action shots, there aren’t many other positives to point out here. Audio quality is too inconsistent, including annoying background sounds, and there’s basically no soundtrack at all. Also, outdoor lighting is fairly poor, and the sets, locations, and props are often cheap to the point of not even representing what they’re supposed to represent. Further, there’s no real editing or transitions throughout the season, and there some awkward fadeout moments. To top things off, there are bad special effects throughout, which rounds out a mediocre effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Besides the fact that The Dream Motel is a boring stock plot based on robotic dialogue and wooden characters, the world constructed in the premier and finale episodes makes no sense at all for a number of reasons. For one, it’s unclear from Scripture whether or not angels have emotions or free will to wrestle with various philosophical issues like these characters do. For another, why would God need magical locations around the world to do His bidding, and how could demons steal them without His allowance? How are atheism and secularism powerful enough to halt Christ’s will? Why would demons even have an interest in stealing magic buildings rather than actual people? These premise problems aside, the villain is stupidly obvious, some of the characters seem unnecessarily outraged at logical things, the narrative incorrectly portrays realistic circumstances involving HIPAA protection, and it’s downright creepy to have smiling angels tell humans private things about the people. It feels like this storyline exists outside of reality even though scenes drag on as lines are painfully dragged out of the characters, who talk in circles to fill the runtime, and although boring activities of daily living, expository dialogue, and off-screen content make The Dream Motel seem like most poorly crafted Christian entertainment. With basically no personality or motive for the characters and far too many coincidences to hold up the plot, this series is just a collection of disasters.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Having very stilted and overly practiced acting is almost a given when it comes to Rossetti Productions, and The Dream Motel doesn’t disappoint. Using the patented Rossetti style of basically reading lines for a church play, the cast members exhibit forced wooden emotions that make the viewers think that the actors and actresses don’t actually care about what they’re doing. Some cast members seem unnatural or even uncomfortable in their roles, and a portion of the theatrical annunciation is off-kilter. Many scenes feel like one-takes as some actors and actresses appear to forget their lines in some instances and awkwardly grasp for something to share that can fill the blank silence. Essentially, there’s nothing positive to note in this section.

Continuity Quality (1 point)

Following a predictably typical series model, The Dream Motel offers premier and finale episodes that depart from the norm while all the between episodes are standard recurring dramas that introduce characters only to discard them before the credits roll. Concepts explored in the pilot aren’t returned to until the last episode, which concludes with a cheesy cliffhanger ending. While this section isn’t all bad due to some recurring subplots among the main characters, it’s still a run-of-the-mill offering with missed opportunities for continuity.

Conclusion

There are just so many things wrong with The Dream Motel from the get-go. Basically a redux of The Encounter, only with angels, this Rossetti series is based on illogical and questionable concepts yet still commits errors beyond this. Even the best ideas can be easily derailed by poor storytelling, low production quality, and abysmal acting. With so much experience under their belt and a trailed of wasted opportunities, it’s hard to know where the Rossetti Productions team is headed at this point, but this series is definitely not worth your time.

Final Rating: 2 out of 14 points

Wesley [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In 1732, John Wesley had fully embraced the religious piety of English Christianity, but his life was changed forever when he was assigned to be a missionary to the American Natives in the colony of Georgia.  He always strived to be what he considered to be a perfect Christian, but his world was transformed when he encountered real people and was forced to come face to face with God’s grace and love for all humanity.  Only then did John Wesley become the spiritual giant he is known as today.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The production of Wesley is very rough at the beginning, including a lot of dark scenes and an obvious use of poorly disguised fake background, as well as some cheap special effects.  Also, there are some moments of odd video quality.  However, regardless of these struggles, there is a concerted effort in this film to demonstrate historical authenticity, especially through the use of realistic sets, locations, and props.  Also, audio quality is fine throughout the film.  Though there are some awkward cuts and transitions, this is at least an average production and is likely good for the limited funding.  With a little more honing, this creative team could be exemplary.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Since this is based on an engaging true story, this plot already has a lot going for it.  This historical account was definitely worth portraying in film, and there are many attempts even in the story to preserve authenticity.  The use of flashbacks is also effective.  While dialogue is good, it could be better and more meaningful.  As it is, it tends to make the characters too stuffy.  Yet the characters tend to improve as they go on, and the characters definitely experience realistic circumstances.  In the end, this plot is actually better than a lot of plots out there and is certainly worth your time.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The strongest point of this section is likely the historically realistic costuming.  At first, the cast members tend to be too theatrical in their performances, including some forced emotions and lines.  However, there is definite improvement throughout in the acting, which makes for an overall average performance.  In short, there are plenty of good points in the film, yet it tends to be tripped up by little things.

Conclusion

We definitely need more engaging historical Christian films, and this creative team is definitely on the right track with films like Wesley and Newton’s Grace.  With a little bit of tweaking in some parts, along with better funding and acting coaching, this team could soon be going places.  Even so, their movies are at least worth a watch and tend to bring a different perspective to Christian film.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points