My Daddy’s in Heaven (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Becca Smith suddenly loses her husband in a tragic car accident, she feels like her world is falling apart.  Then she meets an old friend from the past who decides to introduce her to a new lifestyle of partying and drinking to help drown her sorrows away.  However, Becca is unable to fill the void.  Will she come back to the faith she was always taught before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

On the surface, My Daddy’s in Heaven has a fairly good production, as evidenced by some great outdoor scenes and good video quality.  For the most part, camera work is good, except for some weird camera angles.  Audio quality is sometimes too echoed, especially in indoor sets.  Lighting is somewhat inconsistent, including some odd sequences of soft lighting.  There are also some sequences of disorienting sound effects and special effects, but there is some slight production improvement shown throughout, thus warranting an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, though this film is based on a book and tries to have a good point, the storyline is quite thin.  There seem to be a lot of scenes grasping for substantial content as the plot meanders aimlessly and purposelessly for nearly sixty minutes.  During this time frame, a good portion of the time is spent on the main two characters getting drunk.  Dialogue is all over the place, including too many instances of forced comedy.  Though this film is billed as a family movie, there is a lot of embarrassing content within, including long and pointless bar scenes.  However, the last ten to fifteen minutes of the film take a slightly interesting turn based on some intriguing ideas.  Unfortunately, with no buildup to this point and no support from the rest of the film, these ideas are wasted, and there are too many quick fixes employed.  Thus, only half a point can be awarded for this section.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The two female leads of this cast, outside of a few good moments, do their best to make fools of themselves.  Most of the acting in this film is oddly forced and awkward, but it’s likely that the cast members didn’t have much good to work with in the first place.  There are also some mumbled and whispered lines that make for a frustrating experience.  Overall, unfortunately, there is little good to mention about this film.

Conclusion

While the effort and the heart behind this film might have been there, the good intentions were terribly misplaced.  Production was almost passable, but it’s unsure what the intention of this plot was.  Audiences who are expecting a family-friendly film will likely be disappointed at the number of drunken scenes of this film.  While it great to show the struggles of real people in film, there is a way to do this without being so embarrassing.  Unfortunately, the interesting pivotal scene near the end of the film is out of place and could have been used in a better film.  Better luck next time, I guess.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

A Mile in His Shoes (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Arthur Murphy manages a minor league baseball team, and he is obsessed with discovering the best talent no one else has discovered yet.  Thus, when he stumbles upon Mickey Tussler, a young adult with autism, and sees his raw pitching skills, Arthur tries to recruit him immediately.  After convincing his fundamentalist and over-protective father to let Mickey try, Arthur takes him back to the team, where Mickey makes a difference in each of their lives, even Arthur’s.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The Nasser brothers have had an unusual film career, but they usually are committed to fine production quality.  A Mile in His Shoes is no different, as it has good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is adequate, and a commitment to historical authenticity is evident in the good use of sets, locations, and props.  The only issue to point out here is the fairly choppy editing that hampers the plot presentation.  However, in the end, this is not enough to hold this production back from being above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

A Mile in His Shoes is another one of those sports movies that is based on a good true story, yet it is not handled as well as it could have been.  This is mainly because the characters therein are too shallow and not realistic enough.  They tend to just be stand-ins for plot points rather than real people with real lives.  Elsewhere, the storyline presentation is too pedestrian and standard.  Also, the Christian message is too vague.  As usual for sports films, the plot is replete with montages, and the story is framed as an against-all-odds plot progression.  However, although there are a few too many unnecessary asides that waste time, there are plenty of realistic life circumstances in this plot that keep this section from being zero, even if the ending is too predictable.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While Dean Cain is usually a damper on the casts he’s involved in because of his annoying demeanors, pretty much all of the other cast members of this film are fine.  For the most part, this cast shows emotions and delivers lines appropriately and adequately, and each cast member is cast well.  In short, this rounds out an overall average effort.

Conclusion

All in all, the average rating fits this movie well.  It is easy and safe to choose an inspirational and true sports story to make a pedestrian film out of, especially one made for TV.  However, it takes greatness and dynamic creativity to make these sorts of stories into truly memorable films.  Otherwise, they are just too easily forgotten.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Christmas Lodge (Movie Review)

Love finds you at a Christmas lodge

Plot Summary

Mary Tobin loves her family’s Christmas Lodge out in the country, away from the big city, but with her grandfather dying, she is told by the lodger’s caretaker that the family business is in trouble if thing don’t turn around fast.  Mary drags her city boyfriend out to the lodge, who hates it there, which prompts Mary to begin falling for the caretaker of the lodge, since he likes the outdoors and stuff.  Will they be able to save the lodge together?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As usual for this type of film, Christmas Lodge has a typically fine production.  This include good video and audio quality, even though there are some random moments of shaky camera work.  The soundtrack is fairly standard.  Sets and locations are mostly limited to a handful of options, perhaps due to the plot’s limited scope.  Props are fine, however, and the editing is surprisingly okay.  In the end, Christmas Lodge is a very run-of-the-mill, standard production that is commonplace in the Christmas genre.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As if this plot idea has never been done before, here is another go at it!  It is a predictable return the hometown plot to find a forced romance in the hometown instead of the alternative yet unreasonable ‘city’ relationship storyline.  Also, a save the bed and breakfast plot is shoved into it as well, along with some typical holiday stuff.  Though there is a lot of stereotypical hometown dialogue, and though the characters are basically flat, there are some attempts here to at least make them realistic.  Also, though this is a slightly more realistic version of this plot idea, everything revolves around the lodge and is much too formulaic.  The Christian message is vague, and there are too many cheesy romantic conventions, including a juvenile conflict that is fixed in the last five minutes.  At this point, all we can ask is how many more of these will be made?

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting is the strongest point of this film.  The cast members appear to be comfortable in their roles and are definitely above average in their performances.  There are just some minor errors to point out, mostly due to some underwhelming performances.  However, it must be considered that there was not much content to work with here.  Considering this, the acting work is great.

Conclusion

Christmas Lodge is just a very safe and typical holiday film that plays on the television in the background.  On paper, it is a strong film, but it is certainly not a dynamic one.  If you’re going to use this worn out plot line, there are still better things you can do with it, such as craft deep and complex characters through realistic and character-building dialogue.  However, it’s also easy to settle for another stock Christmas movie.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Christmas Miracle [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a back road closes due to a snow storm, eight people find themselves trapped in an abandoned church.  They include a priest who has left the ministry because he feels distant from God after his wife died, an EMT who wants to be a doctor, a wealthy married couple having relational and financial issues, a newlywed couple trying to start their new life together, and a couple on the brink of divorce.  As the storm rages, they all find common ground with their issues and discover that there is hope for each one of them.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While Christmas Miracle is a generally average production, it is not without its issues.  Video quality is pretty clear and the camera work is fairly good.  Sets and locations are okay, even though it mostly takes place in a dark church.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is too bizarre.  Otherwise, there are numerous editing problems.  There is too much reused footage and too many flat and empty scenes.  It seems like some scenes are designed to pad the runtime and drag out the movie.  Essentially, while it’s not the worst production in the world, Christmas Miracle still needs a lot of help.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While the idea behind this plot is slightly interesting, there are just too many errors here that cover it up.  The storyline brings up mostly realistic and pertinent issues that everyday people face, but they are all portrayed in simplistic and sometimes petty ways.  The plot does not hold the attention very well as silly problems are rehashed and delayed to suit the runtime.  Though we spend a lot of time hearing these characters talk, we don’t get to know them very well.  They are extremely wooden and one-dimensional, sometimes repeating themselves throughout the film for emphasis.  Though there is a lot of dialogue, it is empty and stock.  Basically, Christmas Miracle is your average boring and slow plotline that has a small amount of potential that it does not cultivate.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To top things off, this is a very poor casting job.  While they are not necessarily bad actors and actresses, they severely lack quality acting coaching.  Their line delivery is possible the fastest we have ever witnessed in a film.  Their lines are forced and overly practiced, as are their emotions.  Since this film is entirely reliant on them, it really hurts its overall case.

Conclusion

It’s very hard to know what the Nasser Group is trying to do.  It usually seems like they have potential as film makers, but they always have things in their movies that trip them up.  While this is a very generic Christmas plot, it could have been better than this.  It’s not disingenuous like some; it’s just a typical low quality film.  I wonder if there will be a point in time when these types of films are no longer made like this.  Maybe that’s a Christmas miracle to wait for (lol).

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

God’s Club {Holy Warrior} (Movie Review)

As you can see, they spent a lot of time on that sign

Plot Summary

When his wife dies tragically in a car accident, Michael Evans falls into a funk.  In order to find new meaning and life and try to keep his wife’s memory alive, he decides to return to teaching and start an after-school Bible club, something she had always wanted to do.  But he is shocked when he is met with extreme resistance both from school authorities and parents.  As the pushback goes from bad to worse, Michael considers just leaving it all behind (after all, there’s no churches in his city).  But his daughter reminds him that her mom would never have wanted him to give up, so Michael sticks with the fight (literally) and doesn’t back down.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

It feels like we repeat ourselves all the time.  There are simply too many Christian productions that are all the same.  God’s Club offers nothing new—clear video quality along with a host of errors.  Between nearly every scene is an awkward fade to black moment that requires a fade-in for the next scene.  In many scenes throughout, especially outdoor scenes, there is shaky camera work, which seems to indicate that someone is holding the camera, which infers that the budget was too small to pay for any other equipment.  The limited funds are also evident in the few cheap sets that there are, as well as in the prop usage.  It seems like the only reason this film is ninety minutes long is because of excessive use of slow motion throughout.  Also, in an attempt to be ‘cool’, the creators crafted a weird soundtrack that sometimes covers for their lack of better sound.  In short, God’s Club commits all the usual production sins, just in different ways than usual.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In an attempts to frame a religious freedom conflict, God’s Club portrays an all out school war, complete with fistfights, brawls, vandalism, arson, and sabotage, all because of a silly after-school activity called God’s Club, also known as Bible Club or Bible Group.  The worst part is that Christian characters aren’t even able to be sympathized with because they deserve half of the treatment they get, as they either pick fights or continue them.  The Christian perspective is also very empty, lacking meaningful depth and espousing odd Christian philosophies as they try to shove the Bible down your throat.  There are very few characters in this plot; some of them we are supposed to appreciate without even getting to know them.  ‘Bad’ characters are very evil in every possible way until they are randomly fixed up.  Dialogue is in-your-face, leaving nothing to the imagination.  God’s Club also sports a growing trend in offbeat Christian films: a disdain for proper counseling and psychology.  Basically, if you are to believe the worldview of this film, churches are disappearing (the town in this plot has no churches), Christians are being persecuted for having after-school activities, it’s okay for Christians to fight back (literally), and reciting Bible verses will fix your life up.  In our experience, none of these things are true in reality, so why portray them in a film?  Because you’re trying to make some kind of quick buck by preaching to the choir.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Why do movies consistently cast Stephen Baldwin in major roles he’s not suited for?  He’s downright creepy in this movie, and when he’s not creepy, he’s lethargic.  It’s beyond me why Corbin Bernsen consistently involves himself in these sorts of messes.  The few other cast members that there are either make no positive impact or remind us why they’re not in any other notable films.  In short, there is clearly no coaching for this cast, thus obvious problems go unchecked.

Conclusion

Was there any thought during the making of this film to attempt to make it realistic and down-to-earth?  We highly doubt it.  At least the persecution subplot of God’s Not Dead is somewhat realistic.  God’s Club is a trumped up preaching-to-the-choir load of nonsense only designed to further inflame Christians against ‘the world’ and give them a chip-on-the-shoulder mentality to approaching non-believers.  None of this movie is reality and it’s a total sham and embarrassment to portray people in this way.  As Christians, our time would be better served using movies to actually reach people for the Gospel and to encourage Christians to go deeper in their faith by using meaningful and realistic plots combined with professional production and acting.  Until Christians are stronger in their faith and until more people are reached with the saving power of Jesus Christ, we have nothing else we need to be discussing.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

What Would Jesus Do? The Woodcarver (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Matthew Stevenson vandalizes a church out of anger over his parents’ pending divorce, some are ready to press charges against him.  But when the woodcarver, Ernest Otto, whose work he damaged learns about the boy, he decides to take a different route.  Otto invites Matthew to come help him in his wood working business as payment for what he did.  Though reluctant at first, Matthew is glad to finally have someone to talk over about his family’s struggles.  As their relationship grows, things begin to change for Matthew.  He must learn that Christianity is more than just words, and that those who claim the name of Christ must ask themselves ‘What would Jesus do?’

 

Production Quality (2 points)

What a difference a third movie makes (sometimes).  Gone are shaky camera work, dark scenes, and inconsistent audio quality.  Instead, The Woodcarver offers a more palatable production experience, one we wish every independent Christian film would at least try to offer.  The sets and locations are down to earth and realistic, albeit slightly limited.  The surroundings are mostly realistic.  The soundtrack isn’t much to get excited about, but this is a minor issue.  There are a handful of minor errors that keep this production from being all that it could be, but above average production is a huge accomplishment for this odd film franchise.  We always wish it were better, but sometimes we can’t ask for much more than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

In a complete detour from the previous installments in this trilogy, The Woodcarver introduces a completely new cast of characters and finally dispenses with ‘the drifter’.  The same underlying concept of ‘What would Jesus do?’ is still present, yet it is ten times more meaningful than before.  Rather than multiple meandering and meaningless subplots, this film focuses on one meaningful subplot about a struggling family, something many viewers can relate with.  The characters are more relatable than the other characters in this trilogy, even though the plot is little bit simplistic.  It’s a shame that the characters are not deeper than they are since there are few of them, but effort was certainly put into this plot.  The dialogue is pretty average, but in the Christian movie world, when there’s no glaring errors, that’s great.  Overall, we would have liked to see a deeper, more meaningful plot, but sometimes sticking with the safe route of avoiding huge mistakes in the way to go.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Trading John Schneider for John Ratzenberger paid off.  Though it’s small, this cast really isn’t half bad.  Sometimes emotional delivery is a little off, but it is better more than not.  Line delivery is solid throughout.  There is an obvious presence of acting coaching here, which is a huge change from the rest of the trilogy.  Overall, this is a much better job.

Conclusion

As we mentioned before, wouldn’t it have been much better to save the resources spent on the first two films and put them toward this one film to make it the best it could be?  Couldn’t have one of two of the better subplots from the previous two films joined this film’s plot to create a potential Hall of Fame work?  Which is better, two terrible movies and one average one or one great movie?  We maintain that quality is always better than quantity.  Sure, we need lots of Christian movies on the market, but just think of a world where movies like The Woodcarver were the norm, not movies like the first two WWJD debacles.  That would be truly something to behold.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

What Would Jesus Do? The Journey Continues (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As the mysterious drifter comes to another small town, he encounters another pastor who desperately wants to change the world around him but cannot seem to assemble the team he needs.  As he takes his brother in, who is freshly out of prison, the pastor seeks to do good to those around him and to repair the broken church bell he inherited.  He also comes into contact with a group of troubled teens who seem intent on making everyone around them miserable.  But what they will all discover is that there is more to everyone’s story than other realize, and that all Christians should act as Jesus would act.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

If it’s any consolation, the camera work is better in The Journey Continues.  However, the video quality has not improved, and there are many scenes in which lighting is a major problem.  Audio quality is inconsistent and the soundtrack is as silly as usual.  The sets and locations are okay and slightly more realistic than in the first film, but they still carry an amateur quality.  In a similar vein, the editing is not glaringly horrible, but it’s not particularly professional either.  Scenes are sometimes cut off abruptly while other scenes seem to drag on too long.  In short, the production of The Journey Continues does not commit egregious errors, but it also does nothing to promote professionalism.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In many ways, The Journey Continues is just a redux of the first WWJD film, just with fewer characters.  John Schneider is still a drifter who spouts wisdom to those in need of it.  There’s a different struggling pastor who wants to make a difference in his city.  There’s other troublemaking characters who change their ways in the end.  The Journey Continues is slightly more concise in its delivery, but still not very compelling.  The premise is less absurd and the ideas are less obvious, but that doesn’t make it an interesting plot.  The characters are slightly accessible and not so outrageously stereotypical, but this doesn’t make the movie a winner.  Dialogue is sometimes strained, like the writers are searching for something interesting to have the characters say.  The issues presented are smile-worthy, but not terribly compelling.  One particular subplot is intriguing and keeps this portion from being zero points; it would have been nice to see this subplot expanded upon and given more thought.  Overall, the plot feels more down to earth than the first installment, but it’s still not very watchable.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

In the first film, it was John Schneider and a bunch of poorly coached amateur actors and actresses.  In the second film, it’s John Schneider and some slightly better coached actors and actresses.  However, the same issues as before tend to trip them up: strained line delivery and either muted or overdone emotional delivery.  There is some better acting than not that keeps the score above water, but once again, there is just not much good to say here.

Conclusion

There really isn’t that much to work with here.  The Journey Continues feels like a sequel for the sake of sequels.  It would be one thing if this were the first movie in the series, but since it’s boring and empty compared to laughable, it easily gets lost in the shuffle and really comes out no better for it.  Whatever the WWJD Trilogy is trying to accomplish is beyond us, but it certainly does plenty to further hurt the name of Christian film.  When it boils down to it, there is really no purpose to either of the first two films in this trilogy—unfortunately, neither one is going to reach anyone, Christian or non-Christian, due to low quality.  Wouldn’t it have been better to, instead of make three films, pool financial resources to make one truly great film that could have made a lasting difference?  These are the types of questions Christian film makers need to ask themselves before charging ahead with more low quality films that waste everyone’s time.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

What Would Jesus Do? (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a down-on-his-luck pastor encounters a mysterious drifter who wants his help, the pastor is unsure of how he is to respond.  Mired in his own self-pity, the pastor lets the drifter pass on by.  As the drifter makes his way around the small California town searching for someone to help him, he only meets distrust and resistance.  The people of the town are all hurting and struggling in different ways, and it seems like the upstart mayoral candidate’s plans to bring a casino to town is the only hope.  But one day, the ‘few’ Christians that are ‘still faithful’ are forced to take a good look at the lives they are living when the drifter collapses in the middle of a worship service.  From there, the Christians must decide whether or not they are going to live their life by the slogan ‘What Would Jesus Do?’

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

All\KKO Productions were never much for investing money in films.  We completely understand that far too often, funding for Christian films is scarce and hard to come by, but if you’re going to make a movie, there’s no point in propping up a cut-rate production, because no enough people are going to watch and enjoy it, unless other elements, such as the plot, are very profound.  WWJD falls in line with many low quality Christian productions before and after it, sporting the typical symptoms of the same old malaise: poor video quality, cheap camera work, inconsistent sound quality, and the like.  The sets are very sloppy and the surroundings are glaringly low budget.  The soundtrack is one part Hallmark and another part indie worship band.  Finally, we have to question whether or not the editing department knew what they were doing with this film, as the plot zings all over the place, trying to land on and amplify in-your-face Christian elements.  In short, this production barely keeps its head above the water of zero points, but not by much.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With seemingly good motives, WWJD is actually the most disjointed plot we have ever seen.  Sporting an infinite cast of shallow caricatures with laughable dialogue, this vastly meandering storyline is enough to make your head spin.  From a bumbling-borderline-creepy drifter to a depressed burned-out pastor to an awkward amateur ‘musician’ to a generic realtor to a scrupulous newspaper editor to a cartoonish political villain…the list of characters goes on and on and on.  There are numerous other peripheral characters, but you get the point.  Each character is complete with bizarre one-liners there are intended to be serious but instead come off as comical.  Strawman issues facing modern Christians (churches shutting down, casinos being built in suburban areas, evil realtors buying up low income housing, spreading rumors in the media) are presented and quickly fixed as the characters diverge to either become perfect slogan-spouting Christians or hopelessly wicked power-hungry snakes.  Everyone is either transformed into a do-gooder when a drifter collapses in the middle of a church service or is condemned to live a life of forever evil.  What’s more, this ‘plot’ limps along on childishly unrealistic elements, such as a church taking care of a sick man rather than a hospital.  By the end, this film will be trying to sell you cheap WWJD gear that makes you a better Christian (not kidding).  In short, the intent of this movie is beyond our comprehension; all we know is that it’s a mockery of Christian film—again.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is essentially John Schneider and a whole host of amateurs, all of which are provided zero acting coaching.  Line delivery is awkward and emotions are either nonexistent or forced.  Positivity is overplayed; sometimes people are very over-excited to the point of embarrassment.  Lines that are meant to be serious come off all wrong and appear comedic.  Basically, if you watched Decision and Lukewarm, you get the picture of what the acting is like.

Conclusion

What else can be said that hasn’t already been said?  Between Decision, Lukewarm, and the WWJD trilogy, All\KKO Productions has really done a number on the reputation of Christian movies.  The real question is this: the message of asking what Jesus would do in every circumstance that faces us as Christians is highly important, but who is going to watch this movie to learn that?  Even if someone did watch this movie, they are highly unlikely to either be converted to Christianity or to be inspired in their faith.  Since neither of these objectives is accomplished, what’s the point of making a half-cocked, cheap, and downright embarrassing production?  We implore future film makers to take notice.  Make a difference in Christian film, not another thrift store reject.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points