Diary of a Lunatic: Trew’s Calling (Movie Review)

Diary of a Lunatic (2017) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Trew doesn’t really like her life, but she lives with it anyway. She’s not interested in God, but when she wakes up one day to find that He wants her to do something for Him, she just wants Him to go away. However, He keeps pursuing her because He has something she wants to learn if she’ll ever listen. What Trew ultimately discovers is beyond her wildest dreams.

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, Trew’s Calling has a pretty good production. This is shown by good video quality and fine camera work. Sets, locations, and props are also professional. However, there are some annoying comedic zooms. Also, audio can be over-driven at times even if the soundtrack is acceptable. Further, editing tends to be choppy due to poor story structure. However, this is basically a standard production effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

It’s apparent that the plot of Diary of a Lunatic is meant to be purposely quirky and eccentric, which means it’s sometimes truly funny yet other times is either head-scratchingly bizarre or slightly sacrilegious. Some content seems a bit inappropriate and even somewhat blasphemous. A few aspects of the comedy and a handful of the themes are actually quite relatable and interesting, such as problems within the established church. However, there are still sequences that are extremely eyebrow-raising and appear to have no purpose or point whatsoever except to be purposely wacky and off-the-wall. The portrayal of God is odd at times but not all bad; some sequences are beyond explanation and seem totally out of place. The writers’ theology and beliefs seems to be very unusual and even borderline on new age philosophies. As a whole, the narrative is a giant mixed bag of potential combined with complete nonsense. Sometimes, the storyline pretends like it’s hiding a great secret that it never gets to. Its silly rushed conclusion and ending sequence are forced and basically fix everything without providing legitimate explanations for the stranger elements of the screenplay. In the end, if anything is to be salvaged from these ideas, they need a total rewrite in order to preserve the surprisingly worthwhile elements.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, the acting of this film is actually pretty good at times. However, it tends to be a bit over the top in some scenes despite some comedic elements. Emotions are forced at times yet other times are not. Line delivery is mostly even at times. As such, this section does enough to get above the average line.

Conclusion

With some worthwhile elements pulling Trew’s Calling in one direction and really bizarre aspects pulling it in the other direction, the movie’s score falls right in the middle of the scale. It’s very unclear what the screenwriters were going for except that they wanted to make a point about how organized Christianity often turns people away. However, this idea was packaged in such a wacky way because it feels like they just kept sticking random scenes together over time until they had a burgeoning screenplay. Also, it’s not like they just filled with vanilla content; many of the sequences are completely beyond explanation. As a whole, it feels like this movie had something going for it, but it gets completely lost in the shuffle of whatever vendetta this creative team had at the time.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Modern Prodigal (Movie Review)

Modern Prodigal (2019) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Brian Sanderson is an investigative reports who’s addicted to painkillers and never ceases in his quest to solve the mystery of his son’s untimely death to the same drug he’s hooked on. Even though his obsessions cause him to lose his dream job, Brian will stop at nothing to discover the truth of what really happened while also wrestling the demons inside his head. Ultimately, Brian will have to confront his dark past in order to face the future.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

After an odd opening sequences that seems to suggest Modern Prodigal is part of a crime series, weird gray lighting seems to dominate much of the film. Audio quality is also an issues as there are some obvious background sounds as well as too much dead air, even if the little soundtrack therein has some potential. Sets, locations, and props are are bit cheap-looking, and there are some unnecessarily tight shots and instances stationary camera work. Furthermore, the editing leaves something to be desired with awkward cuts and transitions, but the good news is that the production takes a turn for the better in the film’s second half that amends a lot of the earlier errors. However, this is only enough to raise this section to the halfway mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the characters are one of the strongest aspects of Modern Prodigal as some of them possess subtle characteristics that make them come off as relatable and human; their dialogue is also not all bad since it establishes them as imperfect people. However, while some conversations are quite good, others are too obvious and over the top. Nonetheless, the narrative makes fairly good use of mystery concepts throughout the plot progression and does a reasonable job at concealing important facts and revealing them bit by bit throughout the film. While there are plenty of positive aspects, there are also nagging concerns with this story, such as the fact that it’s trying to cover too much ground in one screenplay. Much of its content would have been better suited for a series, and a sudden massive time jump at the movie’s conclusion leaves the viewer somewhat confused. Nevertheless, Modern Prodigal offers a lot of hope for this writing team’s future potential.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, the good aspects of this film’s plot are detracted from by a lot of over-acting in many of the screenplay’s important scenes. This includes quite a bit of overdone emotional performances and forced line delivery. While there is some good in this section, such as some good supporting cast members and better acting in the less dramatic scenes, better coaching could have lifted Modern Prodigal to a better level.

Conclusion

This film joins a sizable collection of Christian creations that had a lot going for them but never made the next step in to greatness. Much of this shortfall is due to financial constraints, but a lot of it can be blamed on a lack of collaboration or a tendency to force something to happen before it’s time. Ideas were never meant to be carried out alone, and sometimes, it’s just not the right season for them. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see what this creative team offers next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Reliant (Movie Review)

Image result for the reliant movie

Plot Summary

When the American dollar literally collapses overnight, a family is attacked by desperadoes and is forced to take their gun supply and survival gear into the woods behind their house in order to fend for themselves in the elements. However, the men who gunned their father down are still in pursuit (for some reason), which forces the family to either band together or tear each other apart as they try to defend themselves and survive in the brave new world of looting and living off the land. What will become of them all?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It’s clear that the money that was donated by people (so that they could be listed as executive producers on the credits) was mostly well-used and not only spent on guns and weaponry. Video quality and audio quality are good, and since the film is mostly filmed in the outdoors, this definitely helps things. The soundtrack is also passable. However, much of the camera work is shaky and dizzy in the name of being action-oriented. Also, most of the indoor scenes are unnecessarily dark and poorly lit. Further, the editing is extremely choppy, which makes things hard to follow, but there are likely other factors to this problem, such as the plot.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

From the get-go, the story makes zero sense. There’s no reason why the world would immediately descend into chaos basically in one day due to the sudden collapse of the dollar. How did it happen? What led to this extreme result and knee-jerk looting? This idea is too big and expansive to focus ninety percent of the plot on a collection of characters wandering around in the woods with guns. Did we mention that this movie is OBSESSED with guns? It holds nothing back in being outright propaganda that’s desperate to both create further political divide and garner the attention of powerful lobbying organizations. These concerns aside, there are tons of characters in The Reliant, and while flashbacks are used throughout, it’s not enough to make up for other problems, such as awkward conversations about vague things that are occurring in the world outside the forest, shoehorned Christian concepts, cheesy survival concepts, and outright fundamentalist messaging. Much like Unplanned, there was much fake outrage about The Reliant‘s so-called undeserved MPAA rating, but once again, the rating was actually justified due to the high amount of needless violence without proper balance. Regardless of this, the characters of The Reliant have extremely steep arcs and lack proper motivation for their actions as things just randomly happen one after another, and the plot lacks clear direction or purpose other than to shove certain worldviews down viewers’ throats. Hence, this section’s negative rating is given due to propaganda and due to total pointlessness.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Throughout nearly every scene, the cast members of The Reliant are coached to exhibit extreme emotions, including a lot of yelling and screaming. Though there is some potential despite these annoyances, dramatic and tense scenes are totally butchered either with awkward line delivery, off-beat emotional delivery, or general uncomfortability with the given roles. In the end, there is little good to highlight in this movie.

Conclusion

After the screener was provided for this film, one of the creators strongly requested that they be given the chance to “approve” this review before it was publicly posted. Surprisingly, this was the first and only request we’ve ever received for this to happen. Moreover, it further shows the amount of control that’s surrounding this movie and reflects the mentality behind its creation. Films like The Reliant have a clear agenda to push on their audiences and purposely make themselves lightning rods for controversy with the hopes of garnering attention from certain groups. There were no attempts in this movie to craft a meaningful plot based on accessible characters, so even if the creative team had the best message in the world, it’s still not correctly packaged. In the end, there are just too many issues here to discern any amount of potential there might have been in this half-baked idea.

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

The Reliant (October 2019)

Coming to theaters October 24, 2019 from Fervent House Media

Website

Writer(s): Patrick Johnston

Director(s): Paul Munger

Producer(s): Patrick Johnston, Elizabeth Johnston, Paul Munger, Brian Bosworth, Kevin Sorbo, Eric Jellison, Tim Schmidt, Doug Yeary, Betty Yeary

Starring: Kevin Sorbo, Eric Roberts, Brian Bosworth, Mollee Gray, Jenn Gotzon, Julia Denton, Kevin Wayne, Ian Lauer, Blake Burt, Josh Murray, Kiera Strauss, Brian Friday, Marisa Hampton, Tyler Sanders, David Benham, Jason Benham, Tim Schmidt, Nicole C. Mullen, Rusty Thomas, Nico Zahniser, Jesse Boone, Jonathan Bocinsky

Plot Synopsis: When the dollar collapses, widespread rioting and looting ensues, and five children tragically lose their parents in the chaos. Armed with a couple of their father’s weapons, they are able to survive in a stretch of woods on the outskirts of their burning town. Facing starvation and threats from encroaching gangs, they begin to doubt God’s love. Will God answer their prayers, or must their faith remain blind to facts?

Final Frequency (August 2021)

Coming to select theaters and streaming services August 23, 2021

Writer(s): Christine Fry, Penny Gibben

Director(s): Tim Lowry

Producer(s): Rachel E. Lowry, Tim Lowry, Joth Riggs, John David Ware, Derrick Warfel,

Starring: Lou Ferrigno Jr., Kirby Bliss Banton, Charles Shaughnessy, Luke Guldan, Richard Burgi, Nikki SooHoo, Mark Krenik, Anne Marie Howard, Thomas Haley, Brenda Lorena Garcia, Josh Murray, Kim Estes, Carmen Moreno, Greg Allan Martin, Abhay Walia, Peter Xifo, Eddie Buraye, Kyra Locke, Calvin Harrison, Nicolas Alexandre, Jon Mohr, Jacqueline Price

Plot Synopsis: A ph.D student investigates unusual seismic activity in Los Angeles, leading to a cabal of elitist scientists, who plan to weaponize Nikola Tesla’s most secret research to manipulate thought patterns and earthquakes.

Life Fine Tuned (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Star is a spoiled music icon who wants everything to go her way, exactly the way she wants it.  When she has a disagreement with her manager and her creative team, she employs a typical and immature method of getting their attention: running away until they beg her to come back.  However, in an unfamiliar state, she gets more lost than she anticipated and finds herself stuck in small town America.  Forced to slow down, Star has to contemplate what her life is really like and what matters most.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

This production is certainly not as bad as it could have been, but it’s also not as good as it could have been.  Video quality and camera work are fine.  Audio quality is also fine, but the soundtrack is silly.  Sets, locations, and props are cheap, but this likely comes with the territory of this sort of production.  The editing is very odd, including abrupt cuts and transitions that make it seem like it was spliced together quickly.  Overall, though it is a bit amateurish, some of these elements are forgivable, considering this was mostly a freshman effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

There is nothing whatsoever creative about this cheesy fish-out-of-water plot.  It’s been used before and will be used again, probably on the Hallmark channel (see God’s Country and Finding Normal).  The story of Life Fine Tuned is very formulaic and predictable, yet it also seems to have a penchant for showcasing homeschool life of rural Virginia.  Don’t get us wrong—homeschooling is great (we were homeschooled), but why do homeschoolers have to isolate and label themselves so obviously?  Homeschooling isn’t about segregating yourself into a quirky subculture.  Besides this, the characters of this film are incredibly shallow and the story relies very heavily on childish coincidences.  Unfortunately, the uncreative nature of this plot renders it scoreless.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this cast is amateur and sometimes awkward, they are really trying.  They show potential, even Victoria Emmons.  Their performances definitely could have been worse.  Had they been a little bit more believable, especially with their emotions, this section would have been better.

Conclusion

We have to hand it to the creators—they tried, mostly.  This film could have been potentially saved with a more creative plot.  Use that advanced homeschool mind to craft a creative plot that silences the critics (like us).  Make a movie that’s better quality than the others.  Don’t just make another silly Christian movie that can be passed around certain circles and then forgotten about.  Take the Christian entertainment world to new heights.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Touched by Grace {The Senior Prank} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a high school class is given the decision to vote for a ‘popular’ girl for homecoming queen or a Grace, a girl with Down’s syndrome, the latter wins in a shocking upset.  One of the ‘popular’ girl’s friends, Cara, accidentally befriends Grace and her friend Brandon as they try to find Grace a partner for the homecoming dance.  Cara finds herself torn as her ‘popular’ friends try to ostracize Grace and as she begins developing feelings for Brandon.  In the end, the entire school will be faced with the reality that special need people are just like everyone else and they should be treated thus.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

With an obviously limited budget, Touched by Grace sometimes does the best it can with what it has, but other times it does not.  The sets are quite limited, but this is not entirely a negative issue due to the small scale plot.  They are realistic, which is important.  The camera work and video quality are quite good for a production this small.  The soundtrack is average; we would have liked to see more here.  There is much positive to say about this small time production, but the biggest issue is the editing.  There is virtually no editing present in Touched by Grace.  Too many scenes are long and drawn out, making for a disappointing experience.  All in all, there are both positive and negative aspects to this film, which is very frustrating.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

There was so much potential in this movie.  It’s based on a great idea and has believable elements.  It could have been very touching had more time been spent on character development.  Sometimes the dialogue is meaningful, and other times it’s not.  There is far too much understatement in this film; sometimes things happen for no reason.  A common mistake in Christian film is overstating the obvious, but Touched by Grace has the opposite problem.  More needed to be emphasized regarding the important issue of treating special needs people as equals.  Where this movie could have been heartfelt, it just came off as somber.  The main redeeming quality is the effective end that the movie was obviously written for.  The end was powerful enough to make this movie something great had the remainder of the plot been adequate.  In short, it’s a disappointing plot and one that desperately needs a remake.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With a largely amateur cast, the actors and actresses sometimes come off as awkward, but other times they shine.  Ben Davies as a high school student doesn’t really work and he definitely needed more coaching.  On the flipside, the casting of special needs people was a score as they were some of the best cast members.  Overall, this cast wasn’t bad, but it could have been a winning cast with better coaching.

Conclusion

Touched by Grace receives half of an x-factor point for presenting an important issue in a semi-meaningful way.  Overall, while this movie was sometimes heartwarming, it was also frustrating to watch, knowing just how much potential it could have achieved.  This is not one of those Christian productions that has no heart or care behind it.  We truly believe that the creators sincerely cared about this issue and wanted to make a movie about it.  Their heart was in the right place, but their film inexperience derailed it.  Inexperience is probably not their fault either—it’s a tough world out there for independent Christian filmmakers.  This is why it’s all the more important for Christians to come together and pool their resources to produce quality over quantity.  Just think of what would have happened if two stupid Christian movies were defunded and the money was given to this one.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Alone Yet Not Alone (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Recent immigrants from Germany to colonial America in order to find religious freedom, Barbara Leninger, her parents, and her siblings did not expect to come face to face with the violence between the Native Americans and the settlers.  In a shocking raid, Barbara and her sister Regina are separated from their mother after witnessing the deaths of their brother and father.  Barbara and Regina are forced to become Native American girls in every way, including attire and behavior.  They band together with other captive children, keeping each other morally afloat by singing the Leninger family hymn, Alone Yet Not Alone.  But when Barbara and Regina are separated, their true faith in God is tested to the limits as they risk their lives by attempting to escape in order to find each other again.

Production Quality (2 points)

For a first time filmmaker, Alone Yet Not Alone has above average production quality.  The camera work is good, as multiple complex action scenes are filmed relatively well.  The editing is okay, considering the large amount of content and the passage of time in this movie.  One drawback is that some of the makeup work and costuming show indie qualities, but this does not cause irreparable harm.  In short, this is a good start for production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

This movie is based off of true events, so realism in the plot cannot be argued with.  There are realistic twists, turns, and disappointments throughout.  As previously mentioned, a lot of time is covered, and this is pulled off fairly well.  However, the characters are not developed as well as they should be as the dialogue is just average. Additionally, some cast members do not appear to be culturally authentic. Regardless, inaugural film projects should tend to be based on real events, and this criteria is met.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For a cast of allegedly inexperienced actors, there are not too many glaring errors.  Some movie-makers commit grave errors with casts of allegedly professional actors.  Sometimes it is difficult to cast multiple actors for the same character in a plot that requires age differences, but Alone Yet Not Alone does not make this a problem.  Some negative elements should be examined however, such as the poor acting of some of the supporting actors and the fact that not all of the Native American characters were played by true Native Americans.  Box Office Revolution realizes that it is difficult to acquire so many Native Americans for a movie, so this may be a moot point.  In summary, more is made out of this little-know cast than is made out of casts that are supposedly star-studded.

Conclusion

Alone Yet Not Alone is a good start for the team behind it; it is definitely something to build off of.  It contains a believable plot that can relate to most audiences, highlighting a little known historical period well.  In short, if more Christian movies were of this caliber instead of so many unwatchable movies in the Christian genre, the movement as a whole would have a greater reputation than it currently does.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points