Jack Jonah (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Each family member of Jack Jonah dealt in different ways with the teenager’s untimely death to opioid overdose. Kirk Jonah, his father, launched himself into a non-profit designed to provide anti-drug education to whomever will listen. Both of Jack’s parents believe they can still communicate with the dead boy, and this drives them in their efforts to save other lives from deadly overdoses. However, all of those close to Jack must ultimately come to the point where they trust that good can come out of tragedy.

Production Quality (.5 point)

While the video quality of Jack Jonah is acceptable, the camera work is often quite shaky, and the audio quality is quite poor, including loud background sounds, painfully obvious overdubs, some bouts of over driven audio, and a cheesy never-ending soundtrack that tries to cover up these problems. Additionally, lighting is inconsistent in both the outdoor locations and the indoor sets. Further, the special effects that are used are quite bad, and the editing is marred by abrupt cuts and transitions, which tops off an unacceptable level of production quality that should never be approved in the current entertainment field.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2.5 points)

There are a myriad of problems with this film’s plot, beginning with its heavy-handed message pushing, which is joined by endless, meandering conversations that are full of forced information-dump dialogue. This causes the characters to be cardboard cutouts who represent issues rather than real people. Also, the choppy story presentation makes the passage of time seem unclear to the viewer, especially since there are many random characters and spider-webbing subplots that only have loose connections with each other. Besides the fact that many of the scenes are blankly vague and hard to understand, the plot becomes more and more bizarre as it progresses due to its weird exploration of other dimensions wherein people who have passed away can come back and talk to those who are still alive. What begins as a typically vanilla story quickly becomes a wacky drug trip into the strange, and it’s laced with an unusual air of mystery that’s not well-explained. Then, the narrative suddenly ends with little to no purpose or clear message to offer to the audience. For all of these reasons, this section receives a negative score, which drags the overall movie below water.

Acting Quality (1 point)

To cap off the other issues in Jack Jonah, its acting leaves much to be desired since most of it is robotic and stilted. Emotions are difficult to believe, and line delivery is mostly vanilla. While some cast members are somewhat average in their performances, others are simply too poor to warrant any higher score than this.

Conclusion

In their race to make as many films as possible in 2019, the JC Films team produced indefensible projects like this one. This is unfortunately yet another example of why quantity over quality is never the way to go in Christian entertainment. Additionally, this may be the only lesson future creators can learn from Jack Jonah: how not to go about it.

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

A Child of the King (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dr. Wesley King and his late wife were called to the jungles of South America to aid the needy and those who were considered to be hopeless. However, after his wife died, Wesley became lonely in his mission. In the states, a woman named Donna began following Wesley’s story via the letters he sent back to his home church. Then, Donna feels called to join Wesley in his overseas mission field, and God brings them together to minister to the least of those in South America.

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there are virtually no good aspects to this production as the audio quality is poor, including echoes in the background, a random soundtrack that sometimes interrupts lines, and some invasive outside noises. Similarly, the video quality is not quite what it should be, and there is some very poor lighting throughout the cheap sets and locations. Props also leave something to be desired, and the camera work is inconsistent at best. To top things off, the special effects used therein are very bad, and the editing is extremely choppy as some scenes drag on while others awkwardly or abruptly end. In the end, any small positives in this production are outweighed by the very obvious negatives.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From beginning to end, the storyline of A Child of the King is very hard to follow since it’s filled with blank conversations between characters and lacks an overall focus or purpose. The stiff and awkward dialogue between characters makes it very difficult to relate to them as people, and the main character is basically perfect. The plot essentially meanders around without the viewer being able to easily follow its progression, and it’s really nothing more than an informational video or mock docu-drama about overseas missions. While there may be some good ideas lost in here somewhere, people who can relate these concepts to the real world are needed to bring them to life. Further, the narrative just randomly ends in an unexpected place without any warning or resolution because that would require something to resolve in the first place.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting of A Child of the King is its strongest point even though it’s mostly pedestrian, generic, and boring. There’s neither anything special nor horrible about the cast members’ performances, despite the fact that they have little content to work with. One bright spot is that the cast, for the most part, is culturally accurate with real accents and dialects, which is unexpected based on the remainder of the movie. Nonetheless, this average section isn’t enough to save this failed effort from itself.

Conclusion

An international film should very rarely be made in conjunction with other projects due to the time and financial freedom it requires. However, 2019 was an indicator of how committed the JC Films team was to producing as much content as they possibly could. The result of this is even more low quality Christian films to crowd out the market. Hopefully, however, the tides are still turning since Christian audiences want and deserve better than half-baked ideas.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

A Promise to Astrid (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Astrid Nicosia lived in a small town and tries to do good to each person she comes in contact with. She freely gave the little money that she had to those who needed it. She also wanted to walk closely with the Lord and to make a difference with what time she had left. Those who were touched by her kindness and generosity made a promise to return her favors either to her or to other people who were also in need.

Production Quality (1 point)

As a 2019 production, A Promise to Astrid has no excuse to be as bad as it is. While the video quality and the camera work are okay, the audio quality throughout the film is quite bad, including loud background sounds, echoes inside of the sets, and an invasive soundtrack that sometimes interrupts dialogue and others times causes confusion since it doesn’t fit the mood of the scenes. In addition, the sets, props, and locations are quite cheap, and there are some obvious continuity errors between scenes. There are also other editing concerns, such as the quick and awkward cuts and transitions, the high number of fade-outs, and the fact that many scenes do not flow together and seem very disconnected from each other. In the end, this is an unacceptable effort with many unforced errors.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Even though it’s based on a book, A Promise to Astrid is not what it should be, mostly due to the lack of substantial characters. Although this is a heavily character-based plot, dialogue is usually a bit clunky and awkward and does not adequately develop character personality or motive. Additionally, it’s very difficult to understand the true purpose of this narrative beyond random people doing random things. The vague ideas behind the storyline might be interesting, but without effective connections with the audience, it really has nothing to show for its meager efforts. Essentially, the plot meanders around as a collection of random scenes before suddenly ending and leaving the viewer wondering why they just watched the movie, which is why this section warrants zero points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While the acting of A Promise to Astrid is not entirely bad, it’s very marked by incompetent attempts at obviously fake accents. Also, some cast members seem unsure of their roles, even though there’s not much to work with in the beginning. Further, other cast members are either clearly overplaying their roles or half-heartedly trying. Throughout the film, line delivery and emotions are uneven but not all bad, which is enough to warrant at least a point out of this section. In the end, however, this is a very sub-par movie.

Conclusion

Based on their 2019 slate of films, it’s evident that it was the goal of the JC Films team to flood the market with as many movies as they could squeeze into their limited budget. This was an old model PureFlix used in the early 2000s and 2010s, and they had some success due to lack of many other options. However, as the calendar turns to 2020, times have changed in Christian entertainment, and higher quality is demanded. Thus, it’s better to save your funds to make one good film or series and then to see how you can build off of the success of one quality project rather than to get ahead of yourself and to over-extend your means.

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Dawn [2018] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Carrie Saunders just wants to live her normal life as a businesswoman, but her recurring nightmares about a missing girl continue to haunt her night after night. Her visions cloud her judgment and cause her to begin to suspect her husband of wrongdoing. Police refuse to believe her tales, so she decides to investigate the matter on her own. Little does she know that the wild ride she’s about to experience will change her life forever.

Production Quality (2 points)

At first, the production of Dawn begins in a rocky manner as evidenced by inconsistent camera work and lighting and some slight background sounds. However, the video quality is stable throughout, and the sets, locations, and props are mostly fine. The camera work does seem to improve as the film proceeds, and it becomes quite professional in the end. Another inconsistent area is the soundtrack since it’s generic in some parts yet quite good in others. Further, one other drawback is somewhat dizzying and repetitive nature of some of the psychological sequences, but this is also sometimes an asset. In the end, the editing is good, and the production is a mixed bag that’s overall above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Dawn dares to try something extremely different in Christian film as it takes on a very unique plot that’s often hard to quantify yet intriguing at the same time. The attempts at extreme creativity are well-noted, even if they can get a bit head-scratching at times. Although some may not like it, it’s good that the Christian elements of Dawn aren’t too in-your-face as it tries to primarily rely on good mystery plot content. However, the storyline does have a few flaws in that the characters could be a bit more developed than they are, which means the time could have been better spent on this venture rather than on repetition of key elements the audience is shown over and over again. Still, the characters are fairly good as they are, even if the villain characters are slight strawmen. The psychological elements of the plot are interesting, but they could use a bit more explanation as to why they are occurring. However, the ending isn’t quite expected, and Dawn is an overall very creative attempt at a complex mystery plot culminating with an actually effective climax that’s built throughout the entirety of the film. This is finally a real suspense plot worth watching, but it would be even better as a remake or a similar replication.

Acting Quality (2 points)

On the whole, the acting of Dawn is fine with only a few minor errors to contend with. There were definitely some opportunities for improved emotional delivery and more dynamic line delivery. However, the cast does enough to make this an above average performance, which rounds out an overall above average film that’s worth your time.

Conclusion

The potential that this creative team showed is very encouraging because it could be the start of something great for them. It’s highly possible that streaming series are in their future if they are allowed to collaborate with larger budgets and tighter writing. What we need is more psychological suspense and mystery stories, and seeing these in the context of Christian series would be awesome, so we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Scattered [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a group of friends gathers at a mutual friend’s house to celebrate her graduation from law school and upcoming bar exam, none of them could have anticipated or predicted what would happen to them that night.  Some of them are frustrated that their old friend has become a Christian and refuses to get high with them, so they decide to have their own ‘party’ secretly in her house.  However, what they do not know is that supernatural forces beyond their control are at work and they will be taken for the psychological ride of their lives—whether they want to or not.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Much like The Basement, Scattered begins with very poor production quality, including too many tight, awkward camera angles and too much shaking camera work for dramatic effects.  Though video and audio quality are relatively stable throughout, there is really only one set in this film with no outside locations except for within flashbacks.  Props are mostly fine throughout, but there are some cheesy ‘horror’ special effects that really need to be eliminated.  There are also too many choppy cuts and transitions, as well as a lot of disorienting editing to try to add to the psychological effect.  However, relatively halfway through the film, a switch if flipped and it suddenly becomes a respectable production.  Thus, it ends up average in the end, but that is not all that changes throughout this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Scattered begins as annoying as The Basement was throughout, including a lot of stupid and mindless dialogue that makes non-Christian characters very bad and Christian characters too good.  It’s also hard to keep up with all the characters at first as the first half of the plot really has no coherent thought or direction.  However, it is clear that the first half is trying to kick the can down the road to get to the big twist this movie hinges upon, however, this is not done in a very good fashion.  The tone and premise of the first half is very strange and off-putting, including ridiculous horror elements.  Though this part drags on way too long due to wasted, pointless conversations and empty scenes, the middle of the story totally flips the script and suddenly becomes the best Christian horror plot written to date.  Flashbacks are used very effectively to suddenly build the characters into real people and the ‘horror’ elements become justified and actually realistic.  The plot is not afraid to take on realistic gritty issues that people endure and suddenly makes its characters more gray rather than so black and white.  Thus, the ending is interesting and actually makes one want to see more.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the other elements of the film, the acting is quite bad at first.  The makeup is a standout problem in the beginning.  A lot of the cast members are trying way too hard at first, including forceful line delivery and wooden emotions.  However, even these issues demonstrate improvement as things completely change in the middle of the film.  The difference between the two halves is so stark that one has to wonder if the creative team completely changed in the middle.

Conclusion

Scattered bears a strong resemblance to Pendragon as a rare film that changes and improves throughout and is actually sustained by a strong and unique plot idea.  Yet the question still remains: since they showed they could improve, would it really have been that hard to go back and fix the beginning?  Sure, it would have taken more time, but think of the impact this film could have had.  This is likely the only good Christian horror concept on the market right now, and it most definitely needs to be reused in some way.  After the debacle of The Basement and the first half of this film, it seemed like JCL Production was just another failed venture, but with the total turnaround in Scattered, they have demonstrated that there is more to them than meets the eye.  Thus, it will be very interesting see what they can come up with next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points