Overcomer (August 2019)

Coming to theaters August 23, 2019

Writer(s): Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendrick

Director(s): Alex Kendrick

Producer(s): Stephen Kendrick

Starring: Priscilla Shirer, Alex Kendrick, Cameron Arnett, Aryn Wright-Thompson, Shari Rigby, Ben Davies, Elizabeth Becka, Joseph Curtis Callender, Cameron Arnett, Jared Stanley, Christian Gabriel Anderson, Dave Blamy, Jack Sterner, Scotty Curlee, Denise Armstrong, Jessie Gunn, Sam Beman

Plot Synopsis: Life changes overnight for coach John Harrison when his high school basketball team and state championship dreams are crushed under the weight of unexpected news. When the largest manufacturing plant shuts down and hundreds of families leave their town, John questions how he and his family will face an uncertain future. After reluctantly agreeing to coach cross-country, John and his wife, Amy, meet an aspiring athlete who’s pushing her limits on a journey toward discovery. Inspired by the words and prayers of a new-found friend, John becomes the least likely coach helping the least likely runner attempt the impossible in the biggest race of the year.

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2015 Box Office Revolution Awards

Every year, movies are released and cast members show off their talents.  Writers and directors showcase their creativity.  Films are separated into roughly three groups: the truly talented, the potentially great, and the others.  At Box Office Revolution, we believe it is our prerogative to annually recognize those movie makers and players who have the ability to bring revolution to Christian entertainment.

 

Reader’s Choice Movie of the Year: War Room

Runners-up: Woodlawn, Beyond the Mask, Old-Fashioned

 

Staff Choice Movie of the Year: Woodlawn

Runners-up: War Room, Old-Fashioned, Beyond the Mask

 

Staff Choice Actor of the Year: Caleb Castille (Woodlawn)

Runners-up: T. C. Stallings (War Room), Sean Astin (Woodlawn), Andrew Cheney (Beyond the Mask), Rik Swartzwelder (Old-Fashioned), Nic Bishop (Woodlawn)

 

Staff Choice Actress of the Year: Priscilla Shirer (War Room)

Runners-up: Karen Abercrombie (War Room), Kara Killmer (Beyond the Mask), Elizabeth Roberts (Old-Fashioned)

 

Staff Choice Directors of the Year: Andrew Erwin\Jon Erwin (Woodlawn)

Runners-up: Chad Burns (Beyond the Mask), Rik Swartzwelder (Old-Fashioned), Alex Kendrick (War Room)

 

Staff Choice Writers of the Year: Paul McCusker\Stephen Kendrick\Brennon Smith\Aaron Burns\Chad Burns (Beyond the Mask)

Runners-up: Rik Swartzwelder (Old-Fashioned), Jon Erwin\Todd Geralds\Quinton Peeples\Mark Schlabach (Woodlawn), Alex Kendrick\Stephen Kendrick (War Room)

 

Staff Choice Soundtrack of the Year: Woodlawn

Runners-up: War Room, Old-Fashioned, Beyond the Mask

2015 in Review: The Turning Point for Christian Films

2013 and 2014 were billed as the ‘years of the Bible’ in Hollywood, but this never panned out.  Unfortunately, barring a few exceptions, the Christian movies from these years were largely negative.  Yet they did signal a sign of things to come.  Before 2013, Christian movies were randomly and sporadically produced.  No consistent creators existed save for the Kendrick brothers and other Affirm creators such as the budding Erwin brothers, the PureFlix conglomerate, and the remnants of Fox Faith.  2013 and 2014 also promised Hollywood-driven faith based and inspirational films and many movies crowded to seize on this new label, presumably to capture a consistent Christian audience.  But in the end, little good came out of this push except for a promise of greater things to come and a blueprint on how to do it.

Fast forward to the year 2015, by far the best year for Christian films and the start of a new Christian movie era.  With a record-breaking four Box Office Revolution Hall of Fame movies, it was a year for the books.

 

Old-Fashioned

Early in 2015, rookie film maker Rik Swartzwelder burst onto the scene with a Valentine’s Day alternate to the grotesque Fifty Shades of Grey, which is a move that Christians need to take note of the next time they complain about or embrace all the bad movies in America.  Untested and unproven, PureFlix took a chance with Swartzwelder and cashed in big.  Swartzwelder brought a fresh look at Christian romance, driven by quality production and Jane Austen-like dialogue.  Old-Fashioned not only signaled the possible beginning of a new era for PureFlix distributed movies, but the beginning of a new Christian film era.

 

Beyond the Mask

In the underrated release of Pendragon, the Burns family showcased their ability to do a lot with small resources.  Now, with better funding, better support, and a better cast and crew, they broke out with a rare Christian action adventure screenplay.  Mask not only showcases a new genre but also demonstrates the ability to craft a complex non-typical Christian plot.  We expect it to be the first of many Christian films to break into new genres.

 

War Room

Following their blockbuster Courageous and their exit from Sherwood, the Kendrick brothers’ next release was highly anticipated and highly marketed.  It lived up to its expectations, both in quality and box office success.  War Room proved that the Kendricks are not done any time soon and remain the Fathers of Christian Film Making.

 

Woodlawn

The Erwin brothers have always performed ahead of schedule, with their only three films all being Hall of Fame rated.  They demonstrate expertise in assembling and directing highly talented crews and casts and in amplifying the strengths of individuals.  Not to mention that they write some great plots.  Woodlawn was heavily marketed as well and did not disappoint on the big screen.  The future is bright for these Alabama brothers.

 

 

Honorable Mention: Do You Believe

Following their first box office success God’s Not Dead, PureFlix sought to build on it with another inspirational film about the interconnected lives of individuals in a city.  With increased production quality and interesting plot potential, Do You Believe continued a new era of PureFlix films.  However, it still did not live up to Hall of Fame status.  Nonetheless, it was something to build off of.

 

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In summary, 2015 was a year that unexpectedly brought Christian movies to a new level—setting new standards for the industry.  No one saw it coming, but it happened regardless.  2016 promises to bring films from new Christian creators to the scene, and we anticipate a fresh wind of creativity to blow across the Christian movie landscape.  It’s time for a new generation of film makers to stand up and redeem the field—the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

We Need More Genres of Christian Movies

For too long, Christian films have struggled to find identity amidst a sea of limited inspirational plots, small-town romances, slightly true miraculous events, and Amish intrigue.  There are those, such as the Kendrick Brothers, who have mastered the generic inspirational genre, and there are sparse successes that can be discovered from time to time.  But for the most part, there are simply too many typical Christian films—those that include a male or female Christian or soon-to-be Christian protagonist who has an inevitable love interest and who is caught in some type of small-scale conflict with a predictable antagonist that will be neatly resolved in ninety minutes or less.  There are a lot of well-meaning intentions and great messages to be heard from these sorts of movies, but are they making a difference?  Both Christians and non-Christians need to hear what quality Christian film-makers have to say, but sometimes the messages get lost in translation due to stock packaging.  This is not to say that Christian films need outlandish plots and wild special effects like so many run-of-the-mill Hollywood screenplays.  What is needed is diverse genres coupled with solid plots and acting, without forgetting the need for high quality production.  This opinion piece aims to outline genre suggestions for future Christian films.

 

Action adventure

Burns Family Studios has already laid out a blueprint for the creation of great Christian action adventure films, and we fully expect them to continue to produce within this genre.  Action adventure is needed in Christian movies not only because it attracts younger audiences, but it also demonstrates that Christians can do more than just a Hallmark movie.  Box Office Revolution understands why this genre is not often used—more funding than usual is needed and scenes take longer to film.  But we maintain that it is better for make a few standout films than to continue to add to a growing pile of generic screenplays.

 

Epic

Woodlawn is the only modern Christian epic to date.  By definition, an epic movie is a minimum two-hour length film that depicts the entire life of an individual, a lengthy and complex portion of an individual’s life, or a group of individuals moving together across space and time in pursuit of a common set of goals.  Older screenplays such as The Robe and Ben-Hur can be placed in this category.  Epics are very hard to make because they require a lot of time and effort put into a concise portrayal of a long series of events.  They cannot be too rushed or too long.  Well-crafted epics will always be few and far between, but they are worth the wait.

 

Suspense

Hollywood is replete with cheap suspense movies because many audiences like seeing things blow up.  But Christians can do suspense better, if proper effort is put forth.  There are not many strictly suspense films on the Christian scene; Escape, Unconditional, and Courageous all have suspense elements.  The older Left Behind movies attempt to be suspenseful, but not successfully.  This genre is necessary because suspense is realistic, so long as guns and explosions are kept moderate.  Such movies can appeal to different audiences, both Christian and non-Christian, and can drive messages home in ways inspirational films cannot.

 

Psychological thriller

This is a very rare genre, almost like a gift that only some writers have.  Bradley Dorsey has dabbled into the genre in the past, though his films went mostly unnoticed due to poor funding.  The true definition of psychological thriller is difficult to quantify—it mostly pertains to a thriller whose plot rests on an out-of-the-ordinary plot twist or series of plot twists that do not pertain to average reality, such as a parallel universe or someone seeing life through the lens of a mental disorder.  Though this is a hard genre to write, we would like to see more ideas on the table.

 

Realistic legal thriller

Fiction of all types is replete with cheesy legal thrillers, yet there are those diamonds in the rough that need to be portrayed on the big screen.  Currently, legal ‘thrillers’ on the Christian market mostly pertain to religious freedom issues.  Most written legal thrillers have too much emphasis on evil prosecutors and angry judges.  In legal fiction, proper courtroom and law procedure must be given attention to in order to keep the plot realistic.  Box Office Revolution challenges the Christian faithful to try their hand at good legal thriller movies.  Since it is sometimes difficult to write this type of plot, there are plenty of Christian legal thrillers that are worth adapting.

 

Dystopian thriller

At the time of this writing, the secular box office is saturated with movies that are adapted from young adult dystopian thrillers.  Christians seem to be attracted to this type of movie, but Box Office Revolution has huge caveats about this following due to Hollywood’s usual inclusions of suggestive content and unnecessary violence.  Though there are no dystopian options on the table, this is the perfect opportunity for someone to come along and redeem the genre.  A dystopian society from a Christian worldview would be something to behold.

 

Fantasy\Speculative

The Chronicles of Narnia is the most poignant example of this genre as it pertains to a Christian worldview.  Douglas Gresham, stepson of C. S. Lewis has done an excellent job of preserving the original messages of the books, even though he has dealt with multiple production companies.  There are many ‘underground’ Christian fantasy and speculative works of fiction, so this can be a difficult genre to navigate.  Yet there are good ideas to be found.  New plots also need to be offered, ones that avoid the usual clichés of ‘chosen’ characters and quests.

 

True comedy

Mom’s Night Out is the best Christian comedy to date.  There are many cheap Christian and inspirational attempts at comedy that can mostly be seen on Hallmark and Ion, but not many truly humorous options.  In order to create a true comedy, one must write dialogue that is based in reality and elicit humor from everyday events and from the blunderings of flawed human beings like we all are.  Moreover, it is good to hear that Rene Gutteridge, a comedy genius is now entering the Christian film scene.  Most of her work is worth replicating.

 

Spiritual horror

This is a very difficult topic and it has never been done properly, to our knowledge.  To portray a Christian horror flick properly, it must be bathed in prayer and grounded in firm Jesus-centered spirituality.  Dealing with the demonic should never be taken lightly, but if a Christian horror film that properly portrays realistic spiritual conflict were ever made, it would reach audiences that are never reached by traditional Christian films.  Currently, there are no quality or remotely Christian horror films on the market; films such as The Remaining have unsuccessfully tried to dump Christian themes into cheap horror sequences.  Nonetheless, this genre is still wanting and should not be rushed into.

 

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In short, Box Office Revolution maintains that God gives Christians all varieties of creativity for a reason.  No movie genre that has the potential to be morally sound should be passed off as ‘ungodly’.  BOR operates from a worldview that simply states that God owns every jurisdiction and area of human creativity, including genre.  Though many genres have been marred with immortality, they can and should be redeemed by Christian film creators.  After all, Christians have the capacity to make their movies better than Hollywood, and we expect to see more of this in the days to come.

How the Kendrick Brothers Revolutionized Christian Moviemaking

Everyone has meager beginnings and first impressions can be deceiving.  At face value, Flywheel came onto the Christian movie scene with little national momentum.  However, Stephen and Alex Kendrick found some local success by having their movie shown around their home state of Georgia.  Box Office Revolution (BOR) did not exist at the time of Flywheel’s inception, but we would have given it a poor review for multiple reasons.  Even today, BOR suspects that the Kendricks know how low quality Flywheel actually was, but they were not deterred.  All they had to do was start somewhere.

Following Flywheel, Stephen and Alex continued the process of movie trial and error by learning from their mistakes, unlike many Christian movie-makers.  They increased their production budget and invested in better technology, such as better cameras.  As they created Facing the Giants, they continued to show inherent talent in coaching actors to be believable and realistic in their acting.  Facing the Giants burst onto the scene as a national momentum changer in Christian movies, partly due to an improved marketing push.  The movie was filmed with entirely ‘amateur’ actors, departing from a typical Christian movie model.  Giants brought more success than Flywheel, and the Kendricks could have stopped there and coasted the rest of their career.  Yet they did just the opposite.

There is no doubt that Stephen and Alex Kendrick are grounded in the Christian faith they profess and that they care about portraying real people in real life on the big screen.  There is nothing flashy about the Georgia natives, just authenticity and real Christianity.  These factors no doubt contribute to their cinematic success.

Fireproof was a slight departure for the Kendricks, as Christian celebrity actor Kirk Cameron was brought in to star in the movie about troubled marriages.  The Kendricks took on a topic that is unfortunately unpopular in many Christian circles and hit another home run.  Time has proven the actor coaching genius of the Kendrick brothers as Cameron and his co-star Erin Bethea have put on less than quality performances in non-Kendrick movies.  At the time of Fireproof, BOR wondered if the Kendricks would begin to coast through the remainder of their career, but we were wrong again.

Courageous had the largest budget of all Kendrick films, and it paid off.  Popular Christian actors Kevin Downes and Ben Davies were added to the cast list, alongside the typical ‘amateur’ Sherwood actors.  Thanks to Kendrick coaching, BOR saw no difference between experienced and inexperienced actors.  Courageous was the most complex Kendrick plot to date and had the deepest character development at the time.  The film tackled the serious topic of true fatherhood from multiple angles and expounded on the Kendricks’ silent commitment to diversity in actors.  In short, BOR calls Courageous a blockbuster success and the moment when the Kendricks truly ‘arrived’ in film-making.  Once again, at this point, the Kendricks could have sat back and coasted.  Yet, once again, they chose the higher road.

Following the success of Courageous, Alex and Stephen Kendrick chose to leave their seemingly comfortable staff positions at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, and decided to strike out on their own with faith in God that their new venture would work.  They developed Kendrick Brothers Films and seemed to lay dormant for several years.  Alex appeared in a few movies as an actor only, including The Lost Medallion and the blockbuster Mom’s Night Out.  BOR wondered if their film-making days were behind them.  We were completely wrong.

The rumblings of War Room began late in 2014 and continued throughout the spring and summer of 2015.  The early advertisements promised a talented cast, a commitment to diversity, and a solid topic designed to change the church culture in America.  The movie delivered on all three and packaged them all into an exquisite plot centered around well-developed, believable characters.  Complete with a realistic ending, believable life events, a non-linear plot, excellent acting and production, and personal Easter eggs, War Room proved that the Kendricks were not finished making high quality movies.

In addition to perfecting a model for writing and producing high quality Christian movies, the Kendricks are also credited as helping the groundbreaking Erwin brothers begin their movie success.  Along with Sherwood executive producer Jim McBride, the Kendricks are quietly thanked for their help with October Baby, the Erwins’ inaugural film that received meager attention compared to their blockbusters Mom’s Night Out and Woodlawn.  Therefore, the Kendrick brothers have also shown that they think beyond their own movie-making ventures and seek to improve and discover quality Christian films everywhere.  If there ever was a time that quality Christian films were desperately needed, it is now.

The Kendricks have not only found success in grossing high dollar amounts through independent films, but their strong faith and mission clearly drive their film-making.  They mobilize the church not only to advertise but also to make a difference in American Christian culture.  As far as BOR can tell, the Kendricks have no ulterior motives except for strengthening Christians through movies.  Movies are powerful, and the Kendricks have proven this.  Yet there is nothing more powerful than righteous prayer, as was demonstrated in War Room, perhaps the most powerful Christian film to date.  BOR only expects great things from Christian movies in the future, and the Kendrick brothers are partially responsible for ushering in this new era.

War Room (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Elizabeth Jordan, on the surface, has an ideal life—a good job, an expensive house, a husband with a high salary, and a nice daughter.  However, something isn’t right, something is just missing.  She can’t really seem to get along with her husband anymore, he seems distant and preoccupied with other women, and she barely knows her daughter anymore.  Everything changes for Elizabeth when she meets her new realty client, Miss Clara.  Miss Clara subtlety pricks into Elizabeth’s personal life just enough to make Elizabeth interested in finding out what Miss Clara’s secret to happiness is.  After talking long enough, Elizabeth discovers that her life is not alright and that Miss Clara’s secret weapon is worth a try.  The secret weapon?  A war room, or a prayer closet.  Miss Clara teaches Elizabeth to fight for herself and for her family on her knees so that God can fight for her rather than her fighting for herself.  Little did they know that the battle had only begun.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

In the same vein as Courageous, the production quality of War Room is high.  Despite this being the first Kendrick movie away from Sherwood Baptist Church, nothing in the area of production quality changed between Courageous and War Room.  While there are no real action scenes in War Room, the diversity of sets is still present.  The soundtrack fits into the film neatly.  The editing and the production give the movie a close to home feel, which seems to be what the creators were going for.  In short, this is business as usual for the Kendricks.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The plot of War Room follows a typical non-linear Kendrick plot with minor twists and turns—one that defies conventional plot structure.  In the beginning, the plot depicts realistic struggles of accessible characters paired with a clear Christian message, which is a hallmark of the Kendrick brand.  Dialogue is mostly effective in building character motive and driving character arcs, and the message is obviously a powerful one, but there is a point where the storyline of this film overstays its welcome through multiple moments that seem like the end and through stop-and-start sequences that lag on a bit too long with the purpose of driving home how the characters have become seemingly perfect.  Thus, while there is plenty of good in this plot and while there is no doubt of the film’s success, we needed a bit more realism in the arcs of the characters.  However, the message of War Room is still worthwhile.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

In the first movie away from the Sherwood acting pool, there are no concerns here.  The actors behave just as all actors do under the tutelage of a Kendrick movie crew.  The delivery of lines is solid and the emotions are believable.  This type of movie is heavily dependent on the acting quality, and they did not disappoint.  A continued under-appreciated aspect of Kendrick films is their commitment to diversity of casting.  This is huge, since Christian movies should be better than mainstream movies.

Conclusion

The Kendricks have a brand, and they are sticking with it.  War Room feels like a redux of Fireproof with better cast members and a less textbook message, but the up-and-down career of the Kendricks continues in this rendition.  They know their audience, they have the marketing skills down, and they have the name recognition to basically do whatever they want from here on out and still have box office success.  War Room takes another spot on the Hall of Fame, but we have to wonder if the Kendricks will branch out in their post-Sherwood career or if they will continue to churn out more high-quality but safe films.  We are banking on the latter, but we will be looking for them to do something more creative in their next film.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

 

Courageous (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Adam Mitchell and Shane Fuller are just average deputies in an average Georgia city.  They’ve seen humanity at their worst and have tried their best to not become desensitized to the world.  But their mediocre existence is altered when they meet Nathan Hayes, a transfer deputy who truly lives out his faith and his commitment to his family.  Hayes challenges them and a young deputy, David Thompson, and eventually a mutual friend, Javier Martinez, to commit to become better men and fathers, not to just settle for the status quo.  They don’t take him very seriously until tragedy rocks all of their worlds and they are forced to truly look at what they believe in and what they are working towards in life.  Yet as they each make their own decisions in response to the tragedy, they find that every choice has a consequence and the right way is hardly ever the easy way.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

In their largest budget at this point in time, the Kendricks minced nothing.  They left everything on the proverbial production field.  The camera work is masterful, from filming difficult action scenes with skill to bringing an overall high quality and professional look to the movie.  The editing is at least average, especially when considering the large amount of plot content.  There is an excellent balance between action and serene and even sad.  Audio quality is excellent, including an effective soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are very realistic.  This was no doubt a difficult production to pull off, but the Kendricks did it very well.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Courageous follows a typical Kendrick storyline, including multiple subplots and non-linear elements.  There are a lot of great attempts to develop characters through dialogue and realistic situations.  The stories of the characters are intriguing and mostly relatable, even if it sometimes seems like there is a lot going on in the film.  Many different issues are covered in the plot, which is both good and bad.  Not everything turns out to be perfect, and many very relevant concepts are included.  However, sometimes the storyline comes off as a bit disorganized, and sometimes the messaging it a bit too obvious.  Moreover, there is plenty of good here, and many audiences will enjoy this film.

Acting Quality (3 points)

What else can be said about the acting coach talents of the Kendrick crew?  Once again, seasoned actors are mixed with ‘average’ actors, and there is no difference.  Kevin Downes, with years of acting experience, is no better or worse than Robert Amaya in his masterful acting debut.  In addition, the Kendricks continue to show a commitment to diversity of actors, which something many Christian film makers struggle to do.  As a whole, the Kendricks are consistently great in the categories of production and acting.

Conclusion

The Kendrick Brothers have definitely found a Christian movie-making model, and they are sticking with it.  They have an audience, and they know what types of stories they want to portray and what types of characters they want to craft.  There is always plenty of positive to find in their films, and their consistency puts many Christian film makers to shame, but one can see how this movie model can become pedestrian.  In future films, they should consider retaining better screen-writing, but since they have something that works so well, it’s hard to see it changing.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

 

Fireproof (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Caleb Holt is successful in his career as a fire captain.  He will risk his life for anyone, but he does not care about his marriage as it begins to fall apart around him.  His wife, Catherine, has a successful career of her own and she is tired of the conflicts she continues to have with her husband.  All Caleb seems to care about is his job, saving up for his boat, and looking for fulfillment from places other than his wife.  Catherine is lonely and becoming hardened to her husband as she tries to care for her elderly parents and directs her attentions towards a nice doctor at the hospital she works at who gives her more attention than Caleb does.  Caleb is ready to throw in the towel before his father steps in and gives him a forty-day challenge, The Love Dare, to try to save his marriage before signing the divorce papers.  Little do Caleb and Catherine know that they are in for changes and trials beyond their marital discord.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

In keeping with the production spirit of Facing the Giants, Fireproof does not disappoint.  The higher budget is maintained and even expanded, and it pays off.  Difficult firefighting scenes are successfully executed, and diverse sets are used.  The editing is concise, making for an easy viewing.  As is the Kendrick norm, there are no caveats here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Another Kendrick movie, another solid Christian message packaged in a believable real-life plot executed by realistic characters.  The plot is not too preachy as it is both evangelistic and discipling towards Christians.  Strengthening weak and broken marriages is a very important message for viewers today, both Christian and non-Christian.  This could not have been pulled off without imperfect and accessible characters, which there are in his movie.  The usual comedy scenes are included.  Yet there are a few caveats here.  The plot is more linear than usual for Kendrick plots and the dialogue is lacking in some areas.  But even with these issues, Fireproof makes other movies pale in comparison.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The Kendricks departed from their usual model of only using ‘inexperienced’ actors by bringing in Kirk Cameron, but the transition is seamless.  This is likely Cameron’s finest acting work to date.  The same can be said for co-star Erin Bethea.  The supporting cast is no worse in talent than these two, thus reflecting acting coaching success for the Kendrick crew.

Conclusion

Even when the Kendricks are not at their finest, they still rise to the top in the Christian movie industry.  As their career has progressed, their quality has improved in all areas.  Fireproof marked a huge turning point in many ways, if not only for their tackling of a timely message that many Christian movies either ignore or portray incorrectly.  Yet this installment was only a harbinger of greater things to come.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 points

Facing the Giants (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Nothing ever seems to work out for Grant Taylor, high school coach of the Shiloh Eagles football team.  His team is the laughingstock of the conference, his job is perpetually on the hot seat, his income is sub-par, and he and his wife cannot seem to have any children.  What’s worse, the allegedly Christian football players have horrible attitudes toward the game and toward life, thus causing their new season to go from bad to worse.  Everything comes to a head one day when Coach Taylor overhears the top men of the private school discussing his potential exit with one of his trusted assistant coaches.  This causes Grant to cry out to God for help, and He answers, telling him to disciple his players and to foster a new attitude on the team.  This is all confirmed by a faithful praying man who refuses to give up on the spiritual state of the school.  When Grant gives everything over to God, he is shocked at the results that are produced not only at his job but also in his personal life.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

Giants was a landmark work in the Christian movie industry.  It upped the standard of Christian movie production quality, something that was long overdue.  The Kendrick Brothers invested in better equipment, and it paid off.  Gone are the days of poor Flywheel production.  The camera work, which could have easily been poorly done due to difficult football game scenes, is flawless.  There is no more grainy video or medieval sound; the lighting in Giants is excellent.  The soundtrack and audio quality are professional.  Box Office Revolution sees little to nothing negative about the Giants production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This is perhaps the weakest area of Facing the Giants.  The plot is fairly predictable, but it is done in the best way possible.  The characters are believable and the Christian message is meaningful without being preachy.  Dialogue is meaningful and real life events play out that the viewers can relate to.  There are no real surprises or plot twists, but after all, this was the Kendricks’ second movie on a relatively small budget.  One breath of fresh air is their continued commitment to well-thought-out comedy scenes, something that makes average movies great.  Overall, this is not a creative plot, but it is done well.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Who needs ‘professional’ actors when the Kendricks are the acting coaches?  ‘Amateur’ actors are made great in this movie.  They make their characters believable rather than stereotypical.  Dialogue is delivered well.  BOR sees no real errors here.

Conclusion

In short, while Giants is not the best movie, it is certainly an above average movie.  This is due to superb leadership and a commitment to a meaningful Christian message.  Production is top-notch and the acting is excellent.  This movie’s only weak area is its average plot, but this is only a small issue when compared to other Christian movies.  The most important thing is that the Kendrick Brothers were not done yet.

 

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

Flywheel (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Jay Austin is a typical used car salesman: dishonest and unashamed of it.  He will do anything to make good margins, including cheat old women and lie outright about the quality of his vehicles.  However, his financial situation is not what he wants it to be, as he is at risk of losing his business to foreclosure.  He calls himself a Christian, but he does not feel conviction for his actions until one day, when he is desperate, he happens upon a television sermon that pricks his conscience regarding his common business practices.  In order to receive God’s favor, Jay turns his philosophy around and begins to build a reputation of integrity for himself.  This causes him to part ways with some of his salesmen, who learned Jay’s former dishonest ways.  On the brink of losing his business, Jay cries out to God and obeys His prompting to return money he cheated out of people.  Following this, a miracle occurs when Jay sells nearly every car on his lot on the day his bill is due at the bank.  It was that day that Jay truly learned what it meant to serve God in all areas of his life.

Production Quality (.5 point)

Anyone who knows anything about the Kendricks knows that Flywheel is not their best movie by far.  The camera work is very poor, as is the editing.  Sometimes the video is hard to make out and there are frequent background noises that disrupt viewing.  Camera angles are not the best.  There are quite a few lighting issues.  While this looks like an overall cheap production, first time film makers get a break on production quality, especially if the budget is tight.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The plot of the inaugural Kendrick film is not bad, but it could be better.  It showcases the beginnings of the trademark Kendrick non-linear plot style, but not to its full potential.  Most of the characters are stereotypical and the dialogue is un-compelling.  There is really nothing dynamic here except for some brief comedy scenes that hold the attention.  The ending is fairly predictable, but Kendricks do a pretty good job at driving home the parable narrative.  They showed great potential, even early on.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The poor acting can be excused by not only the early stages of Kendrick productions, but also the fact that this movie is made of entirely inexperienced or semi-experienced actors.  While many of the actors are seemingly down to earth and realistic in some respects, they are not up to par with high quality productions.  Thankfully, Kendrick movies did not remain on the level of Flywheel.

Conclusion

In the end, Flywheel shows a lot of raw talent, initiative, and want-to.  The production is raw and honest.  The plot is semi-complex and the actors are close to home.  However, it is not enough to warrant a re-watch.  Flywheel will forever serve as a reminder of how blockbuster moviemakers get started.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Easter Eggs in Kendrick Brothers Movies

One of the marks of a truly gifted movie maker is the inclusion of Easter eggs in their films.  For example, any consistent movie-goer knows about the vast collection of Pixar Easter eggs, namely those characters, symbols, objects, statements, words, sayings, etc. that are found discretely in multiple movies.  As far as Box Office Revolution can tell, this is a complete list of the Easter eggs found in Kendrick Brothers movies (it will be updated as more movies come out):

 

Albany Fire Department

  • In Courageous, the fire department where Caleb Holt and his team from Fireproof worked is shown in a drive-by.

 

Bobby Lee Duke

  • In War Room, Tony Jordan’s friend Michael, a paramedic, wears a shirt in one scene that states ‘Bobby Lee Duke Memorial Hospital’, the same name as the infamous outspoken coach of the Giants from Facing the Giants.

 

David Thompson

  • In War Room, following an intense run-in with a knife-wielding attempted thief, Miss Clara and Elizabeth Jordan are questioned by a police officer played by Ben Davies, who also played David Thompson, a police officer, in Courageous. It is possible that it is the same character.

 

Jay Austen Motors

  • In Facing the Giants, the truck that Matt Prater’s father secretly gave Coach Grant Taylor has a Jay Austen Motors license plate, a nod to the inaugural Kendrick film, Flywheel.
  • In Fireproof, Caleb Holt’s truck also comes from Jay Austen Motors.
  • In Courageous, Adam Mitchell owns a vehicle from the same dealership.
  • In War Room, Tony Jordan’s SUV also sports a Jay Austen license plate.
  • Thus far, the Jay Austen Motors license plate has appeared in every Kendrick Brothers movie.

 

Wrath of God

  • In War Room, Elizabeth Jordan asks her husband if he wants ‘Wrath of God’ hot sauce on his salad, a nod to a comedic hot sauce competition from Fireproof.