Hilton Head Island, Season 2 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

Following the critically denounced blockbuster debut season of Hilton Head Island, which is the world’s first ever Hope Opera, the second season appeared on PureFlix On Demand in a similar fashion as the first with no warning or marketing to proceed its release.  Nevertheless, the second season picks up at the cliffhanger where the first left off–only this time, the cast is smaller and the green screens are more obvious.  Daniel Trisk has woken up from his partially fake coma, and he’s taking the Isle News Network back over (as if anybody was watching it in the first place).  As he shakes up the staff and whips people into shape, we actually get some looks at what they actually play on their fake channel.  However, as usual, there’s a lot of trumped-up intrigue and fake drama that will have you rolling your eyes along with us.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

The second season of this ridiculous excuse for entertainment is just as cheap – probably cheaper – than they first season.  Although video quality is fine, the camera is constantly shifting around even though every shot is already as tight as possible to hide the fact that this nonsense was entirely filmed in a set.  This set was complete with a very poorly constructed green screen that gives the characters special outlines and sometimes bleeds through objects on camera.  The only parts that aren’t filmed in front of a green screen (there might have been one real set in there somewhere) utilize the exact same stock footage sequences we saw from the first season – including the ones of the false exterior of the network building that’s used about 4843928 times.  The rest of the stock footage has nobody in it, as if this island is completely abandoned save for our favorite main characters (some of which have already left the show).  Since the stock footage takes up nearly half of each very short episode, there’s little that can be accomplished.  Elsewhere, the soundtrack is cheesy and generic, and every scene feels like it begins just as characters start doing things rather than having it flow into things that are already naturally happening.  Finally, the introduction sequence was seriously made on Windows Movie Maker.  That’s about it for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Where to start?  How about with the weird Christian worldview that earns this section a negative point?  As if Wink Martindale weren’t a bad enough TV preacher impersonator, we get strange lectures from the very white, awkward, and geriatric patriarch of the Trisk family about how Christianity is all about legalism and behavior modification (the token black woman gets to say a few things about this topic too).  All of the dialogue is overly dramatic, and Bible verses are used in bizarre ways.  In typical soap opera form, the ‘story’ is chock-full of forced and fake drama as the subplots fragment all over the place and as conversations are used to dump information onto the audience, especially when explaining where the missing cast members went.  There’s still so much going on here that there is no chance for any character or plot depth, as if the writers even knew how to do that in the first place.  The ‘plot’ jumps from one thing to the next as the characters are just stand-ins and representations of issues and circumstances.  Nearly 60% of the plot takes place in the context of phone conversations, and Christian tropes and trite lessons inserted awkwardly into so-called stories.  In typical PureFlix fashion, young people are portrayed in insulting ways as the series basically has no grasp on reality.  A lot of ‘good’ characters are questionable at being ‘good’, and the ‘bad’ characters are total strawmen to the point that it’s not even funny.  Basically, I think you can get the picture that there’s nothing good here and that there’s not even an ounce of potential in this garbage.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To say the least, this ever-shrinking cast exhibits some of the worst acting possible.  Line delivery is forced down your throat like cast members are saying lines through a strainer.  Attempts at emotions are like fingernails in a chalkboard.  A majority of the scenes appear to be one-take as cast members awkwardly stand around making annoyingly stereotypic movements and just mindlessly recite lines.  This doesn’t even cover the fact that this cast is extremely fake-looking, and the makeup work is atrocious.  It’s really no surprise that this cast is smaller than the first season (even Donna Mills had something better to do), but we can’t even do without Carey Scott’s stiff and wooden performances.  As a side note, most the time, it seems like Anna Zielinki is trolling – it’s either that, or she’s a terrible villain.  Further, there are basically no extras in this cast, which lends further to the portrayal of Hilton Head Island as a ghost town.

Continuity Quality (1 point)

Although there is some continuity between episodes, there is still little to no organization in this series.  It’s nearly impossible to accomplish anything substantial in incredibly short episodes that are replete with stock footage.  It’s also too easy to make mindless 20-minute episodes, especially when this second season is half the length of the first.  However, for all the die-hard Hilton Head Island fans, Season 2 provides us with yet another forced cliffhanger ending that’s designed to make you want another season (if they have any cast members left by then).

Conclusion

PureFlix makes garbage and just keeps trucking along.  You can’t fault them for having drive.  They try new things and attempt to pander to their audience for quick cash grabs.  Even still, I greatly fail to see the market for this ‘Hope Opera’.  There’s definitely an untapped market for good Christian series, but this ain’t the way.  This is the last thing you want in a Christian series unless you have nothing better to do with your free month of PureFlix On Demand.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Hilton Head Island, Season 1 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

The powerful Trisk family funs the influence ISLE News Network, and they are headed up by the patriarch Daniel Trisk.  However, when he has a sudden stroke on air, the entire empire is threatened.  Victoria Trisk, wife of Daniel, wields her power over the family while her husband lays in a coma.  Everyone in the family has a secret to guard, and each one of them wants the upper hand in the ISLE News Network business.  Will they remember their Christian faith and learn what really matters in the midst of all their conspiracies?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though there are attempts at making this ‘hope opera’ series a good production, many of them fall flat.  Beginning with a disorienting opening sequence and continuing with time and location captions, this series commits quite a few errors.  Though location footage is excellent, we never see the characters go to any of those places and instead are forced to watch them awkwardly stand around in cheap and limited indoor sets and in front of painfully obvious green screens.  Issues like these seem to suggest the PureFlix team didn’t know what they were doing with this series, even though video quality, camera work, and audio quality are fine.  The soundtrack is mostly generic, and there is a lot of awkward editing throughout, including lingering scenes and fadeouts.  Unfortunately, a lot of this series’ production is a cover for shortcuts and cheaply done work.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This ‘hope opera’ also commits pretty much all of the clichés that exist in the severely limited genre of soap operas.  Everything is overly dramatic for no reason, and every conflict seems forced and trumped up, as well as the premise itself.  It feels like this series exists in some alternate world, like a child’s play world, rather than the real world.  Most, if not all, of the characters are annoying and impressed with themselves as most of their dialogue is filled with information dumps of things that happened off screen.  For that matter, there is a lot of talk about these characters doing media work, but we rarely see any of it.  The Christian themes therein are extremely forced and plastic; however, near the end of this season, things take a sudden turn towards remotely interesting rather than the previous fingernails-in-the-chalkboard style they were going for.  Unfortunately, this is too little too late as too many loose ends and unnecessary subplots are introduced in the latter half of the season.  Though there are some interesting attempts at creating flawed characters, it’s just not enough to save this series from itself.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The cast of Hilton Head Island is perhaps among the most plastic-looking and fake-looking we have ever seen, including Hallmark casts.  The makeup work in this film is freakishly awful and out of place.  Besides this pageantry, as previously mentioned, cast members stand around awkwardly like they don’t know what to do.  Their line delivery is unnatural and stilted, while emotions are very wooden and forced.  A lot of the time, they are trying way too hard, especially in scenes that are supposed to have high emotion.  However, there is some improvement noted throughout that keeps this section from being zero.  As a side note, why did Bradley Dorsey choose this mess to restart his acting career with?

Continuity Quality (1 point)

Most of the time, episodes break and transition in the oddest ways.  Also, the same old transition sequences are used over and over again between scenes.  Though there are some attempts at character backstory, many concepts tend to recycle and repeat themselves throughout this series.  There are also way too many subplots going on for any hope of organization to exist.

Conclusion

Once again, PureFlix tries to breach new territory in the Christian entertainment world, and once again, it’s a swing and a miss.  We definitely need a series that has intrigue, conspiracy, and flawed characters with no clear heroes, but this is not the way to do it.  The soap opera mentality is doomed to failure from the start, and the plastic Christian message of this series is laughable, not to mention the utter pageantry embarrassment that this cast is.  Better luck next time, PureFlix.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 14 points

 

Silver Bells [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Bruce Dalt is obsessed with his job as a local sports anchor.  He is also obsessed with his son getting a good basketball scholarship.  However, he lets his emotions get the best of him when he gets angry at a referee who made a call on his son, Bruce finds himself in the middle of a public relations nightmare.  His media employer determines that he needs to complete community service before he can come back to his job.  Thus, Bruce is stuck ringing a Christmas bell for the Salvation Army.  Will he be able to learn the true meaning of Christmas?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Silver Bells is a typically professional PureFlix and UP production collaboration.  As such, there are few errors to note here.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit too holiday-ish, but it’s fine.  Sets, locations, and props are also fine, albeit filled with Christmas stuff.  There are also a lot of Salvation Army ‘product placements,’ but at least this is a good ministry to promote.  Finally, there are some small editing issues to note, but on the whole, this is a model production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, despite the influence of Andrea Nasfell, this plot suffers from a bout of forced comedy and cardboard cutout characters, including a stereotypical over the top holiday-hating character that is forced to like Christmas throughout the course of the film.  Also, the holiday-hating character constantly reminds the audience of his unexplained cold attitude towards Christmas.  Thus, the Christian message is quite cheap.  There is unfortunately nothing truly creative in this plot as it seems like it was manufactured in a Christmas plot factory.  Any issues raised are too easily resolved, and even though the Salvation Army has some great causes, it’s not enough to save this story from itself.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Mostly, the lead cast members trying too hard to convince the audience of who their characters are, much like many PureFlix movies.  In doing so, they come off as very disingenuous and plastic.  However, there are plenty of good moments from the supporting cast members that help this section from being nothing.  Emotions are overall average throughout, thus rounding out a nearly-average film.

Conclusion

Films like this one can’t help but be seen as just one made on the assembly line of holiday inspirational films.  If you’re going to reuse an old plot concept, at least make it was accessible and believable characters that audiences can relate to.  As it is, Silver Bells just seems like it’s trying to check the boxes so it can be a packaged made-for-television film.  We need more creativity than this, but the good thing is that Andrea Nasfell has shown that she has the ability to do this when she is supported properly.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Part 6 (MTASBTNEWOT 6)

In our vast Christian entertainment viewing experience, we sometimes come upon films that we can hardly justify writing a full review for.  Therefore, for your convenience, so you don’t have to go watch those free films that invade your suggested watch list in on-demand video services, we’ve provided a quick overview here.  Someday we might post more, if we’re fortunate enough to find more.

 

There’s a map on the back of Georgia’s state constitution

The Adventures of Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure

Oh, Mickey Matson.  Why does this series exist?  I guess someone pitched the idea of a juvenile young-adult patriotic secret society action adventure suspense secret codes National Treasure concept copycat film to PureFlix and they liked it because they don’t usually have any standards (see Divine Will).  So they found the most redneck characters ever to play the villains and wrote out a bunch of mumbo jumbo about secret codes to make the story look interesting.  Then they thought it would be cool to throw in some kind of cockamamie machine invention doohickey that does alchemy or something.  Basically, this sort-of-non-Christian action adventure film is just too far over our heads to warrant a full review, especially since we can’t make heads or tails of what we’re supposed to learn from it.

 

The secret lies with Charlotte

Pirate’s Code: The Adventures of Mickey Matson

Oh, there’s another one?  To think they meant to make more of these like PureFlix’s own version of a poor man’s young adult film franchise.  Seriously, is this all they could come up with?  More redneck villains and stupid props!  More devices, doohickeys, and junk science!  More secret societies and secret codes and secret secrets!  More terrible special effects!  If a non-Christian saw this, they would laugh you out of the room.  This non-franchise should have been left at the storyboard.

 

Road to the Open

This isn’t really even a Christian film at all, just another random cheap inspirational film that PureFlix endorses.  It was so boring to watch and the only reason we did was so we could see John Schneider and Eric Roberts play an alpha-male star tennis team.  They were barely in the movie as it was, which was a real bummer, and they weren’t even that funny, even though they tried.  Oh well.

 

Well that’s all for now!  Maybe we’ll post another one someday…maybe not…

The Encounter, Season 1 [2016] (Series Review)

With this creepy look, who doesn’t want an encounter?

Plot Summary

When someone is going about their everyday activities, they never know what is about to happen or who they are about to meet.  They all have struggles and secrets that they don’t want anyone to know, but they would be free if they just knew someone they could trust them with.  But people never know when they are about to meet Someone Who will change their life forever.  They never know until they have their own Encounter with Jesus.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Encounter series follows a typical production formula that PureFlix has been using for years.  They check the boxes for making the production look good on the surface, including video quality, audio quality, sets, props, and locations.  The soundtrack is sometimes engaging but mostly standard.  Sometimes there is too much shaky camera work, especially in the poorly shot actions scenes.  The biggest issue here is that large amount of wasted time throughout the series.  Most episodes are 25-28 minutes long, but the plots are usually so thin that this is too much time.  The exception to this is of episodes one and four, which will be discussed later.  But in the end, this series demonstrates an overall typical and average production effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

For eight episodes, The Encounter rehashes the same types of ideas, concepts, and conversations over and over again, just with different characters.  Outside of episodes one and four, there is no creativity here, as the opening sequence tells you what’s going to happen in each episode.  Besides being predictable, these stories are also very quick and punctuated, like they’ve been made in a quick plot factory.  While there are some good issues raised in the series, there are too many quick fixes and easy solutions based on creepy and plastic Jesus dialogue.  Thus, the messaging is quite shallow.  However, there is some potential here, as the first episode is very interesting and should have been the focus of the whole series so we could have gotten to know these characters better.  Also, the fourth episode would have made an interesting movie, if done properly.  But overall, this series just hops from high point to high point and discards substance and realism along the way.  It’s a good idea done very poorly.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While there are bright spots in this large scale cast, there are also plenty of issues.  For one, it seems like Bruce Marchiano, who has done well portraying Jesus in the past, has lost his touch. Other cast members are typical PureFlix standbys and rejects who seem to be lazy and phoning in their performances.  But as it is, it just comes out as average.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

When the same ideas repeat over and over again in each episode and new characters are constantly being introduced, there is no chance or hope for continuity in this season.  There are no story arcs or character arcs.  We need to see what happens to these characters after their initial encounters, which is why it would have been great to have the characters from the first episode be the main focus of this series.  Yet the way it has been done is shallow and lazy, thus warranting no points here.

Conclusion

There’s nothing wrong with having Jesus intervene in everyday situations, but spitting out a whole bunch of episodes that are all basically the same doesn’t accomplish anything.  It’s easy to create a bunch of surface characters and then leave them; it takes true skill to craft meaningful characters that we can connect with.  It’s also a great idea to create a Christian series, but we need something better than this.  We need sustainable ideas that make people want to follow a set of characters across an arc.  PureFlix has the resources to do this, but will they?

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 14 points

 

Amazing Love: The Story of Hosea (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

On a small youth group retreat, Pastor Stuart senses that something is amiss with the group of kids he is responsible for.  A new non-Christian girl is among them, and her presence is causing divisions among the Christian teens.  He decides to try to get through to them by telling them his creative and family-friendly rendering of the Biblical story of Hosea and his tenuous relationship with his wife Gomer.  Ultimately, each person must decide how they are going to respond and to show God’s unconditional love for all people.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The Christiano Brothers and Kevin Downes usually know how to produce a movie so that it passes as above average.  Amazing Love is no exception.  There are few overt errors in this film’s production quality.  The camera work is simple but not detracting.  The video and sound quality are fine.  The editing is fine, considering there is just not much content here.  The biggest problems with production pertain to the limited and cheap looking sets.  Some of the Biblical props and costuming seem low quality.  Overall, Amazing Love is good enough to make viewers watch.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The premise of Amazing Love is intriguing.  Youth group issues need to be discussed in movies.  Biblical narratives need to be explored.  One has to wonder if Hosea was the best choice, but Box Office Revolution believes it was handled tastefully, even if it is slightly unrealistic.  Due to the dual narrative, dialogue is simplistic and characters are shallow.  The fact that there are two stories in this movie show that there is just not enough content to make this a dynamic film.  But the creators did the best they could with what they had, and sometimes that is all we can ask.  There are some interesting twists that keep the attention.  This plot will make people think and it is better than a lot of Christian films.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The actors seem either wooden or childish.  Some of the acting is good, but some is not.  The more experienced actors deliver their lines better than others.  Casting might have been an issue in this modestly budgeted production.  Overall, the acting is just average.

Conclusion

Everyone needs to know that God’s love is unconditional, especially teenagers from broken homes.  The story of Hosea reminds everyone that God loves even those we considered to be hopeless and unreachable.  For a simple family film, Amazing Love passes the test.  Audiences need to be informed of Bible stories that are not often focused on.  Unfortunately, there was a low ceiling for this movie and it hit it.  But in the end, this is definitely not a movie to be ashamed of.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points