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?

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Forgiven (coming in 2019)

Currently in post-production

Writer(s): Kevan Otto, Lloyd S. Wagner

Director(s): Kevan Otto

Producer(s): Brad Allen, Michael Criscione, Spenser Fritz, Ben Graham, Chuck Howard, Martin Michael, Lamont Roberts, Tom Sanders

Starring: Kevin Sorbo, Jenn Gotzon Chandler, Casey Fuller, Kelsey Sanders, Reegus Flenory, Allee Sutton Hethcoat, Glenn Cartwright, Marie A. Garton

Plot Synopsis: James Carter (has never amounted to anything. Stuck equally in a both a “go nowhere” job and “meaningless” relationship, he is a rudderless ship that is truly adrift, a man with no focus or purpose. The nightmare that is his life takes an even more downward spiral, when during an argument with his girlfriend a firearm is accidentally discharged striking her. James panics and goes on the run. Police eventually catch up with him and a pursuit ensues. With nowhere to go and the law hot on his trail James seeks refuge in a small church, where unknown to him, a Pastor and his two daughters, Elizabeth Jand her sister are cleaning up after the evening recital. A standoff with the pursing officers quickly escalates into a hostage situation.

The Mustard Seed (2019)

The Mustard Seed (2019)

Currently in post-production

Writer(s): Rich Correll, G.M. Mercier

Director(s): Rich Correll

Producer(s): Rich Correll, Nathan Gardocki, Laurence Jaffe, Terry Rindal

Starring: Mira Sorvino, Kevin Sorbo, Peter Coyote, Austyn Johnson, Burgress Jenkins, Cate Jones, Tommi Rose, Paul-Mikel Williams, Darryl Cox, Marisol Vera, Stephanie Cood, David Burkhart, Tisha Bradford, Aaron J. Brooks, Luke Harmon, Jake Washburn, Kim Robertson, Piper Petrole, Ricardo Hinoa, Leland Prater

Plot Synopsis: Eleven-year-old Sara’s faith is so strong she attracts the attention of Jesus. Together they create miracles such as restoring life to a dead bird, sight to a blind girl, getting a boy with a severed spine to walk again, curing a girl with terminal cancer. Sara becomes a media sensation and a community phenomenon. The community is bewildered by a twist of faith that affects Sara’s health. In an ending that is healing as it is unexpected, Sara’s faith proves to be more powerful and life-affirming than presumed certainties of science and even death itself.

Movie Renovation: God’s Not Dead

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

There are really few production errors to note in the first God’s Not Dead film.  The primary issue with this production is, of course, the editing, due to the large and complex amount of content that is attempted to be used in this film.  Thus, if the plot categories were improved, the editing issue would likely also improve.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

The plot of God’s Not Dead needs some serious work.  For one, there are too many ideas shoved into one two-hour film.  A lot of these ideas really need to be movies of their own, such as the Muslim family subplot and the Chinese student subplot.  The blogger character and all of her connections (Dean Cain, the Robertsons, etc.) need to be deleted completely.  The woman with dementia is an interesting aside, but it needs better development.  Pastor Dave and his connections really wouldn’t be missed either; this area might be better if it was altered.  Finally, the portrayal of the atheist professor is noteworthy and better than most, but it still could be better and less over the top.  The “character who is an atheist because their mother died of cancer” trope is a bit thin.  Also, there are obviously instances of anti-Christian bias in academia, but this story could have been a bit more down to earth.  Thus, with a lot of separation, editing, organization, and focus, this plot could have pushed the film into the Hall of Fame.

Acting Improvements

While the acting of the original God’s Not Dead is actually a major improvement over most PureFlix casts, it still isn’t perfect.  For one, David A. R. White and Tommy Blaze rarely need to be acting.  Trisha LaFache is average at best and needs serious coaching.  Dean Cain should probably never be cast again.  Kevin Sorbo has his place, but not as a raging professor.  Otherwise, this cast is fine.

Conclusion

There was a reason the beginning of the God’s Not Dead saga was so popular, and it wasn’t because of its portrayal of atheists.  It has a lot of intriguing content and a lot of ideas that need further exploration in different venues.  Trying to lump all of it together in one film was a disappointment.  However, it was the first time PureFlix actually proved they could be at least somewhat responsible with their budget, including a high-quality production.  Perhaps one day someone will use some of the half-baked ideas of God’s Not Dead for greater purposes.

The UnMiracle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a group of teens, under the prompting of a college student, becomes involved in illegial drug use, the community is rocked after one of them overdoses herself into a coma.  The police are pressured to find the culprit, but the kids run and hide, except for one brave Christian boy (who was at the drug party that night for some reason) who wants to help his friends (?).  As family is being torn apart by destructive choices, only the power of God can save them from themselves.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The UnMiracle (strange title indeed) is an extremely unique film in many ways.  For starters, the beginning of this film is a different sort of experience, mostly due to some strange and dizzying special effects.  There is also some shaky camera work for drama’s sake.  Also, at first, there is some weird audio quality and odd sound effects, as well as some strange lighting in some scenes.  However, for the most part, these quirks improve throughout to make for a mostly average production.  Video quality is relatively stable throughout, and the soundtrack is at least creative in some ways.  Though the editing can be confusing at times, this production is basically fine and just needs a little tune-up.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the get go, The UnMiracle has a clear agenda that is pushed through obvious dialogue and messaging.  While there are many pertinent and realistic issues portrayed here, they are not presented very well.  The characters are very flawed, which is great, but they tend to only be one-dimensional in order to represent the issues that are being pushed here.  At first, there are some strange undertones to the film that are mostly driven by the creepy Stephen Baldwin narration.  It seems like sometimes this film is trying to tell us something deeper that it never quite conveys properly.  Yet these cryptic factors are not all bad, as they also include some intriguing psychological elements, as well as a relatively fair portrayal of mental health issues, even though it could use a little deepening.  But this does not make up for the confusing and disorienting sequences throughout, as well as the trite and simplistic approach to problems and the very easy fixing of characters’ struggles by throwing Bible verses at them.  There are also tons of characters and subplots here with very little focus.  Thus, there is too much going on that needs severe organization, yet there it still potential even in all of the confusion.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With Kevin Sorbo and Stephen Baldwin pulling Eric Roberts roles (very brief and small appearances) in this film, the remainder of the cast is hard to figure.  For one, there is a lot of strange and loud makeup throughout.  At first, a lot of the acting is unsure and amateurish and even lethargic and passive at times.  The drug acting is odd and needs work.  However, emotions are mostly realistic, and there is concerted improvement throughout, which is enough to make this an average score.

Conclusion

This film is mostly a hot mess and needs a major remake or rework.  It could potentially be a series if done properly.  But this would mean serious acting coaching (and possible re-casting), way more focus in the storyline, fewer ‘fancy’ production tricks, and some education and research on mental health and substance abuse issues.  In the end, it could be done, and this creative team has some potential, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with next.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Joseph and Mary (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Joseph was tasked with being the earthly father of Jesus, the Messiah, while Mary was chosen to be the biological mother of the Savior.  However, they were just ordinary people who wanted to follow what the Lord wanted for them.  They watched as Jesus grew up before their eyes, and they were also apparently preoccupied with the life of a random rabbi who was their friend.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a new Bible production, Joseph and Mary is mostly respectable.  It’s clear that care was given to the authenticity of the production, even though the sets are somewhat limited and reused a lot.  Nevertheless, props are appropriate, and the outdoor locations are great.  This film checks all the typical boxes of good video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is adequate.  The only other problem to raise is the choppy editing that poorly handles the large amount of content in this movie.  But in the end, John Patus and the others at Leif Films are definitely improving over the years.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

So you want to make a movie about Joseph and Mary, yet you decide to use at least half of the runtime depicting an otherwise interesting story about a fictional rabbi who shadowed Jesus in the Lord’s early years.  This is a fine idea, but why not make the movie primarily about the rabbi?  Joseph and Mary are almost supporting characters in this story.  There is also unnecessary narration that hurts character development.  The healthy construction of the characters is also hindered by the rapid passage of time that follows the same characters as they keep meeting in the same places over several time periods.  There is also a tendency to hit the high points of the story rather than to settle down and let us get to know them as people.  The stoic and overly formal dialogue certainly does not help.  However, this film is an interesting perspective on the early years of Jesus through the eyes of a flawed and accessible character that is not Joseph or Mary.  Yet this good idea is somewhat soured by the strange ending sequence that leaves the audience wandering what this movie is supposed to teach us.  In the end, the Leif Films team is usually closed to good things, as evidenced in The Apostle Peter: Redemption, but they can’t seem to get there.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, there is not much good to say about the acting of this film.  For one thing, it is very poorly cast and lacks authentic cultural cast members.  Kevin Sorbo, a generic white guy, really has no business playing Joseph, besides the fact that he is awkward in this film.  Rather than being too BRITISH, this cast is too American.  The costuming is also somewhat cheesy, yet there are a handful of good moments that keep this section from being nothing.

Conclusion

Bible films are almost always problematic.  If the production isn’t a problem, it’s the casting.  If not that, then the plot suffers.  There are so many variables that have to be aligned in a Biblical film; after all, they are historical accounts.  Thus, they needed to be treated with more care.  We can’t have any more of these Bible plays coming out because even Christian audiences are getting tired of that.  We need dynamic authenticity, but perhaps the Leif Films team will keep trying and find the mark one day.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Let There Be Light [2017] (Movie Review)

Image result for let there be light movie

Plot Summary

Dr. Solomon Harkins is the rising atheist star bent on destroying the faith of many because of a personal tragedy he endured that tore his family apart.  However, one night while driving drunk, he wrecks his car and has a near-death experience that rocks his worldview and alters his life’s course.  Will he be able to grapple with the new reality he has experienced or will he turn his back on God forever?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Because Sean Hannity has put his money behind this film, its production quality is almost automatically professional.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all flawless.  However, the original soundtrack is a bit much at times.  Nonetheless, sets, locations, and props are all realistic, adequate, and appropriate.  Everything demonstrates great funding and execution—the only nitpicks to raise here pertain to some minor editing concerns, as the film is presented in a choppy fashion.  But in the end, this film goes to show what funding can do to even the worst of Christian films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, big money from a Fox News personality means big message-pushing from that personality’s unusual worldview.  Though there is a tiny amount of potential in this film, it is quickly squashed by Sean Hannity’s ego and his attempts to combat ISIS with a cellphone app.  Dialogue is mostly absurd as characters are required to make a certain number of ISIS references, not to mention advertise Sean Hannity’s ratings.  Besides this, there is too much of a strawman-atheist-has-a-conversion feel to this film and the character arcs are way too steep for reality.  Though there could have been something to this, it just boils down to a hair-brained idea thought up in the Fox News echo chamber.  This is pandering at its finest.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this cast is mostly professional, it is hurt by over the top theatrics and forced emotional sequences, especially Kevin Sorbo doing his best David A. R. White as an atheist impression.  Granted, some of these lines leave the cast members hamstrung with no hope of making anything good out of it (“Like a selfie for God”).  Overall, the Sorbos do a decent job with this, and it’s great to see them star opposite each other for once.

Conclusion

What is one to do with Sean Hannity?  Struggling film makers need his money to make their films great again, but with money comes long strings attached.  We believe that the original idea of this film meant well—before Fox News product-placed it to death.  This is the age-old dilemma of Christian films (and ministries for that matter).  But money or no money, an idea as absurd as a cellphone app that hijacks your phone’s flashlight feature in order to combat ISIS (even in North Korea!) should never, ever be placed on the big screen.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Confessions of a Prodigal Son (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sean Matthews couldn’t wait to strike out on his own and get out from under the confines of being a pastor’s son.  When given half of his inheritance with the stipulation of staying in school, Sean heads off to USC to live the party lifestyle.  He feels like he can do whatever he wants—that is, until he meets Ali, a girl who seems immune to his usual manipulation.  Thus, he pursues her in the hopes of winning her over, even though she is not interested in having a relationship.  They become friends and she changes Sean’s outlook on life.  When Sean comes to a crossroads, he will have to decide which path he wants to take.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Confessions of a Prodigal Son starts out fairly rough, like many freshman productions.  There is a lot of shaky camera work at first, including odd artistic angles, such as filming through crowds and from behind objects, as well as a lot of close-up shots.  However, this seems to improve as the movie goes.  Video quality is relatively stable throughout, but audio quality is another inconsistent factor, as it goes from cheap to quality over the span of ninety minutes.  The soundtrack is too loud at first and some audio is overdubbed, but these issues seem to work themselves out later.  Unfortunately, sets and locations are slightly cheap throughout the movie.  The editing is actually somewhat creative as the story is presented in a semi-out-of-order fashion that enhances interest.  Overall, this production seems to be a learning experience for the Lighting Dark team, which is perfectly reasonable, considering this is their first film.  The good news is that they will likely improve down the road.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The one thing we can say for Confessions of a Prodigal Son is that while the story is somewhat overused and predictable, at least it is presented in a creative and unique fashion.  This rendition of the famous parable will stand out from others because effort was made to be artistic and different.  At first, the narration seems too heavy-handed, but it becomes more justifiable later.  The portrayal of addicts is spot-on in this film, even if the solutions are little shallow.  There seems to be a lot of edgy content simply for the sake of having it and some important issues are treated too simply, probably to fit the story into the designated runtime.  Some characters are cheesy and have character arcs that are too steep, yet there are times when they are surprisingly well-crafted.  Though the messaging is somewhat obvious, it is still at least partially meaningful and is packaged in an artistic fashion that shows potential for the future.  In short, this movie is not all bad and stands out among others like it, which is all we ask for of new film makers.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like other elements in this film, the acting begins fairly rough and inexperienced.  There are some mumbled and slurred lines, yet there are also some overly-enunciated lines.  However, these issues work themselves out over time, like the other issues that were previously pointed out.  Emotions are mostly realistic throughout the film and line delivery certainly improves in the second half.  Overall, it is encouraging to see improvement throughout a movie rather than consistent negativity.

Conclusion

Confessions of a Prodigal Son is a mixed bag that carries with it the potential for greatness.  This is normal for a first-time film, as are the early production struggles.  If production and acting had been consistently professional and if the characters had been a little deeper through better dialogue, this film would have likely been Hall of Fame.  We are always encouraged to see new film makers that are trying to do the right things, so we anticipate greater things from the Lighting Dark team in the future.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

One More Round [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jake Taylor is a down-on-his-luck former boxer who is plagued by a mistake from his past that cost him his boxing career.  Ever since then, he has been struggling to hold down a job, his marriage is a mess, and his house is about to be foreclosed on.  When it seems like everything is about to fall apart, he suddenly stumbles upon his old trainers again and decides that his only shot at life may be through picking up the gloves again to fight.  Will Jake be able to fight through one more round to save his family and his finances?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

In One More Round, Rossetti Productions has taken on more than it can handle in a production.  Though camera work and video quality are mostly fine, many other production elements are not.  Audio quality is very poor, as background noises and echoes are very loud.  The soundtrack is also loud and out of place, sometimes covering up dialogue.  Sets, locations, and props are quite cheap-looking and seem like they are just slapped together.  Finally, the editing is poor as scenes awkwardly cut and as they abruptly transition between each other.  In short, though sports productions require extra effort to make them quality, this effort was not present in One More Round.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This plot unfortunately falls into the trap of a typical sports premise depicting a down-on-his-luck former athlete that has to get back into the sport in order to save something in his life, usually for financial reasons.  The troubled athlete is usually hated by some people and is typically having relationship problems and struggling with his identity.  The athlete has an epiphany moment that causes him to get back into the sport of choice, usually under the guidance of his old trainer, and training montages ensue.  The climax is always the ultimate showdown between the troubled athlete and his arch-nemesis, which the athlete wins against all odds and reclaims glory and his broken relationships.  All of these clichéd ideas are present in One More Round, except that this story also slaps a trite Christian message on top of this to make it marketable in Christian circles.  Thus, in this one-track-mind plot produces flat, one-dimensional characters that are based on empty and forced dialogue.  As the plot jumps from one thing to the next, trying to cover all of the high points, the audience is easily lost in the shuffle.  In the end, unfortunately, this story was not really worth forcing to become a movie.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This is a very poor casting job that leaves the cast members with no real assistance or coaching.  A lot of the performances are juvenile and childish, with some being over the top.  Line delivery is very punctuated and stiff and emotions are not very accessible.  Some cast members look very fake.  Needless to say, the Rossetti team has not had much success with casting.

Conclusion

There’s not really much else to say that hasn’t been said.  One More Round is based on a worn out idea and is not even executed properly.  It would be one thing if the idea was unoriginal and the execution was positive, but this is not even the case.  The Rossetti team is decent at marketing their films, but at what cost?  Their reputation is becoming very disappointing and this will hurt their future work.  The main lesson that can be learned from their films is always focus on quality over quantity.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

A Place in the Heart [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Jason Burkey’s heart is broken by a girl he thought he would spend the rest of his life with, he gives up a basketball scholarship (as he is frequently reminded) and does the most natural thing anyone would do: run away to live on a remote island with his reclusive father, Kevin Sorbo.  But seven years later, Kevin Sorbo get tired of the island and decided to buy a sombrero and live the rest of his days on a boat.  So Jason Burkey is forced to go back to the hometown he bitterly left behind and finds everything very similar to the way he left it.  He’s still angry at Ben Davies and won’t talk to him, but he slowly finds that the plans he originally had may not have been the best for him—including that basketball scholarship!

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

On the surface, like many productions, A Place in the Heart seems fine.  Video quality and camera work are on par.  Sets, locations, and props are acceptable.  However, audio quality is inconsistent—sometimes too loud and other times too soft.  The soundtrack is regularly too loud and is at times juvenile.  As for editing, there are too many awkward transitions and there is too much choppy content as the film jumps from one thing to the next.  In the end, this production is just average, but it seems like it could have been much more than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Loosely based on The Great Gatsby, A Place in the Heart has a mild amount of complexity, yet this complexity is detracted from by a lot of amateur elements.  Narration used as a crutch to fill in the missing parts of the plot that are due to unnecessary time jumps, even though it is a stereotypical return-to-hometown style plot.  Parts of the premise are forced, unrealistic, and based too much on coincidences, while there are tons of manufactured dramas and childish sequences.  Dialogue is very stiff and stilted, including very unusual statements and asides, thus creating very awkward and wooden characters.  However, despite all of these issues, the second half of the film is slightly better than the first half, and contains a partially interesting message and point if you make it that far.  But in the end, the only reason for any plot twists is the fact that this plot is borrowed from other sources.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Any small amount of good that is accomplished in this film is totally derailed by this awful casting job.  Any cast that includes Jason Burkey, Kevin Sorbo, and Ben Davies without coaching is sure to be a disaster.  Every character is represented by a very awkward cast member that exhibits mumbled lines, fake emotions, and generally poor line delivery.  Unfortunately, this film shows that good intentions can be greatly hurt by poor casting.

Conclusion

Romance is a very difficult genre to write because it can very easily become a high-school-level of cheesy.  Regrettably, A Place in the Heart commits almost every common romance error all at once.  On top of this, the production isn’t what it should be and the casting is deplorable.  Movies like this are painful to see because they are so prominent in Christian film.  This is not what the face of Christian film should look like, as we have said time and again.  Yet hopefully, slowly, this trend is changing.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Christmas Angel {Angel at Christmas} [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Olivia and Lucas have always heard rumors about a mysterious old house in their New Orleans neighborhood.  Legends say that if you throw a rock through one of the windows and make a Christmas wish, it will come true.  After witnessing several wishes come true when they ask them for other people, Olivia and Lucas decide to investigate the matter further.  They find a collection of offbeat characters hanging around the house who are not what they seem at first.  Little do they know that Christmas angels come in many forms…

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As we’ve mentioned before, PureFlix can usually put together a respectable production.  Video quality is clear as usual and camera work is professional.  The sets and locations are realistic and down to earth.  Unfortunately, the audio quality drags down this production, including a silly Christmas soundtrack and too many scenes in which lines cannot be heard due to background noise.  The editing is mostly okay and does a good job concealing the obligatory Dorsey twist until near the end.  Basically, this is an average production effort but we strongly believe it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

In keeping with their usual practices, Bradley Dorsey and Andrea Gyertson Nasfell craft a creative and thought-provoking plot that makes you think it’s going to be one thing, only to change it to something different in the end.  However, it goes without saying that Dorsey also commits his original sin of not going all the way with his creativity.  There are times when Christmas Angel is innovative and interesting, while some moments are cringe-worthy and totally off the wall.  This inconsistency makes the audience vacillate between cheering and scratching their heads.  The schizophrenia is also demonstrated in the characters—while the character arcs are great in the end, it’s a rocky road to get there.  As usual, the storyline is based off a creative concept that sports a key plot twist and demonstrates the creative genius of the team.  Elsewhere, there are just too many childish Christmas elements that hold this plot back from being as good as it could have been.  Sometimes we wonder why a creator can come so close so many times but always miss the mark by an inch.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the rest of the film, the cast of Christmas Angel is very inconsistent.  Sometimes they have awkward scenes while other times they act very professionally.  Emotions are good at times and not good at other times.  Some of the makeup work is below par.  In short, in comes to another average score.

Conclusion

Basically all of the films Bradley Dorsey is involved in need to be remade.  As we’ve said before, he has tons of potential that is untapped, probably because he throws in his lot with the PureFlix crew.  For that matter, Andrea Gyertson Nasfell has lot of untapped potential herself.  Both Dorsey and Nasfell have much to offer to Christian film and if they ever reach their full potential, then the field will be a different place.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Gallows Road (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When his wife and kids are tragically murdered by local racists, Bob Collins decides that God doesn’t care about him anymore and gives up on his faith.  His brother and family continue to try to get through to him, but all to no avail.  Jake Knight was there the night of the murders and feels guilty about the part he played, even though the corrupt sheriff has pardoned them all.  All of their lives must intersect as they come to grips with the harsh realities of life—and the power of forgiveness and redemption.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

With a modest budget behind it, Gallows Road definitely demonstrated effort in production.  The video quality is good throughout and the camera work is above average.  Audio quality is fairly good and the soundtrack is interesting enough.  Sets and locations are slightly limited and there are some inconsistencies throughout.  As with most independent productions, the biggest problem relates to the lack of editing.  The plot meanders too much with no direction.  Scenes are disjointed and appear to be unrelated to each other.  This will be discussed in depth next.  Basically, the tools are here to make this a great production, but they are not used, thus causing it to be stuck at average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

In an endeavor to be too big of a plot, Gallows Road falls flat.  As previously mentioned, there are too many subplots that have very loose connections to each other.  There’s actually nothing inherently wrong with the subplots themselves, but they need to be synthesized and fleshed out better than they are.  There are actually quite a few profound ideas hidden among this frustrating plotline, but they easily get lost.  The characters of these subplots are intriguing, but we hardly have a chance to get to know any of them as the story skips around so much.  The premise seems a little bit thin at times and needs to be bigger and bolder.  The message of Gallows Road is actually quite powerful, presenting important issues such as broken families, bitterness, racism, and addiction.  Yet these themes needed better packaging in order to drive their point home.  The ending is slightly interesting, but again, it needed more thought put into it.  To sum things up, Gallows Road is sitting on a gold mine of content that failed to be mined.  Some parts are enjoyable, while the rest of them are extremely frustrating.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Despite having the creepiest cast member of all Christian film, the acting of Gallows Road is the strongest part of the film.  A few other cast members definitely need to be replaced, but otherwise, there is a lot of positive here.  Emotions are mostly believable and line delivery is effective.  Costuming is culturally appropriate.  In short, this is a great acting performance that should be common place in Christian film.

Conclusion

The trailer for Gallows Road is ten times better than the film.  It also paints a deceiving picture of what the plot is actually about.  Nonetheless, it had the potential to become a major small town epic by tackling local racism, prejudice, and addiction at the gritty level.  But alas, it became another film that fell short of its full potential.  It seems like this idea should have been put on hold if the resources were not available to make it as big as it should have been.  The subplots need expanding and synthesizing and the overall feel of the movie needs to be more epic.  If there’s such a thing as Christian movie remakes, please remake this one.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Caged No More (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Aggie never thought it would turn out this way.  She had always cared for Elle and Skye, the daughters of the family whose house she cleaned.  But when they disappear along with their father, Aggie feels like she has to care for the distraught mother left behind.  However, when the mother commits suicide, a string of events are set into motion that alert Aggie to sinister activity that Elle and Skye might be caught up in.  Therefore, she takes a leap of faith to get the help she needs in order to get her girls back.  As the journey takes her across two continents, Aggie clings to faith in God and to the hope that she will find her girls again.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

It seems like the creators of Caged No More had good intentions, but not the resources to pull it off properly.  They likely bit off a larger portion than they could chew.  At least the video quality is clear, which is something most new Christian movies are finally getting right.  The audio quality is passable.  The camera work is okay; sometimes it tries to be too ‘dramatic’ and it comes off wrong.  However, the lighting is very inconsistent.  Some scenes are very dark, seemingly on purpose, but it doesn’t make any sense.  What’s more, the sets are too limited for this scope of a plot.  The surroundings are fairly realistic but sometimes seem empty.  Speaking of scope, the editing of this film is deplorable.  As will be discussed next, Caged No More is a collection of spliced together sequences forced to fit together.  In short, while the effort is applaudable, the delivery is frustrating to watch.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Caged No More is built on a very choppy plot that is patched together with constant narration that either reminds us what just happened or explains something that happened off screen.  There is no coherence between subplots, and the one interesting subplot is wasted and underdeveloped.  The storyline contains too many leaps in logic and is based far too much on coincidences and happenchance.  The characters are thin and empty, crafted with stiff and cardboard dialogue.  It’s really a shame that this review has to be so negative, because the genre this film is trying to break into is interesting.  The idea behind this film is quite interesting, but it is very much wasted potential.  Between the vague ending and the rushed plot, this film felt like it was just speeding to the sequel, but it gave us nothing to be interested in for in the sequel.  At this rate, there is little purpose in creating a sequel; money would be better spent on a remake.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

These cast members seem like they mean well, but they have been thrown into the mix with little to no coaching at all.  Emotions are very overdone and not believable.  Line delivery is forced and awkward.  Kevin Sorbo playing two different characters just doesn’t work at all.  Christian ‘celebrities’ are shoehorned into the cast only for the sake of having their name on it.  In short, there is some potential here, but it is not tapped.

Conclusion

Caged No More is a sad production in many ways.  It really could have been a great genre-breaking work based on an important topic, but it fell very short of the mark.  It pretends to be something bigger than it is.  Buried inside of it are good ideas, but they will likely be wasted as this movie is forgotten over time.  We desperately need different genres of Christian\inspirational films, but this is not the way to go about it.  Human trafficking is a highly important topic that needs to be exposed, but this isn’t the way.  I hope a lesson can be learned here that will make a difference.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Revelation Road 3: The Black Rider

Plot Summary

Two years after the Rapture, the enigmatic Josh McManus has a mission to do good and to right wrongs, even when it seems like evil is winning.  His latest mission takes him to a strict and legalistic settlement that tolerates no crime in order to gain medical attention for an injured girl.  In exchange for both of their lives, Josh must carry out a dangerous mission: search for a mysterious and troublemaking vagrant known as the Shepherd and bring him back so the settlement leader, Drake, can exchange him to his superiors for more life saving supplies.  In route to searching for the Shepherd, Josh and his unwanted tagalong, Sofia, must battle multiple villains and come to grips with what they truly believe about Jesus and His plan for the world.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Despite previous production struggles, Bradley Dorsey and Gabriel Sabloff have greatly improved this franchise.  The camera work improves dramatically in The Black Rider, as does the sound quality.  The surroundings and sets are innovative and creative.  Gone are ridiculous special effects, including that weird lightning!  This would have been a stellar production were in not for a collection of small issues—no doubt White influences.  For example, the CGI that is used is very amateurish.  Action scenes are overall not produced well, and there are too many of them, which is an editing problem.  The scope of the plot is so vast that precious time does not need to be wasted on silly fight scenes.  Yet these such portions squeezed out the deepening of plot creativity.  Nonetheless, this is the type of production that Pureflix has been trying to stab in the dark for years.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The abysmal non-plot of The Beginning of the End seems like a distant memory after viewing The Black Rider.  There is a unique psychological edge to this plot and creative concepts that give the film deeper meaning beyond car chases and gunfights.  An entire new cast of characters is introduced, and it actually works.  A new world is introduced two years after The Sea of Glass and Fire, and it’s better than before.  But this new world is a double-edged sword—it’s too big for the scope of this film.  If more of this world had been explained in The Sea of Glass and Fire, we would have a framework to understand, but this did not happen.  Foreign plot devices such as the ominous ULC are forced upon viewers without explanation.  However, the city-state government system works well in this apocalyptic setting and gives the movie that epic backdrop David A. R. White has been searching for.  Moreover, there are other speculative concepts that are introduced and not fully explained.  Yet the gospel message is philosophically communicated far better than ever before in a Pureflix movie, and all without forcing the message down the audience’s throats.  There is unfortunately still wasted time on childish fighting scenes.  The escapades of Josh McManus, a surprisingly good character, border on unrealistic and sometimes coincidental.  Some of the many villains in this movie are laughable, while others are believable.  Each character is crafted through mostly effective dialogue.  The ending of this plot is also a double-edged sword: it both introduces a key psychological element and confuses the audience.  It both isolates the viewer and makes them want more.  Any further discussion is beyond the scope of this review, but the bottom line is Dorsey and Sabloff really have something going here, something that needs to be continued.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Hands down, The Black Rider is David A. R. White’s best acting work to date.  Bradley Dorsey also contributes an excellent role to the film, perhaps his best.  Unfortunately, there is still some cheesy acting from certain cast members.  Kevin Sorbo in a thrift store disaster getup and sporting a fake insert-ethnicity-here accent is just too much to bear.  Action acting is still B-grade.  Other small issues plague an otherwise great casting job, such as that dumb sheet the Shepherd wears.  Otherwise, costuming is fairly responsible.  Line delivery is sometimes effective and sometimes forced.  Emotions are mostly believable.  In short, everything about this film is give and take: for every cheesy element, there is an excellent element, and vice versa.

Conclusion

The Revelation Road saga is a cinematic freak of nature—a film franchise with a redemption arc of its own that closely mirrors the rise of Josh McManus, the surprising crowning achievement of David A. R. White’s acting career.  Nonetheless, The Black Rider is a constant tug of war between the C-grade action of The Beginning of the End and the psychological creativity of The Sea of Glass and Fire.  The third installment suffers from the wasted time of the first two installments, where this time could have been used to build a better backstory instead of shoving in all into one movie, intending to fix a broken series in one stroke.  But The Black Rider is proof that broken sagas can be fixed.  Therefore, we are surprisingly anticipating the release of Revelation Road 4.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Soul Surfer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ad avid surfer living the dream in Hawaii, Bethany Hamilton always sought to know God better and to improve her technique on the waves.  She had her life planned out fairly well: surf and compete.  What she least expected was having her arm horrifically bitten off by an unforeseen shark one day while surfing with friends.  After being rushed to emergency care, Bethany began a slow recovery process, but in the midst of this, she discovered that her life would never be the same again, for her passion—surfing—was suddenly next to impossible for her.  She is forced is come to grips with both her faith and her dreams and discover what her true purpose in life is.

Production Quality (2 points)

With an obviously large budget and professional production teams at work, Soul Surfer looks great on the surface.  Its marketing campaign was backed up by beloved Hawaiian scenery, captured by professional camera work and clear video quality.  There is no question that the sets and locations are professional, and the scenery is diverse.  Sound quality is excellent, especially in the many outside scenes.  The soundtrack is intriguing and attempts to capture the local culture.  The biggest issue with this production is the one that plagues the entire film: poor editing, which is coupled with a blurry and confusing storyline.  With this level of professional production crews, the editing should be far better than it is.  Scenes are largely understated and meaningful segments are cut short to jump to more Hawaii landscapes.  The editing makes it hard to follow the actual purpose of this film.  There are too many time jumps and wasted scenes.  Overall, the production is clearly professional, but the editing unfortunately holds this movie back from being all that it could be.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Based on a great true story of Bethany Hamilton, whom we maintain is an excellent Christian role model, Soul Surfer falls short of capturing the depth and meaning of the true story.  Realistic events obviously happen throughout, but we cannot help but think this movie would have been less realistic were it not bound by real life events.  In the midst of Hawaiian beaches, surfing lingo, wave scenery, and surfing competitions, the characters are left shallow and wooden.  The audience cannot connect with them as real people—they are just characters that are swept along by the plot.  Dialogue is stiff and procedural, leaving much to be desired.  The plot ebbs and flows, sometimes hitting high points and missing them other times.  The Christian message is vague at first, then becomes very clear and meaningful, and then fades away again.  The ending is interesting enough, but it just ends up washing away like the tide (pun intended).  The audience is left thinking that they should like the movie because it’s a Christian movie based on a true story, but Soul Surfer is actually quite forgettable and disappointing.  True stories are usually undiscovered treasures when it comes to the big screen, but Soul Surfer is just another average film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Someone thought that putting together a collection of semi-big-name actors and actresses would make this movie work, and there is really nothing glaringly wrong with this cast, but like the rest of the movie, they leave much to be desired.  Their professionalism only carries them so far—they needed to perform better.  Line delivery is mostly good, but emotions are hard to connect with.  A lot of the acting comes off as stiff and procedural, just collecting a paycheck.  With big name talent comes big responsibility.

Conclusion

As we have mentioned before, true stories should be among the best of Christian movies.  Whether viewers or creators realize it or not, audiences everywhere connect better with a movie that’s about real people like them who experience real stuff.  But after experiencing Soul Surfer, the audience doesn’t really learn anything else about Bethany Hamilton except that she surfed and stuff.  This is no discredit to her as a person, since she is likely a nicer person than we are.  But we remain opinionated as always: while still an average movie, Soul Surfer disappoints expectations.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

What If… [2010] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

In a moment of decision that altered his life’s course forever, Ben Walker left his chance to go into full-time ministry and marry his longtime girlfriend behind and instead entered the cutthroat business world to pursue a six-figure salary.  He achieved the salary and snagged a fiancée that looked good next to him, but he never found something to satisfy the emptiness within.  Hence, his car is hijacked by a mysterious tow truck driver who claims to be an angel and Ben is transported to an alternate timeline where he gets to live as if he had married his old girlfriend and gone into full-time ministry.  Unable to escape his alternate life, Ben is forced to play along and discover what the true meaning of life is.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

There are really no production errors to speak of in What If…  The camera work is professional and the editing is straightforward.  It is difficult to pull this type of plot without including cheesy production elements, but What If… avoids these pitfalls.  The sets are diverse and there are no video or sound quality errors.  The soundtrack is effective.  This film takes the route of not committing errors and while it does not do anything dynamic, it also does not turn off the viewer.  This is a well-done production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

While there is nothing original with this sort of parallel universe plot, this rendition is a good one.  The plot twists are minor but the dialogue is good.  The characters are believable, as are most of the events of the plot.  There are some predictable elements and while the overall plot is quite simple, there are once again few errors committed.  There is truly funny humor throughout that is not overdone.  The only caveat here is the confusing end that seems to force a certain conclusion to occur.  Otherwise, this is a very good plot.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

In keeping with the theme of this movie, the acting is good without detracting from the overall movie.  This is perhaps Kevin Sorbo’s best lead role.  John Ratzenberger is cast very well.  The only issue Box Office Revolution has with the acting in What If… is the fact that there is no excellent acting, just great acting.  But when considering many Christian films, this is truly an accomplishment.

Conclusion

What If… is a Christian film that is recommendable and may even appeal to some non-Christian audiences.  In a field of poorly production Christian films, What If… stands out.  It is created well enough to join the ranks of the best Christian movies.  Christian film makers should delve deeper into these types of psychological genres without falling into typical plot patterns.  What If… can be an example to follow.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

Abel’s Field (Movie Review)

 

Plot Summary

Seth McArdle didn’t ask for his mother to die or his no-account father to leave him to take care of his two younger sisters.  Despite his pleas, Seth’s brother refuses to help him or have anything to do with him.  Therefore, Seth must attempt to successfully complete high school instead of drop out like his father did, and hold down two jobs in order to barely support him and his sisters.  What’s more, the football coach and his quarterback son both hate Seth’s family, prompting Seth into a fight that lands him with a third unpaid job working under an eccentric maintenance worker named Abel.  With the bank calling to collect on the overdue house payments, Seth feels like his whole world is crashing down around him.  He must either choose to ask for help or resort to desperate measures.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

For a little known production, Abel’s Field puts many independent Christian films to shame.  The video quality is professional, and the camera work is also good, including great sports action scenes.  The sets, locations, and props are also well-placed and well-utilized.  It seems like a lot of time and effort was put into this slightly obscure film, even though the budget was not as much as some films that are much worse than it.  The editing is effective and artistic, and this production is overall a surprisingly error-free one, which is something we definitely need to see more of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Abel’s Field is a very unique character-driven biopic that conceals key twists and character motives until the right moments.  While many portions of it are fairly slow and may not hold the attention very well, the storyline patiently unfolds through subtlety and good dialogue.  It’s actually rare to see this type of dialogue in a film like this one, even though some efforts could have been made to hold audience attention slightly better.  However, the characters are still accessible as people, and their struggles can be related to.  The latter half of the film is better than the first, and the ending has several interesting twists and turns that make for an enjoyable experience, even if the plot is not as good as it could have been.  It’s a nice, simple film with a good message.

Acting Quality (3 points)

This movie is both cast well and acted well.  Kevin Sorbo manifests arguably his best role in playing a character that suits his acting strengths.  Samuel Davis is excellent, as are the supporting actors.  It would have been easy for the acting to have been bland and wooden, but this is not the case.  Emotions are realistic, and line delivery is on point.  Thus, there are no negative acting elements.

Conclusion

With a better budget and a smidgen more time spent on the plot, Abel’s Field could have been higher rated than this.  However, this movie is a testament to the fact that it is possible to make a quality film with only a limited budget.  The plot is does just enough to be interesting, and it is filled with realistic characters living out realistic lives.  Abel’s Field fulfills the formula of great production and great acting combined with a plot that does just enough, so it will be interesting to see what this creative team produces next.

 

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

 

Hope Bridge (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jackson’s life has never been the same ever since his father committed suicide.  Searching for reasons why, he begins examining his late father’s belongings and begins to go to the places he went in order to discover his father’s secret double life.  In order to do this, he teams up with a girl he met in the office of his new psychologist.  Their journey takes them further than they ever expected as they discover a terrible family secret that could bring healing if reckoned with.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the production quality of Hope Bridge almost renders it unwatchable.  The camera work is very poor; the camera angles confuse the audience and the video quality is grainy.  The sets, in an assumed attempt to be realistic, are sloppy in their construction.  The editing is questionable, since some scenes repeat over again for no particular reason and since some scenes cut back and forth with no warning or meaning.  Any good elements in a movie can be greatly detracted from by poor production quality; such is the case with Hope Bridge.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Hope Bridge is a noble attempt to present the important issue of suicide in a meaningful way.  However, the attempt falls flat.  The plot is very vanilla and not dynamic at all.  The dialogue is head-scratching and un-compelling.  All the characters seem perpetually somber and appear generally lifeless.  Too much time is spent ‘investigating’ in night clubs and driving around and not enough time is spent developing the characters or presenting the issues in a palatable manner.  Furthermore, the few elements related to psychology and counseling are incorrect and misleading.  Were more correct elements included in regards to mental health counseling, this plot could have improved.  As it is, the only positive about the plot is its noteworthy attempt to discuss suicide and generational patterns.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While the actors did not have much dialogue to work with, the delivery of the lines is facepalm-worthy.  Some of the actors seem aloof and detached from the story while some seem mired in self-pity.  Believable emotion is absent.  One actor in particular seems to make sarcastic jokes out of everything—Box Office Revolution is unsure whether or not she is making fun of the movie or if she is just an awkward actor.  In short, the acting is another element that can make or break a movie with most audiences, and Hope Bridge does not pass the test.

Conclusion

Suicide is a very important subject that does need to be portrayed in Christian movies.  The same can be said for mental health and generational patterns.  While Hope Bridge tries to incorporate these issues into the movie, all that ends up happening is the creation of another low-quality Christian movie, thus a disservice to the Christian cause.  BOR realizes that everyone has meager beginnings, but they should not include unintentional detraction from Christianity.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

God’s Not Dead (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Josh Wheaton didn’t ask to be put in the philosophy class of the infamous Professor Radisson.  He also didn’t anticipate having to sign a piece of paper stating that God is dead in order to achieve a high grade in the class.  But prompted by the help of a local pastor, Wheaton decides to not only refuse to sign the paper but also to prove God’s existence in front of the class in addition to his other class assignments.  It’s something that those closest to him do not understand or agree with, but it brings him closer to God and to other people.  Little does he know that Professor Radisson and even those connected to him are being profoundly impacted in ways he never expected.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

This is perhaps the strongest area of the movie.  God’s Not Dead has better production than a majority of PureFlix movies, which shows great progress.  The camera work is great, and the editing is pretty good considering the many interconnected story lines.  The sets are authentic and varied and the lighting is good.  The soundtrack is effective.  The only real error to consider here is the fact that there may be too much content included.  In short, the money used for the movie is mostly put to good use.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, the plot is a bit weak, mostly due to the large number of story lines.  There is nothing inherently wrong with a movie about the interconnected lives of people, and for the most part, God’s Not Dead does a fairly good job managing the content.  However, it seems like there are one too many subplots and one too many characters.  If one or two of these were eliminated and that time used to develop other more interesting characters, this movie would greatly improve.  As it is, the dialogue is pretty good considering the number of characters.  There are some interesting twists and not everything turns out as expected in the end.  Most of the characters are believable, but some seem to be caricatures.  In summary, the plot is a mixed bag with a lot of untapped potential.

Acting Quality (2 points)

When compared to older PureFlix movies, the acting in God’s Not Dead is superb, for most of the actors.  This is David A. R. White’s best acting job to date.  Shane Harper is great in his major debut.  However, Dean Cain and Trisha LaFache are uninspiring.  But still, one could argue that they did not have much to work with.  All in all, the acting is another mixed bag.

Conclusion

God’s Not Dead is the best PureFlix-created movie in their existence.  Improved acting, improved production quality, and improved plot development all contributed to this rise.  However, they still have not hit their ceiling.  There is a lot of potential in this movie, and on its face, it is still an above average movie.  What is most important is that the core message of God’s Not Dead is driven home without being overly preachy or unwatchable.  This is success in and of itself.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points