Extraordinary [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dr. David Horton is known as a great professor in Lynchburg, and his ‘running’ class is extremely popular.  His reputation is that he helps all of his students by connecting with them on a personal level.  Dr. Horton is also a marathon enthusiast, but his passion often takes away his time from his family, which is something his wife greatly struggles with.  Much to her chagrin, David embarks on a dangerous cross-country marathon for two months, even though he is secretly battling health problems.  Will his health and their marriage survive the trek?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Liberty University has all of the toys and resources an independent film maker could dream of, yet they consistently settle for just above average productions.  There’s no doubt that Extraordinary has some great cinematography, even if it’s mostly a collection of American landmark shots.  Nevertheless, camera work is excellent, and video quality is great.  Sets, locations, and props also make this production a mostly good experience.  Editing is standard, and on the surface, this is a well-produced film.  However, beneath the surface, there are some head-scratching inclusions, such as silly production gimmicks and weirdly bad special effects.  These elements are reminiscent of film school professors playing around to see what they can do with what they have.  However, most audiences will likely look past these issues and see the above-average production that it is.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on a true story, the Liberty University team had a lot to work with, even though they have struggled in the past with storylines.  However, in Extraordinary, the Curlee\Schultze team continued their issues with very thin and empty plots and characters.  Though this is based on real people, they clearly had no idea how to craft realistic characters as the story does not translate well at all.  The characters are empty due to dialogue that is full of title-dropping, pedestrian platitude-pushing, and repeated content.  Many scenes are basically filler with no substantial contribution to the overall plot.  There are one too many ‘funny’ scenes, and the majority of the movie is packed with musical montages and dramatic moments that have no meaning.  In the end, though the basic idea behind this story was great, the film version leaves the audience with no real focus or purpose as it tried so hard to drive the point home that it fell flat.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Acting coaching and casting is another area the Curlee\Schultze team struggles in, which is a shame since they claim to be prodigies of the Kendricks.  The lead actor of this film is particularly weak and awkward, and several supporting cast members are annoying.  Kirk Cameron is beyond obnoxious, and Shari Rigby struggles without better directing.  However, there are enough good areas here to make this section at least average; one has to consider that this cast didn’t have many substantial lines to work with.  Nonetheless, the Liberty University team continues to disappoint.

Conclusion

Scotty Curlee and Stephan Schultze have the film world at their fingertips, yet they constantly settle for half-measure and expect you to deal with it because at least it’s a Christian movie or something.  Unfortunately, they are consistently wasting the time and money of Christian audiences as all of their marketing is for nothing but a quick cash grab.  Extraordinary is another example of a squandered opportunity because Curlee and Schultze refuse to retain a truly talented screenwriter (like Sean Morgan) and have demonstrated time and again their lack of regard for improvement.  Now we can just wait with bated breath for their upcoming Trump film.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

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Movie Renovation: Left Behind 3-World at War

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

We will be hard-pressed to find a more impressive internal suspense and action-based production in Christian entertainment than the last installment of the first attempt at bringing the Left Behind trilogy to the big screen.  The production of World at War is not only actually well-funded, but it is also well-utilized.  We analyzed that the only main issues with this production were some editing problems, which are to be expected.  Otherwise, there is little else that can be improved in this portion.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

World at War completely departs from the original Left Behind novel narrative, which is a fact that is its greatest asset.  Actually, the fact that this movie is stuck in the Left Behind saga basically holds it back from being Hall of Fame.  Were this film transported outside of the Left Behind universe, it would suddenly become an epic suspense action film worthy of a high rating.  The concepts in this film, such as the intrigue surrounding the pandemic spread, are more creative than Left Behind ever was.  Also, the complex and non-typical characters who do not appear in the original book series, such as the President character and the character who leads the resistance, are better than the original Left Behind characters.  However, these more creative characters and subplots have little to no buildup from the first two movies, which is a fact that hurts their full impact.  This even more speaks to the necessity of having this movie exist outside of the Left Behind universe.  Also, the ending of this film is very creative, epic, and shocking, but it has no follow-up.  However, perhaps this idea can be extrapolated into a better film in the future.

Acting Improvements

The original cast of this film was mostly professional and well-cast.  There are few errors here, but a cast would always be better without Kirk Cameron.  Otherwise, there aren’t many major improvements to be made here—only small issues that add up.  This rounds out a very close effort.

Conclusion

It’s possible that World at War is actually the film that made it the closest to the Hall of Fame without actually making it on the list.  In reality, only one single thing needed to be done to push it over the edge, but that thing (isolating it from the Left Behind saga) could have possibly caused it to cease to exist.  Nonetheless, the concepts and ideas presented in this film can and should be used in later films to boost a suffering action\suspense genre in Christian entertainment.

 

The Miracle of the Cards (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Craig Shergold was a healthy eight-year-old boy until he began having mysterious headaches.  The doctors ran tests and found that Craig had a brain tumor, so Craig’s parents immediately began taking steps to combat the disease inside their son’s body.  As they walk on the journey together, Craig’s mother continually has premonitions and visions about her son’s future.  Craig also receives millions of get-well cards, prompting media attention to his story and talks of a world record.  Could it be that the cards are instrumental in Craig’s healing?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, as an early 2000s made-for-television production, The Miracle of the Cards is not what it’s cracked up to be.  Video quality is relatively cheap-looking, although camera work is fine.  Audio quality is also fine, except there is a cheesy stereotypical soundtrack to go with it.  Sets, locations, and props are decent enough.  There are one too many cheesy special effects that attempt to go with the ‘magical’ themes of this film.  Finally, the editing is quite choppy as time skips around to hit the high points—in doing this, the audience is left confused.  In the end, not enough time was spent on this production to make the movie worth it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously mentioned, there is not very much plot content in The Miracle of the Cards as time travels too quickly, thus leaving characters underdeveloped.  Dialogue only serves to report what is happening as time spends by—in doing so, the characters are left shallow  and one-dimensional.  Though this is a true story, it is seemingly based on too many coincidences; a sense of realism is missing from this plot, especially considering the number of childish magical and sensational elements.  The presence of these elements is frustrating because it’s hard to take this movie seriously when they are there.  Unfortunately, they weaken and cheapen the Christian message that is included in it.  In the end, at least this film is based on a true story (its only redeeming quality in this category), but it’s hard to see that there were any motives behind this film except making money on an easy-to-market television movie.

Acting Quality (2 points)

With a professional cast (even though it includes Kirk Cameron), the acting is by far this film’s strongest suit and keeps it from being left in the basement of Christian film.  There are few errors here pertaining to emotional and line delivery.  This just goes to show you that a good cast with good coaching can make all the difference in your movie.

Conclusion

What is one to do with kids-with-cancer films?  They are easy to get people to watch, especially if they’re on TV.  But despite true stories behind them, their plots are still formulaic and predictable.  Just because you use a real idea doesn’t mean you need to ignore character development.  Without realistic characters, the realism of the story is undermined.  In the end, many will view this film as fine, and it’s definitely not one of those embarrassing films, but we still feel it could have been better.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Box Office Revolutionary Saves Christmas

He knows when you’re sleeping and stuff

After watching Kirk Cameron’s infamous Saving Christmas masterpiece, I was left feeling both inspired and cheated.  I feel like good ole’ Kirk didn’t go as far as he could have with this award-winning film.  There are so many more elements of Christmas that need explaining and redeeming.  Take note, Uncle Kirk: this one’s for you!

 

Don’t you want to build a snowman?

Snowmen

What is the Biblical-historical origin of snowmen, you may ask.  Take a moment to talk with me down the historical timeline.  Imagine darkness.  Imagine a few stars peeking out in the cold Judean night as sheep graze on the countryside.  Imagine gripping a wooden stick called a staff and staring off into the distance, wandering what your true purpose is.  Then suddenly, you are knocked off your feet at the sight of mind-searing light coming from the heavens.  The very fabric of the universe has been pulled back and you see beings dancing across the firmament.

That’s right—snowmen represent the shepherds who went to see baby Jesus.  Even today, when we build snowmen, we are still referring back to those lowly men who visiting the neigh-tivity scene.  This is clear when you realize that snowmen just stand there, never moving, always watching…always watching you…

 

I can’t think of a witty caption to put here

Christmas Lights

Go back to that Judean countryside.  Walk with me as we enjoy the crisp evening.  Look up to the heavens and see the millions of blinking lights across the celestial array.  The panorama stretches as far as you can see.  Each star is named by God and each one worships Him.

You are correct again—our modern day Christmas lights represent the stars that were there the night Jesus was born.  Each star worshipped Him that night.  So the next time you’re hanging those annoyingly tangled things up around your house, remember that you are participating in the real meaning of Christmas: stars.

 

You know what kinda train this is?

Hot Cocoa

Seriously, Kirk, you really let us down here after you waxed eloquent in the first opening sequence of your creative wonder.  What does the hot cocoa mean?  I mean, Tom Hanks and the Polar Express already tried to tell us something about it, but we need your wisdom as bad as Rusty Martin Sr.’s.  I guess I’ll have to try to fill your large shoes and explain this one for all the little people out there.

Imagine you are sitting in your house alone, pondering your future life with that dreamy carpenter down the street.  You’ve picked out your new curtains for those modern windows in your first-century Jewish abode and you’ve even got a dress from Lydia of Philippi (it sure was expensive).  Then suddenly, your entire world is rocked as you turn to see a creepy angel staring right through you.  How did he get in here?  Why won’t he say anything as he stares blankly at you?  What would Joseph think if he walked in right now?  You suddenly find yourself bathed in warm light—so much so that you drop the tea you were drinking and it spills all over your new shawl.

We’re really on a roll here.  There’s absolutely no question that Christmas hot cocoa represents the British tea the virgin Mary was drinking when the British angel showed up and gave her the skinny.  So next time you’re drinking that powdery dust from a mug with red and green scribbles and\or a fat Santa on it, remember that you are following in the footsteps of the Immaculate Heart herself.

 

The best non-Christian Christmas film to date

Reindeer

Think back to that neigh-tivity scene in that wooden structure we call a stable.  The snowmen shepherds are there.  Depending on your beliefs, the ‘wise men’ may or may not be there too.  Baby Jesus lays in the feeding trough with a halo around his head.  British Joseph and Mary are there too, each with their own halo.  It smells so fresh in this ancient garage—like a cow farm.  The animals are gathered all around, just like in that song we sing in church sometimes, looking at their Creator in their feed bucket.

Right again!  The modern day reindeer are actually the animals at the neigh-tivity scene.  They were all there to witness the birth of Jesus, just like a Disney movie.  So the next time you see those red-nosed critters, think back to how the animals witnessed the birth of our Lord and Savior.

 

No, we’ve never seen this film and never intend to

Elves

Forget elf worship, these creepy little pointy-eared guys are nothing but bundles of Christmas cheer!  Think back to the day (whatever day you think it was) when the wise men guys from the East Magi visited the baby boy Jesus and gave him like a million dollars worth of gifts.  As they knelt in the stable house, they presented their gifts to the King of Kings.

In our modern Christmas ways, we think of elves as creepy little guys always watching Santa’s cute little helpers, who assist the jolly ole’ Saint Nick in body slamming liberal Christians delivering gifts to kids.  Well, that’s exactly what the Magi did!  They brought gifts to Jesus!  See, elves aren’t so bad after all!

 

 

There, I did it! Where Cameron forgot to save Christmas traditions for you, I saved them!  You’re welcome.

Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas (Movie Review)

Get ready to slide into that New Jerusalem bro
Get ready to slide into that New Jerusalem bro

Plot Summary

The war on Christmas is everywhere, dontcha know?  I mean, we can’t even talk out Santa Claus anymore.  If we say Merry Christmas, we’re practically blackballed in social circles.  We can’t even put Christmas trees or neigh-tivity scenes on government property anymore (or Muslim symbols for that matter).  Something has got to change before ‘Merica becomes one of those atheistic third world countries we buy Christmas junk from.  We need a hero to save our Christmas traditions from extinction.  Never fear, Kirk Cameron is that hero!  Join him on a quest to turn the hardest Scrooge heart back to the good ole’ days of Christmas.  Join Kirk in a meditation experience unlike any other as he guides your mind to focus on rocks, trees, snow globes, ornaments, and nutcrackers.  Experience the Christmas spirit in a way you’ve never experienced it before—with Kirk Cameron as your Christmas Zen master.  By the time it’s over, you’ll want all the Buzz-Saw Louie’s you can grab, because that’s what Christmas is really about.  You’ll probably also join the awkward white yuppie people dance-off to the tune of Family Force 5 Christmas, prompted by your stereotypical black friend DJ.  Get your tickets today, this is a show you don’t want to miss (not)!

 

Production Quality (-3 points)

Saving Christmas is a real doozy, even more so than Mercy Rule, if that’s even possible.  Starting with the three opening sequences and concluding with the two most ridiculous scenes in modern Christian film, space does not permit us to truly convey the lunacy of this film.  Filled with endless narration from the egotistical Cameron, this production is an explosion of every Christmas decoration you can imagine.  As an annoying Christmas soundtrack blares in your ears, you are forced to be subjected to Cameron’s famed use of slow motion and freeze frames, obviously to improve the runtime and give Kirk more chances to impart his wisdom.  The barely one-hour runtime is also propped up by recycled footage, stock footage, scenes of characters endlessly staring, and even an entire minute of total silence.  Besides all this, the meditation on Christmas is aided by fading out to the same scene several times.  Sets are severely limited to an extravagantly decorated house, a vehicle, and some random outdoor scenes.  We could go on and on, but we would risk becoming as long-winded as Cameron.  Basically, think of the worst possible production scenario in a film, and this would be it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)

While there is really not plot to speak of, there is plenty of madness to speak of, from its schizophrenic structure to its racial stereotypes.  As Cameron attempts to tie every Westernized holiday tradition back to the Bible with bizarre correlations and to lead the audience in creepy meditation on these objects, we are left to ponder some extremely head-scratching and sometimes disturbing ideas.  For instance, Cameron advocates for outright violence through the less than historically accurate retelling of Saint Nicolas.  If somebody doesn’t agree with you, body-slam them!  Also, when a character brings up the excellent point of the consumerist waste of Christmas, saying that the money could be spent on charitable work instead, Cameron just laughs it off and later encourages Christians to spend all they want on themselves at Christmas time, just to make sure not to ‘max out the credit card’.  But the nonsensical ramblings are not limited to materialistic apologetics—the centerpiece of the film is Cameron’s strange and laughable holiday concepts, such as trying to link nutcrackers to Roman soldiers and Christmas gifts to the New Jerusalem or something.  While he falls further and further down the rabbit hole of forced correlations, he makes light of real issues in his quest to shove his ridiculous worldview down your throat.  There is far too much nonsense in this film to discuss at length here, but the bottom line of Saving Christmas is that Kirk Cameron paints a giant strawman out of people who disagree with his outrageous claims that white Christians should grab all they can at Christmastime while totally disregarding the poor and less fortunate.  His position is indefensible and has no place in Christian film.

Acting Quality (-3 points)

Besides the patriarchal superiority and zany ‘holiday cheer’ displayed by the self-centered Cameron, his costars enablers post performances that will be forever remembered—for all the wrong reasons.  Darren Doane, who tolerated and assisted Cameron in creating this madness for some reason, comes off as a rambling lunatic.  David Shannon is perhaps one of the most self-parodying actors in history.  From start to finish, Saving Christmas will go down in history as one of the worst films ever.

Conclusion

There is no comprehending the twisted mind of Kirk Cameron.  Calling himself a fundamentalist Christian and donning the cape of a hero who claims to stand for religious freedom, Cameron decides to throw off convention again and opt for…advocating for materialistic Christianity?  Seriously, who cares about Christmas ornaments looking like ‘stylized fruit’?  Why do we need to defend and cling to snow globes, nutcrackers, and creepy Santa’s in order to be better Christians?  If this movie is to be believed, there is no difference between westernized Christmas traditions and the Scriptures.  This is wrong on a number of levels.  Saving Christmas is not only a terribly lame attempt at filmmaking, nor is it only a total waste of your time: it is an affront to the ‘true meaning of Christmas’ because it suggests and infers that Christians just need to have a lot of stuff to be happy.  This childish notion has no place in Christian film and Kirk Cameron should no longer be regarded as a legitimate filmmaker.  He has plumbed the depths of horrible film making and has written the proverbial book on how to run a film into the complete ground.  It’s little wonder he has not made a movie since this one.

 

Final Rating: -10 out of 10 points

 

Left Behind 3: World at War (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

With Nicolae Carpathia increasing his grip on international politics, President Fitzgerald of the United States is highly skeptical of the United Nations leader.  The President’s suspicions are only raised when his vice president is killed in a sudden car bomb.  He also receives an anonymous tip about secret plans that threaten to overturn the delicate balance of the world.  Elsewhere, the Tribulation Force continues to seek converts and spread the gospel as the world becomes darker and darker.  When an unexpected evil strikes the planet, they must dig deep in their faith and band together under the banner of Christianity.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

After two previous productions failed even though they had money behind them, this creative team finally put the money where their mouth was and spent it correctly on World at War.  The camera work and video quality are excellent.  Props have a major upgrade and appear very realistic.  This movie finally lives up to its international intrigue expectations by providing wide ranging sets and locations to the viewers.  It also delivers on this franchise’s previous claims of action entertainment by pulling off action scenes very well, including professional use of special effects.  Watching this movie actually makes you feel like you’re watching an apocalyptic film with international ramifications.  The only complaints to bring up here are some minor editing issues.  Otherwise, this is a production to be proud of for once.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

World at War is actually an engaging apocalyptic plot that holds the attention, which is an unfortunately rare find in Christian film.  Subplots built up from the two previous installments are used very well, and even though this storyline departs greatly from the novels, it is still enjoyable.  New subplots are complex and hold the viewer’s attention until the end.  The dialogue is finally well-constructed and the characters are finally believable.  The apocalyptic concepts and surroundings are finally realistic and highly possible in the real world.  Although there are some unnecessary elements, there are not a few suspenseful twists that make this an apocalyptic plot to be proud of.  Finally, World at War packs perhaps the most epic action ending in Christian film to date, putting many other action film attempts to shame.  Yet two things derail this movie from being Hall of Fame: the lack of buildup from previous films and the lack of continuation.  The writers set us up with an engaging franchise reboot, if you will, yet did not deliver with a follow-up.  What happens next?  We may never know.  But for now, this is one of the most applaudable Christian action films on the market.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Acting also greatly improves in this installment not only because of improved coaching but also because of better additional cast members.  Once again, Kirk Cameron posts one of his best (probably his last) acting performances.  Line delivery is effective, but sometimes emotions are over the top.  In the end, there are only minor errors here.

Conclusion

It’s so frustrating to watch films that barely miss the Hall of Fame because of the potential they did not live up to.  World at War had everything going for it—except for better predecessors and a real follow-up.  If the franchise was going to be dropped here, it would have been better for World at War to either stand alone as a separate apocalyptic film outside of the series or for the absurd Left Behind reboot of recent to become the fourth movie rather than just a rehashing of the first installment.  It’s unfortunate, but it’s unlikely World at War will be remade for a myriad of reasons.  But it can at least serve as a testament to what can be done in Christian film if proper money and effort are applied.  We need many more films like this one on the market.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

Left Behind 2: Tribulation Force [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

With the world still reeling from the Rapture, those left behind who became Christians band together to form what they call a Tribulation Force to stand against the forces of evil.  Their leader, Bruce, encourages each of them to not hide from the new evil world but to find a way to reach other for Christ in it.  Rayford struggles with a decision to pilot the plane of Nicolae Carpathia, the suspected antichrist.  Buck Williams chases down a story regarding a messianic prophecy expert and two mysterious men at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.  In the strange new world they live in, they also discover everyday struggles and the realization that following Jesus is no longer easy.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The second installment of the original Left Behind series is a low point.  While video quality and camera work are okay, there are a host of other production errors.  Special effects are cheesy, especially when it comes to action scenes.  Many scenes have very poor lighting.  The sets and locations are pretty good, but they are littered with cheap looking props.  The soundtrack is pedestrian.  Furthermore, the editing is very sub-par and fails to cut down quite a few long and drawn out scenes that drain the viewer’s attention span.  Essentially, not much effort was put into this creation.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Once again, for an apocalyptic thriller, there’s not much apocalyptic or thrilling about Tribulation Force.  The film takes a very melancholy tone, choosing to spend time on silly conflicts like lover’s spats and peripheral character issues.  There is little central focus as the plot meanders from job decisions to church services to turning the church into a hospital to chasing leads in the Middle East.  There is also not enough suspense or plot twists as the monotone dialogue centers on theological discussions and information dumps.  There are attempts at twists and psychological\spiritual elements, but they fall flat.  There are too many one-dimensional characters that are juggled and we can’t really get to know any of them.  Like its predecessor, Tribulation Force just gets ready for the inevitable next film without giving the viewer any reason to watch it except for the book series popularity.  The actual end of the plot is quite cheesy and non-suspenseful.  In short, if you missed this film, you didn’t miss much.

Acting Quality (1 point)

At least they returned all the same cast members.  I hate it when movie franchises try to change out actors and actresses and pretend you didn’t notice.  There is slight improvement among this cast and Kirk Cameron delivers arguably one of his best career acting performances.  My how time has flown.  This cast could have actually been great with better coaching.  Alas, what could have been.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, John Patus and company elected to follow the standard Hollywood path of bringing a popular book franchise to the big screen and relied on the series’ popularity to carry it.  There is little reason for this film to even exist except for the fact that it needed to for the series to continue.  If you skipped to the third film, you didn’t miss anything in this one.  This is the central problem to movie sagas: each one needs to be a good movie by itself without the other ones holding it up.  There are few who have gotten this right.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Left Behind [2000] (Movie Review)

Kirk Cameron, the early years
Kirk Cameron, the early years

Plot Summary

In an instant, millions vanish all around the world, causing the planet to descend into chaos as planes go down, cars drive into buildings, and unrest erupts everywhere.  Pilot Rayford Steele finds nearly half of his plane’s manifest (haha) missing.  Reporter Buck Williams is on the flight at the time and believes it has something to do with the vast globalist conspiracy he has uncovered.  As order dissipates around the globe and as many theories are posited as to what happened to those who disappeared, those still remaining look for a world leader who can bring global peace to the chaos.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a late 90s\early 2000s production, the original Left Behind film has many of the marks of this era of filmmaking.  Opening credits sequences were common back then, but they weren’t ever justified.  The video quality and camera work are fairly well produced.  However, action scenes are not filmed or produced very well and include poorly crafted CGI and other special effects.  Kirk Cameron provides some slight yet unwanted narration throughout the film.  Elsewhere, location subtitles from JAG are awkwardly inserted and the soundtrack is cheap.  Finally, the editing is pretty good, but as will be discussed next, there is too much content to cover and not enough continuity.  In short, this ‘classic’ Christian film has some good quality, but not enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on the blockbuster apocalyptic fiction series by popular authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, the original Left Behind film is not without its plot errors.  The premise is trumped up, lacking a touch of realism, but this may get a pass since it was based on the international politics of 15+ years ago.  The movie is focused on big world-changing issues, but they come off as simplistic and not groundbreaking enough.  The creators perhaps took on more than they could handle as many subplots are juggled throughout.  While it’s commendable for this early film to take on a new genre in Christian film (apocalyptic), the plot lacks the intrigue necessary to make it great.  For example, there are too many slow and melodramatic scenes—the storyline is anti-climactic and contains to many convenient occurrences.  The dialogue is full of information dumps that overemphasize apocalyptic elements.  This builds empty characters that are swept along by the plot and are thrown together for no particular reason.  On a positive note, the climax scene at the end is slightly interesting and well-crafted.  But overall, this first installment spends too much time getting ready for the next film and not enough time building the characters and a realistic apocalyptic landscape.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Apocalyptic action movies require dynamic acting, but this cast lacks this quality.  Line delivery is stiff and not engaging.  Emotions are overdone and too dramatic.  Kirk Cameron is a better actor than he is of late, but that’s not saying much.  In short, there’s not enough positive here.

Conclusion

This was definitely a groundbreaking Christian film that brought a popular Christian novel series to the big screen.  It was a hit, since the Christian market was starved for quality.  However, this does not mean it was a great film.  It had a lot of good ideas behind it, but not enough quality to back them up.  They had an amazing budget for the time, but it seems like it was mostly squandered.  Needless to say, the old is just marginally better than the new.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Mercy Rule (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

John Miller inherited his father’s recycling business, along with his brother Ben, and he would do anything to keep it alive.  John is also dedicated to his family, and to his son’s baseball aspirations.  But his carefully ordered world is tested when his son struggled with baseball and when a shrewd government agent threatens to shut down the recycling business over obscure new regulations.  Consumed with saving his business, John begins to forget what matters most in life—and he must remember before it is too late.

 

Production Quality (-2 points)

When a movie begins with the creator telling the viewers that it’s going to be a good movie, it’s probably not going to be good.  This is the case with Mercy Rule.  The production of this film is unlike anything Box Office Revolution has ever witnessed.  From inconsistent aspect ratios to head-scratching camera work to poor lighting to the most insane scene cuts in the history of filmmaking, Mercy Rule is an experience that is not easily forgotten.  The camera angles are very amateurish, like the camera is either sitting on a table while a scene takes place in the distance or shoved up in somebody’s face.  There are multiple points in the movie where two different subplots are being carried out, but they cut back and forth violently, giving only five seconds of time to each before jumping back, and so on.  What’s worse is that there are scenes included in the film that seem like bloopers, like they accidentally left the camera running over in the corner.  In short, the production is so bad that it warrants negative points for the first time in Box Office Revolution history.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

The actual plot of Mercy Rule evades our comprehension.  The entire first half of the movie is constant narration and baseball highlight reels.  Then the viewers are taken down a unique journey into the fascinating world of government regulations on recycling companies.  From there, slow-motion scenes, blooper reels, incomprehensible events, and painful dialogue litter the landscape.  The end of the plot is just as bad as the rest of it.  Once again, negative points must be awarded because the viewing experience is so bad.

Acting Quality (-2 points)

Mercy Rule is likely one of the worst acted movies of all time.  The few actors in the cast are poorly coached and borderline unbearable in their delivery.  The presence of Tim Hawkins takes this cast to a whole new level.  BOR does not wish to personally attack any person in any movie reviews, but this lackluster show of acting must be called out if Mercy Rule is considered a serious Christian film.

Conclusion

What else can be said?  Kirk Cameron rated this movie on his own rating system, which suggests a certain attitude of arrogance.  His motives for wanting to create a family-friendly movie to counteract Hollywood garbage are commendable, and Christian film makers everywhere should want to do this as well.  But to place the label ‘Christian’ on such a poorly produced and acted film such as this one further degrades the title ‘Christian film’.  Christian movies should stand out from other movies not only in their message, but also in the way they are made.  Christians are not meant to throw half-hearted productions together just to have a movie and then complain about being persecuted for their faith when someone criticizes their creation.  Movies like Mercy Rule will neither draw people to Christianity nor will they strengthen current Christians.  Instead, they will make Christians and non-Christians alike continue to roll their eyes when they hear about ‘just another Christian film’.

 

Final Rating: -5 out of 10 points

Fireproof (Movie Review)

krk

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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