God, Where Are You? (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Sony Boone, a famous professional boxer, inadvertently kills his opponent in a fight rage, he is immediately disgraced and barred from the world of professional sports.  Thus, he loses everything he holds dear: his career, his fiancé, and his worldy possessions.  Driven to the streets as beg a homeless person, Sonny is suddenly offered a free meal at a mysterious diner by a mysterious man named Malachi.  Malachi offers Sonny a second chance at life, but Sonny is extremely skeptical at first.  Will Sonny give God a chance to turn his life around before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

At the beginning, God, Where Are You? is just like the other cheap productions put out by Lazarus Filmworks, such as Daniel’s Lot and A Letter for Joe.  This include poor audio quality, a random use of black and white, and some dark scenes.  Also, the camera is sometimes focused on the wrong things while people talk off screen.  However, the other camera work is fine, and the video quality is stable throughout.  The sets, locations, and props are surprisingly good and appropriate, and the soundtrack has an interesting feel to it.  Though there are odd quick cuts throughout the film, as it goes on, there is concerted improvement in all areas.  Even though it started out rough, this film is a milestone for the Lazarus team in production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

At first, the story is hard to follow as it seems like everybody in this plot’s world is obsessed with a random disgraced boxer who’s now a homeless guy.  Things are rough at first through some obvious dialogue and forced situations, but this storyline is a definite improvement of their past failures, A Letter for Joe and Daniel’s Lot.  The middle of the film is very interesting as it contains a very good message and interesting psychological elements.  However, sometimes it is based too much on coincidences, and the premise is a bit vague at times.  There seems to be an odd underlying attitude that is difficult to quantify, and the big inevitable twist at the end is sort of predictable.  Though problems are seemingly easily fixed in the end, this story gets an E for Effort and shows that any creative team can improve despite previous failures.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For this cast, the Lazarus team looked outside of their circle of friends and found some professional cast members that make this one way better than previous casts.  However, there are some overly practiced and forced lines, as well as some overdone emotions.  Nevertheless, they are definitely trying to make this a well-acted movie, and there is concerted improvement throughout in this area as well.  In the end, this is at least a marginally enjoyable movie.

Conclusion

All we ask of Christian film makers is that they use the resources God has given them responsibly and efficiently and that they show improvement over their careers.  Surprisingly, the Lazarus Filmworks team has done this in God, Where Are You?  Though there was a time when it seemed like they would never break through, they flipped the script and tried something different.  Now they have a chance to use this film to become even better movie makers in the near future.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

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Daniel’s Lot (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Daniel is a devoted Christian whose marriage is struggling because his wife refuses to embrace the faith he has.  They are also struggling financially as Daniel does not make enough money to pay their mortgage and his wife’s real estate sales are down.  His wife insists that Daniel sell the large lot he inherited from his father, but Daniel promised his father that he wouldn’t sell it until the right time, even though they need the money to pay their mortgage.  When his wife cheats on him, Daniel does the only natural thing anyone would do—set out to build a huge cross on the lot he owns.  What could go wrong?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

As an underfunded church film, Daniel’s Lot has a lot of production errors.  It is overall cheap-looking and includes blurry video quality, weird camera angles, and lots of shaky camera work.  The soundtrack is very silly and often too loud, as are many outside sounds.  Lighting is very inconsistent and is poor a lot of the time, especially in the very bright outside scenes.  Sets and locations are very limited to inside people’s houses and offices and have an overall cheap feel to them.  Finally, editing is totally out the window.  This type of production begs the question, was it really worth making?

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The ‘plot’ of this movie also raises questions of necessity and purpose.  Besides the cheesy and childish portrayals of Christians and non-Christians that suggest Christians are perfect and non-Christians are all obnoxious, this story is utterly pointless and juvenile.  Why can’t Daniel sell the lot to take care of his family and keep them from being evicted?  There’s a difference between waiting on God and plain stupidity and lack of common sense.  In addition to all of this, constant heavy-handed TV preaching litters the storyline.  Some of the ways people are portrayed are downright embarrassing, and it goes without saying that the character development is horrible.  To add insult to injury, a ridiculous religious freedom subplot is shoved into this so-called story.  In short, we have no clue what is trying to be accomplished here, but whatever it is, it’s certainly not anything worthwhile.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Amateur church casts are very difficult to hone properly, and this problem is only made worse by the very unusual casting job done here.  Some cast members act like literal children and are over-the-top obnoxious.  Also, makeup is done very poorly.  Unfortunately, this rounds out a very poor job all around.

Conclusion

When making a movie, a church should really look into getting some unbiased feedback of their work.  Films like this are only giggle-inducing or just plain eye-rollers, so there’s no way they’re ever going to have a real impact.  Any good intentions or messages that were attempted to be conveyed here are totally lost when the overall quality is so poor.  Besides improved production and acting, we need stories we can actually relate to and characters we can care about, not silly nonsense like this.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

A Letter for Joe [2013] (Movie Review)

Forgiveness...................is no joke
Forgiveness……………….is no joke

Plot Summary

When a collection of ‘troubled’ guys who hang out in a bar all the time decide to pick on Joe, an impressionable ‘seventeen-year-old’ (for no particular reason), by forging a letter for him from millionaire Howard Hughes.  This letter instructs Joe to fly to Las Vegas and meet Hughes for an important job interview.  Without question, this clueless ‘kid’ jumps to ‘free-wheeling Las Vegas’ and lands himself an accidental job working for the eccentric entrepreneur.  As he jets around the country buying up supposedly historic artifacts, the troubled guys suddenly fall into personal ‘tragedies’ of their own.  Will they ever be able to reconcile and show that forgiveness……..is no joke?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Obviously shot using a limited budget, A Letter for Joe screams cheap church production.  There are many more like this film that are not ninety minutes long and do not make it to on-demand video services.  It boasts all the trademarks of this indie subgenre: shaky camera work (replete with tons of character close-ups and tight shots), grainy video quality, an ear-piercing soundtrack, inconsistent audio quality, and poorly designed sets and props.  Does that about cover it?  I think it does.  Nothing else to see here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This is supposed to be an allegory of the story of Joseph from the Old Testament, but the correlation is so loose that it’s nearly unrecognizable.  All we’re left with is endless scenes of planes flying in the sky, montages of Joe buying ‘historic stuff’, random high school football scenes, a laughable scene that includes a character running with a broken leg, an intelligent discussion on provisional scholarships as two characters sit in a very poorly designed car simulator, and yes, tons of vintage cars.  The so-called plot is head-scratching and downright confusing.  The dialogue that isn’t horribly mumbled does nothing to assist in character development.  Many events happen out of context and there is really no reason for the major plot points to occur.  Basically, whatever was trying to be accomplished here totally fell flat.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Starring as Joe, Evan Schwaaaaab Schwalb delivers the most unsure and low self-esteem acting job since John Carmen as The Rev.  Many other acting performances are also particularly memorable, but not in a good way.  As previously mentioned, many lines from all cast members are terribly mumbled.  Emotions are out of place for the situations they are in.  I think that about covers this area.

Conclusion

A Letter for Joe is essentially a bunch of college guys in Florida who got together to try their hand at movie making.  While they put a lot of effort into acquiring 1970s-era vehicles for visuals, they totally failed at actually making a movie.  This effort makes us nostalgic of unmentionable church films of days gone by.  When dealing with films like this one, the question is always a resounding “Why?”  What’s the purpose of this movie?  Does it provide us with anything besides unwanted laughs?  We seriously doubt it.  A word of advice: film makers, please save your funding for something that’s going to truly make a difference.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points