Coming soon from Liberty University Film School and Reelworks; currently in pre-production
Writer(s): Ken Blanchard, Wally Armstrong, more TBA
Director(s): Stephan Schultze?
Producer(s): Rick Eldridge
Plot summary: This film is an adaptation of the novel of the same name written by Ken Blanchard and Wally Armstrong. It tells the story of a father with a passion for golf who is offered the opportunity to have a “do-over” with his son.
Mark Taylor was burnt out as a firefighter after nearly twenty years of service, and he began having physical symptoms of his exhaustion. He also began having mental symptoms of the trauma he experienced, which led to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He went on leave from work due to the condition and eventually retired, and during this time, he believed that he received visions both from Satan and from God of how Donald Trump would become President of the United States.
Production Quality (0 points)
So Liberty University wants to make another movie to showcase their expensive equipment and unusual application of it. While on the surface this production seems fine, there are too many film school experiments exhibited throughout, such as bizarre camera work and choppy ‘artistic’ editing. Sets, props, and locations are surprisingly limited for the supposed scope of this film, and it seems like with the budget that was funded for this film, things would look better than this. The audio quality as a whole is unacceptable for a movie of this budget level since there are many weird background noises throughout and since the many musical montages use an invasive and unrelated soundtrack. Besides these obvious problems, it goes without saying that the special effects are horribly bad and very cheap-looking for a film school who purports to have some of the best resources at their fingertips. As a side note, there are too many CBN product placements, probably because they couldn’t license the big networks in a film that depends too heavily on news sequences to move time forward. In the end, any good parts of this production are cancelled out by the bad, which leaves us with nothing here.
Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)
As expected from the build-up and from the divisive political atmosphere surrounding the origin of this film’s idea, this story is utter madness. The fact that a large section of the American Christian population has embraced the bizarre ramblings of a self-proclaimed prophet who has many prophecies that never came true is very disturbing at best. Due to money, Liberty University has chosen to give a platform to these wacky theories, but they packaged them in the most boring and vanilla plot you can imagine. The weird worldview aside, this story has basically nothing to offer the viewers except for boring activities of daily living, random life montages, and off-the-wall acid trip vision sequences that have little to no explanation or understanding of what’s going on. Besides the fact that this film gives a platform to highly unusual and offbeat ideas that borderline on false teaching and peddles cult-life politically Christian propaganda, the main story is actually quite short and irrelevant. There’s hardly anything to it at all, and all of the negative brings it lower than zero, which isn’t really surprising, given the history of this story’s origins.
Acting Quality (0 points)
To combine with one of the most boring plots possible, Liberty University’s film school made sure to cast the most boring cast members we’ve ever seen, and we thought that the cast of Extraordinary was bad enough. The lead actor is extremely dead-faced for most of the movie, and most of the cast members don’t exhibit any substantial emotions except for overly practiced ones. Line delivery is very stilted and robotic, and the interactions between the cast members come off as very awkward and impersonal. In short, if there’s something bad about any movie, it’s probably represented somehow in The Trump Prophecy.
We have to wonder if Liberty University will ever learn from their series of colossal failures (see Extraordinary). Even if you agree with the total drivel propagated by this film of madness, there’s no way you can contort this film to be a quality movie or even an interesting one. Whoever is behind the decision making at LU’s film school clearly has no idea what they’re doing in the entertainment business because they consistently roll out some of the most well-funded and tone deaf movies we’ve ever seen. Words cannot express how far out of touch with reality they are; anyone that even thought about making a film based on a scam-worthy book like The Trump Prophecy has their priorities seriously out of whack and out of tune with what really matters.
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.
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.
When Faith gets too close to a ‘boy’ she met online but never met in real life, she never imagined the trouble it would cause her. In one fateful moment, the stalker behind the fake profile kidnaps her as Faith’s hometown descends into panic over the incident. The local sheriff has a bone to pick with online stalkers, so he immerses himself into the case unlike any other. What they find is a vast human trafficking scheme bigger than their small town. Will they be able to find Faith before it’s too late?
Production Quality (1 point)
As an early production for Liberty University and team, the quality of Finding Faith isn’t really what it should be. Video quality is okay, but camera work is randomly shaky. Audio quality is also poor, even though the soundtrack is trying to be suspenseful. Sets are okay, but locations and props are somewhat limited. Editing is mostly average and still leaves something to be desired. Overall, with many other people involved in this film, Liberty University took a step back with this production, and it’s hard to see how it was justified.
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
Full of heavy-handed narration from Erik Estrada, the messaging of this story is certainly not subtle. Yet at the same time, it’s also full of dead air and wasted sequences. It’s a shame too, because this is an interesting and different idea with a meaningful message that needs to be shared. However, the characters are so empty due to bland and vanilla dialogue that it’s hard to relate to them as real people, only as cutouts playing a part. There was so much that could have been done with this story—with better characters of course—but the writers only barely scratch the surface. It’s unfortunate to see ideas like this one fall so short of the mark.
Acting Quality (1 point)
Though this is a relatively large cast, they lack adequate coaching. The cast members post very stiff and blank performances, but then again, they didn’t have many lines to actually work with. They also have their good moments, and it’s not all bad, but any cast that includes Erik Estrada is always dominated by his odd demeanors and personas. In the end, this film as a whole is mostly a disappointment.
The Liberty University team and the JC Films team always had big ideas and ambitions that rarely follow through and meet the expectations that are set for them. They have plenty of resources and connections, but little to no creative screenwriting. It seems to be consistently difficult for them to portray real people on the big screen, so it might be time for them to invest in some better writing. Only then will they make the difference they want to make.
Chris Carmik is a successful professional cyclist and is an extremely competitive athlete. However, his great success on the track has caused his family life to suffer. His wife and daughter barely know him or see him. But one night, a tragedy changes their family forever and leaves them reeling in the aftermath. With the rise of a new cyclist who wants to be trained by Chris, will he be able to pick up the pieces and turn back to God before it’s too late?
Production Quality (2 points)
As usual for Scotty Curlee and the Liberty University team, production is certainly not a major issue in their early film The Potential Inside. Video quality and camera work are professional, as are audio quality and the soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props are adequate and appropriate, especially the sports scenes. The biggest issue to point out here, as usual, is the fairly choppy editing job. It’s difficult to follow the story due to this fact and makes the experience uneven. In the end, while Curlee and team are masters of production quality, they often get lost in film school and forget about real plot content.
Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
The Potential Inside is the same song, different verse for the inspirational sports genre. This story follows the rock bottom journey of a typical downtrodden and troubled athlete character who needs a comeback to save his career and his family. All the typical melodrama ensues, even though these characters are circumstances are mostly believable. Yet it’s difficult to get to know these characters as real people rather than as cardboard cutouts. As the story jumps all over the place and wastes lots of time, there are way too many sports\training montages to pump the runtime. Due to this fact, the message of this film is fairly unclear, even as it introduces unwarranted quick fixes to patch things up in the end. Unfortunately, there’s really not much good to say here.
Acting Quality (1.5 points)
Though the Liberty University team usually assembles semi-professional casts, coaching isn’t their forte. The performances of this cast are mostly okay and passable, but there are some forceful emotions and yelling sequences that get annoying. Line delivery is mostly on point. In the end, a lot of parts of this film seem to be checking boxes.
This film was early in Curlee’s career, so perhaps he will only grow from where he has been. He and his team have all the potential in the world—as well as an amazing amount of resources that some film makers only dream about. Now it’s time for them to marshal these resources properly and to truly make a film that can turn the industry on its ear—because they definitely have the ability to do so.
When Pastor John Bridges inherits his father’s church, he is given huge expectations by the congregation, who is led by his suspicious and controlling stepmother, Mary Margaret. John’s wife Betsy wants him to look for a better opportunity, but John wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. However, when Mary Margaret leads a church revolt against John, he decides to take matters into his own hands and enlists the help of his theatre-guru son to help him create an alter ego to convince his stepmother to reconcile.
Production Quality (3 points)
For the obviously low budget that was provided here and other limited resources, this is a highly impressive production. This is a key example of what we want first-time film makers to do: use everything you have to the fullest potential, even if it’s small. Every aspect of the production of Altar Egos is highly professional and there are no errors here. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all flawless, even though there are both indoor and outdoor scenes. The soundtrack is a little goofy but it works for the comedy genre. Sets, locations, and props are all realistic and authentic and demonstrate care. Finally, the editing is good, although there is only a small amount of plot content to work with. In the end, this production could have easily been another Flywheel, but it wasn’t. New film makers are raising the standard for the market.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
As with most church comedies (and Christmas comedies for that matter), the plot of Altar Egos is fairly limited in scope. It follows a predictable progression and isn’t really all that creative. However, the characters are highly believable since the dialogue is well-written. The comedy is subtle instead of obvious and is actually truly funny as it pokes fun of realistic church situations that many can relate to. Though the message presented in this film is good, this movie tends to overstay its welcome with one too many extended sequences and montages. As previously mentioned, you can see the ending from the beginning, but nevertheless, like all comedies, the characters make this movie what it is, thus making it worth your time.
Acting Quality (3 points)
You can hardly ask for a better casting and acting job than this for a first-time film maker. Robert Amaya assume his first lead role very well, and even Erin Bethea is good as a quirky side character. Victoria Jackson is always hilarious when she’s cast as an unserious and goofy character. The new cast members also add a lot to this film as each of them assume their characters very well. Basically, comedy is made or broken by the acting, and this cast passed the test.
Once listed in the Box Office Revolution Movie Purgatory, Altar Egos has made a comeback and has risen to the top of the market, leaving behind other 2017 films that were better funded and marketed. This just goes to show you what can happen when a film maker really cares about the movie they are making and takes time and effort to make it happen the right way rather than just any way. Altar Egos demonstrates top-notch production, despite low funding, as well as superb casting and acting. Though the plot is a little thin at times, effort is put into dialogue and character development. All of this spells a bright future for Sean Morgan and his team—so far, he’s the best Liberty University has to offer in the writing and directing department. They should consider using him for their future projects. Regardless, this film is certainly worth your time.
Jason Shaw is a photographer who always wants to capture the right moment. But what happens when the same moment repeats over and over again? After meeting Mackenna, his life is never the same as the day of their meeting continues to repeat itself. Jason tries to change the fate he is left with, but is unsuccessful. Will he be able to come to grips with the truth God is trying to tell him before it’s too late?
Production Quality (2 points)
EchoLight Studios and Liberty University clearly have the resources and know-how for crafting a top level production. This is evident in the professional camera work, video quality, sets, and locations of 77 Chances. However, there are some minor audio issues, such as an overbearing soundtrack. Also, editing issues plague this movie as there is too much wasted time and incongruence. But otherwise, this production is above average—we just feel that it could have been better.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)
At this point, it’s likely that the Groundhog Day plot concept is a little worn out. There is little that can be done with this idea, and the story only ends up being filled with montages and copied or varied scenes. Therein, there is too much ‘silent’ dialogue covered up with music, which stunts the development of the few characters there are. Nevertheless, some of the ideas and psychological elements presented in 77 Chances are interesting and intriguing, albeit sometimes too mystifying and confusing. After establishing the repeating day and subsequently playing around with it for about an hour, a unique and creative concept is introduced with about ten minutes left to go. Due to time constraints, this idea is not fully developed or completed, thus leaving the audience with a half-hearted effort. This is frustrating to watch because there is actually a lot of potential here. But alas, we are left wondering what could have been.
Acting Quality (1 point)
Erin Bethea, Andrew Cheney, and Rachel Hendrix have all had their better movies, but this is not one of them. They come off as stiff, awkward, and flat. Scotty Curlee and Stephan Schultze are supposed to be Kendrick prodigies, yet their acting coaching comes up short here. Though not all is bad, this is another disappointing element.
We know that EchoLight has the ability to create a quality film, but the Liberty University team has even more potential they are sitting on that they are not properly using. Tracy Trost, Curlee, and Schultze all have the training and the talent necessary to take the next step into greatness, but they are stuck in mediocrity. As a side note, we would like to see this movie have a remake, if possible. The bottom line is that this creative team has more resources than many film makers dream of—they just need to use them properly.
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.
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.
As Suzanne Waters is giving her official retirement address from her position as a school principal, something happens that night that alters the path of her life and the path of her family. Her daughter-in-law does into labor while en route back home and is saved by a would-be car thief. Suzanne’s busy son, an ER doctor, has allowed himself to become swamped with work so much that he barely has time to care for his wife. Everything changes for them when their baby is born with a potentially life-threatening condition. As Suzanne tries to support her son and daughter-in-law, she also seeks out the now-arrested criminal who saved the life of her grandson. Through God’s leading, she does the unthinkable and takes a huge step of faith that changes her life forever.
Production Quality (2 points)
Having good quality production elements was obviously a key focus of new filmmakers Stephan Schultze and Scott Curlee. They used their somewhat limited resources wisely and focused on amplifying their strengths. The video quality is fairly good throughout, as is the sound quality. The camera angles are sometimes artistically enhancing and sometimes a bit odd and confusing. There is some obvious CGI throughout, but it is not completely negative. The soundtrack is very frustrating because it is sometimes very good and other times non-existent; it needed to be more consistent. The sets and locations are simple yet realistic. The editing is good considering the small scope of the plot. Overall, this is an average production, but it’s really good for a freshman voyage. Schultze and Curlee stuck to the basics and didn’t get too crazy, which is the most you can ask from new filmmakers.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
As previously mentioned, the plot is small in scope and little bit too simplistic. But there is also a creative element that underlines the story and is revealed through creative flashbacks. Without these flashbacks, the story would be very drab. Psychological elements such as these should be used more in Christian film, since they make the movie more than what it would have been in their absence. The characters are few in number, but they are mostly well developed. We would have liked to see a little more development since there aren’t very many, but they are adequate as they are. The dialogue is simple yet believable. There is only one minor twist in the plot, but everything that happens to the characters is very down to earth and accessible by all audiences. The purpose behind the plot is clearly communicated without being too obvious—the same goes for the Christian message. In the end, going with a simple plot to begin with is a good idea so you don’t get too far ahead of yourself. We realize that complexity comes with time and experience, and we also know that God’s Compass will still be popular as it is in many Christian circles.
Acting Quality (2.5 points)
Having a solid cast in a rookie film is key. Schultze and Curlee accomplished this. Though it is small in size, they carry the movie on their shoulders. Karen Abercrombie and T. C. Stallings remain to be solid cast members. Jazelle Foster and Joey Ibanez show a lot of potential for the future. Line delivery and emotional delivery are professional throughout. The major drawback to this cast is Erin Bethea, as she is awkwardly inserted into the cast for no particular reason or function. Also, Robert Amaya seems downplayed; it seems like he could have had a larger role. Otherwise, this is a great casting job.
God’s Compass is a solid beginning to a promising film career. ‘Solid’ is a word that can easily define this film. It takes time and experience to make a groundbreaking film, especially when the budget is limited. Schultze and Curlee did the right thing with a direct to DVD release and they made the right waves in the right places with Compass. With more creativity coming down the pipe from Liberty University’s film department, we heartily expect even greater things in the future.