Wild Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After the Civil War, Emmett returned to his hometown to take care of the widow of one of his fellow troops in order to fulfill a promise he made.  Emmett and his son live with the African-American widow and her daughter, which causes them extra scrutiny in the corrupt small town they live near.  Emmett’s father-in-law, the local pastor, is against him, as are several other colorful characters.  Everything comes to a head one day when the circus train breaks down in the forest and unwittingly releases wild beasts into the woods.  The children are caught in the middle of the animal escape and a kidnapping plot aimed at hurting Emmett, and it will take wild faith to overcome to dark night before them.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For years, DJ Perry, Shane Hagedorn, and their team have struggled with poor production quality and overly artistic attempts.  However, while the artistry is still present in Wild Faith, a higher production level has finally been achieved.  This is evidenced by great camera work and video quality even in the realistic and complex war scenes.  There are great action shots, as well as historically authentic sets, props, and locations.  Audio quality is also great, and the soundtrack is creative.  The only nitpick to raise here relates to some slightly confusing editing, but this is a small issue compared to the great improvement that has been shown here.  Perry and Hagedorn have proven that never giving up and working to improve pays off in the end.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Though the beginning of this plot is a bit disorienting at first, if you stick with it, things begin to make more sense.  Where the characters are a bit raw at first, they become more realistic as time progresses with the exception of the cheesy villains.  Some of the dialogue is a bit vague at times, but there are also some good conversations throughout that reveal character motive, which is a rarity to find in Christian film.  The overall plot structure of this film is fairly unique and creative as it effectively uses flashbacks and other psychological elements to keep things interesting.  This story is a great attempt to be different rather than the typical inspirational fodder, but there are some opportunities for improvement especially in the areas of character refinement and storyline organization.  Some of the dialogue is a bit obvious at times, but Wild Faith takes an honest look at corrupt small town Christianity and the pain of racism after the Civil War.  Overall, this film shows a lot of potential in this team.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting of this movie is also fairly good.  This DJ Perry character is likely his best performance to date.  Shane Hagedorn starts out a bit rough at first, but his character is a slow burn and begins to refine as it goes on.  The villain cast members are fairly poor and drag down this score, and there are a few overdone emotional moments, but on the whole, this is a good acting performance that caps off a suprisingly enjoyable film.

Conclusion

We always look for improvement across films, and we are always glad when Christian film makers don’t give up and continue to try things.  Experience is hopefully going to lead to improvement, as is listening to constructive criticism.  The Perry and Hagedorn team has wandered in the film wilderness for a few years now, from Ashes of Eden to 40 Nights and Chasing the Star.  To be honest, I did not have high hopes for Wild Faith when it was first sent to me, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Whether or not this film becomes a series, it is clear that this creative team has a lot of potential in front of them, so it will be interesting to see what they produce next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Chasing the Star (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Prompted by the celestial sign of the star, three Magi set out from their homeland to the land of Israel to discover the promised Messiah.  Each of them had their own backstory and struggles and they faced many trials and roadblocks along the way, mostly the attempted sabotage of the evil King Herod.  They also experienced spiritual warfare and spiritual awakening as a result of their journey across the desert, and they were never the same again.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though there are a lot of attempts in Chasing the Star to be a professional production, there are also some issues that hold it back from being all that it could be.  Video quality and outdoor lighting are great, but there is some random shaky cam for dramatic effect that puts a damper on things.  However, audio quality is fine and the soundtrack is intriguing.  Outdoor locations are very well constructed and utilized, yet indoor sets and props are cheap-looking and limited.  Finally, the editing makes the film very disorienting and confusing as the plot jumps all around.  In the end, this is a good effort, but it seems like more could have been done.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously mentioned, this story tends to jump all over the place in a very confusing fashion that leaves the audiences isolated.  There is also a lot of cryptic, archaic, and even cumbersome dialogue that causes the characters to come off as stuffy and Shakespearean.  A lot of content is also very vague and hard to understand, although there are some interesting psychological elements.  This story tends to be overly artistic, but the use of spiritual elements is better than that of Forty Nights, even if they are still portrayed as too dramatic and sensational.  It’s great to explore spiritual warfare, but not enough time is spent on real and meaningful content, although there are some good attempts to develop the Magi through flashbacks.  Yet it’s still hard to access them as people due to their dialogue.  However, the last ten minutes of this film improve a lot and almost make the experience worthwhile.  Nonetheless, there are still a lot of improvements to be made here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Similar to Forty Nights, some of these cast members act downright creepy, while others are simply too dramatic or too stuffy in their delivery.  There are too many reminders of a Bible play in this film, yet there is sometimes okay acting, especially from Garry Nation.  The costuming is a bit unusual at times, but it tends to work.  Overall, much of this movie is a mixed bag.

Conclusion

Chasing the Star is another unfortunate waste of an interesting idea.  We desperately need creative Bible stories that are focused on spiritual and psychological elements, but not like this.  They need to have slightly improved production and deeper character development in order to be worthwhile.  Yet DJ Perry and his team appear to be improving with each film they make, so it’s possible that they are on the verge of something great.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

94 Feet (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The coal town of St. Michaels is falling apart.  The mill has already closed and now the coal mine is downsizing.  The town is shrinking and people are leaving to find better times elsewhere.  But one tragic day, the mine collapses and traps all of the miners beneath the surface of the earth.  The entire town comes together to pray and rescue the miners from certain death before time runs out.  Will they all lose the men they love and their faith at same time?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In the past, Chip Rossetti has had many rough moments when it comes to movie making, especially production elements (see Right to Believe and Fathers).  However, 94 Feet demonstrates a definite improvement in this department, including professional video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props are very appropriate and realistic.  There are some minor issues in the special effects department, but this and some confusing editing are the only errors to highlight.  Overall, this film demonstrates that no matter how small you start, you can always improve in your movie career if you put your mind to it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though the plot of 94 Feet is a definite improvement over past efforts, it still leaves something to be desired.  It’s great to use a real life story to base your movie on, but the premise if this film is still somewhat shallow as the characters and their dialogue need better development.  There are too many very dry attempts at comedy and too much wasted time.  The beginning of the plot is too slow and not engaging enough and does not use time wisely to develop characters.  While we can appreciate their struggles, they still need more realism to deepen the experience.  As it is, this story is fine and will many audiences will enjoy it, we just can’t help but feel it could have gone a step further.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

This section is also a major improvement over swing-and-miss casts of previous Rossetti films.  These cast members appear to actually know what they are doing and demonstrate honesty and realism.  Each cast member is cast appropriately.  Emotions and live delivery are on point; this cast only demonstrates minor errors, thus making it this film’s strongest portion.

Conclusion

Though improvement is sometimes slow and meager, any improvement is always good regardless.  Sometimes it takes time to hone film making skills, and it appears that Chip Rossetti and his team are on the right road.  Production and casting have greatly improved, so the final frontier for them will be plots.  With better characters and a more engaging storyline, the Rossetti team will be looking at a Hall of Fame film in no time, if they stay the course and don’t give up.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

The List [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jack Stone was dealt a bad hand as a foster kid, but he decided to strike out on his own and not let it get him down.  With hard work and determination, he completed law school and passed the bar before landing himself a lucrative job at a top law firm.  He always abided by his list of goals, and one of them was to start a family, so once he finally found the woman of his dreams, they become frustrated when they cannot have children.  But one day a miracle occurs, yet Jack consistently puts his work first.  Eventually, he will have to face the ultimate choice of what is important in his life.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The List unfortunately had a limited budget, as most startup films do.  There is shaky camera work and one too many dark lighting scenes.  Audio quality is seemingly inconsistent, including a loud soundtrack.  Sets and locations are fairly realistic.  As for the editing, there are too many awkward cuts and transitions in pursuit of cramming tons of content into this film.  However, it seems like more money was given to the second half of the film, as the production quality overall improves as the movie goes on.  With that being said, it might have been better to make this film shorter so that money was saved and used more wisely.  In the end, this is an average effort and is commendable for a pilot.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

It was very difficult to concisely summarize the plot of this film above because this story tries to cover so much content all at once.  Beginning with a collection of unexplained and random scenes, The List grows and changes as the story jumps all over the place with no continuity.  In an attempt to be an epic, all focus and purpose are lost in pursuit of covering ground and making time pass.  There are also too many failed attempts at comedy and other wasted scenes that do nothing to build characters.  Things just randomly happen and the empty and mindless characters are swept up in them.  They need much more development and deepening through better dialogue.  The only thing that keeps this plot from being a zero is the good message that is hidden somewhere in here.  With this, there are loads of untapped potential that make for a disappointing watch.

Acting Quality (1 point)

As a slightly amateurish cast, sometimes the performances here can be lazy and goofy.  At other times, the cast members seem robotic and overly coached.  Thus, emotions are sometimes hard to connect with and lines are sometimes delivered awkwardly.  But there are also good aspects to this cast as they show some potential for the future.

Conclusion

Epics are very hard to make and should be seldom attempted unless there is a really good (and probably true) story for the plot to build on.  Characters must be developed even though time is passing quickly, and this is a difficult feat to pull off.  If the creative team is not prepared to make an epic perfect, it can easily become a huge failure.  Sometimes it’s better to stick with small ideas, especially if you are still trying to hone your film making skills.  However, this team has potential for the future and we look forward to what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Ashes of Eden (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Red is the troubled son of a local police officer, Dana, who doesn’t want to be associated with him anymore.  She is trying to raise her other son to stay out of trouble, unlike Red, who deals drugs and hangs out with gangs.  However, Dana’s own life is coming unglued as she tries to rediscover the faith she left behind.  As Red shifts from one high to the next in search of true purpose, will he ever find the Creator Who is calling out to him?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

To be billed as a high quality production, Ashes of Eden fails miserably.  It looks good on the surface with okay video quality, but other elements are highly unprofessional, such as the overdriven audio quality, the shaky camera work, and the inconsistent lighting.  However, the soundtrack is very intriguing and seems out of place in this train wreck.  Furthermore, the editing is very choppy as some scenes are cut very short and transitions are overall awkward and confusing.  In short, it seems like LightWorx Entertainment often gives themselves too much credit when it comes to production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Ashes of Eden is an unusual attempt to portray overly-realistic ‘street’ situations and focuses far too much on the down and dirty without offering much hope.  The storyline is very depressing and seemingly pointless as characters go from bad to worse, spew random and unnecessary profanity, and constantly shoot each other.  There is little redemption for these unfortunately realistic characters as the audience is left lost as to what they are supposed to learn.  Also, there are too many head-scratching scenes that have little point or purpose.  But despite all of this, the ending is interesting and shows a little bit of potential, even though it is too little too late and does not redeem the mess the viewer is forced to sit through to get to it.  Basically, Shane Hagedorn needs to learn how to be edgy without being just like your average trashy film.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This cast is trying to be something, but it just doesn’t work.  They post underwhelming performances when they seem like they could do better as they do not reach their full potential.  Emotions are very inconsistent and there is far too much yelling.  In the end, this section reflects the rest of the film.

Conclusion

We aren’t really sure what DJ Perry, Shane Hagedorn, and LightWorx are trying to do.  They have interesting ideas that are executed very poorly.  In their attempts to be artistic, they either lost the purpose or come off as very dark.  If you’re going to venture into edgy content, you have to do it tastefully and you have to provide real and meaningful redemption.  Otherwise, you’re not any better than some random PG-13 or R-rated film on video streaming services.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

 

Full disclosure: We were provided by the creator with a copy of this film in exchange for a fair and honest review

 

Forty Nights [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Before Jesus began His earthly ministry, He was baptized by His cousin John and then set out to fast in the desert wilderness for forty days and forty nights.  As He sought His Father’s will in the desert, Satan tempted Him in every way imaginable to try to derail His ministry before it started.  As Jesus grew weaker and weaker and the devil became more and more relentless, the fate of humanity hung in the balance.  Choices had to be made to bring the world back from the brink.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It’s undeniable that time and money were spent to make Forty Nights a quality production.  Camera work and video quality are professional.  The audio quality is also on point, including an effective soundtrack.  Shooting on location is excellently executed as the sets and locations are realistic.  All of this is great, but it is detracted from by the glaring presence of cheap special effects, obvious CGI, and weird sound effects throughout.  Sometimes these conventions are used to be ‘dramatic’ or something, but it really gives the film a cheesy feel.  Overall, this is a fine production, but it would have been much better without the bizarre effects.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

What started out as an applaudable effort to create a unique Bible plot quickly became a trainwreck, unfortunately.  The story rushes through Biblical events and alters some of them for convenience sake so that sensational extra-Biblical content can be focused on.  Though the entire plot is based on dialogue, as it should be, it is too isolating and meandering.  Often, the dialogue is extremely formal and Shakespearean to the point of not feeling like these are real people talking.  Though there are some interesting philosophical conversations and ideas, they are not enough to outweigh the stoic and robotic nature of this plot.  Also, this story commits the unforced error of implying that Jesus doesn’t know certain things and that Satan knows more than Him, probably in an attempt to make things more climactic or something.  But it is unwise and irresponsible to insinuate such things and undermines the entire message.  Finally, though the ending is fine and there is an overall good point somewhere in this film, it’s not enough to overshadow the glaring errors present here.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

However, the acting is perhaps the biggest element that drags this movie down.  The only remotely good thing to say here is that the costuming is mostly realistic.  Otherwise, this acting is far too theatrical and practiced.  Line delivery is measured, stilted, and robotic.  Emotions are flat and lifeless.  Though the dialogue is a problem to begin with, we can’t even feel like these cast members are real people.  This in and of itself makes this film basically unwatchable.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, Forty Nights basically boils down to The Book of Ruth with more money behind it.  This was a really good idea that has been sadly wasted due to annoying acting and a thin plotline.  Yet there are also other issues to discuss.  These days, there seems to be an overdone effort to ‘humanize’ Jesus in film to the point that He is no longer omniscient.  While I am not one to nitpick over theology, I believe this is a dangerous position to take.  We know that Jesus certainly had physical limitations while on earth, but to believe that Satan ever knew more than He did is very dangerous.  While Jesus was absolutely tempted in every way and while this is great to portray in a film, this was unfortunately not the way to do it.  We realize that films need conflict and climax to be successful, but there is no human conflict within the person of Jesus Christ.  There is never a good excuse to create a new gospel for the sake of drama.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Full disclosure: We were provided by the creator with a copy of this film in exchange for a fair and honest review