God’s Not Dead 4: We the People (Movie Review)

God's Not Dead' Sequel Could Throw Gas on Raging Culture War Fires -  Hollywood in Toto

Plot Summary

Pastor Dave is up to another one of his escapades, this time standing up to an evil social worker, as well as a local judge, who wants to shut down a homeschooling co-op for not teaching certain curriculums. Thus, the only option for Dave is to take the homeschooling families to testify before Congress just as the government is debating a radical education bill that would take over all education in the entire country. Will Dave’s unhinged diatribes be enough to save the nation’s homeschoolers from total annihilation???

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Like many recent PureFlix movies, God’s Not Dead 4: We the People contains a fine production with few errors. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all either average or better. Sets, locations, and props are also up to industry standards. The only concerns in this section pertain to very poor CGI and some aspects of unprofessional editing. Thus, a relatively high score is warranted in this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1.5 points)

With this unnecessary fourth installment of a half-baked film franchise that almost no one cares about anymore, the PureFlix team returns to their original God’s Not Dead and Do You Believe? roots by serving up a hodge-podge of politically charged subplots, smashed together in a salad of madness. This screenplay also calls back to the older days of PureFlix when their patented in-your-face dialogue, issue-representing characters, and absurdly childish villains reigned supreme. With literally no real-world precedent for a local government successfully regulating the curriculum of a homeschooling co-op, the writers of this narrative look for persecution under every rock while espousing a very backwards fundamentalist worldview. As conversations are used to dump one-sided information, culture war buzzwords, and extremist talking points on the viewers, We the People has the feel of an anti-Common Core docu-drama, complete with cheesy stock footage of Washington DC and quotes from President Ronald Reagan to fill time. While attempting to riff on and pay homage to whatever random and irrelevant hill on which the ultra-conservative Christian audience is trying to die these days, the writers of this “movie” craft overly contrived scenes and situations that are full of ridiculous coincidences and unrealistic portrayals of legal proceedings. It all crashes into a bombastic conclusion complete with an impassioned David A. R. White meltdown. Therefore, due to the propaganda nature of this plot, negative points are awarded here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Although many cast members are average or slightly better in their performances, David A. R. White stands out for all the wrong reasons. Between slurry line delivery and bad phone acting, it’s hard to ignore White’s typical unprofessionalism. Elsewhere, some emotions come off as mechanical even though line delivery is mostly acceptable. Some performances are better than others, which produces an average rating.

Conclusion

This unwarranted creation is an embodiment of how PureFlix is being hollowed out as a company and replaced with better prospects. The noticeably shorter runtime and lower budget of We the People demonstrates the overall decline of PureFlix, once at the pinnacle of Christian entertainment. However, this dethronement is a sign of progress for Christian media, leaving the fourth God’s Not Dead film as just a relic of a bygone era that can remind us to never go back to those days.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

God’s Not Dead 4: We the People (Fall 2021)

Coming to theaters in Fall 2021 from PureFlix

Writer(s): Tommy Blaze

Director(s): Vance Null

Producer(s): Brent Ryan Green, Ben Laurro, Kim Percival, Michael Scott, David A. R. White, Anna Zielinski

Starring: David A. R. White, William Forsythe, Isaiah Washington, Antonio Sabato Jr., Jeanine Pirro, Amanda Jaros, Paul Kwo, Francesa Battistelli, Matt Anspach, Marco Khan, Benjamin A. Onyango, Hadeel Sittu, Deborah Tucker, Lena Harmon, Anna Zielinski, Vincent De Paul, Nancy Harding, Gary Galone, Christian Stokes, Dani Oliveros, Leticia Robles, Grayson Palumbo, Benét Embry, Tatum Hatfield, Victor Caballero

Plot Synopsis: When an evil government official inspects a homeschooling family and tries to shut down the home learning operation, Pastor Dave (along with some lawyers) is ready to take the fight to highest court in the land! Liberty and religious freedom (as well as PureFlix’s future finances) are on the line, so there’s a lot resting on this fictional court drama that will inevitably feature a Fox News anchor. Will PureFlix be able to successfully use the fourth installment of a half-baked franchise to revitalize their business model?

The Chosen, Season 2 (Series Review)

Producer of Bible-Based TV Show 'The Chosen' Shares S2 On-Set Update

Plot Summary

After Jesus launched his public earthly ministry and took it to the next level by going to Samaria, the disciples thought that everything would be easy for them. However, things don’t pan out the way that they expect as they struggle with group dynamics, dark pasts, and outside opposition. In the end, as Jesus prepares for a sermon that will take His ministry to the next level, the disciples have to come to terms with what their new life means and what the Messiah has come to truly accomplish.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Many aspects of the production of Season 2 have greatly improved from Season 1, most notably the camera work, sets, and locations. However, for the most part, this talented team retained the authenticity and grittiness that was captured in Season 1 despite having more to work with. Camera work, video quality, and audio are all top-notch. Sets, locations, and props are realistic and culturally accurate. There are virtually no editing problems, so the only minor nitpick here is the fact that a few key moments are lacking the soundtrack that has come to be one of the core tenets of The Chosen. It’s unclear why this was the case, but it takes the wind out of the sails in certain circumstances. Nonetheless, this is another top-quality production that’s worthy of a high score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

It’s undeniable that the writers of The Chosen put much effort into making sure that the narrative is engaging and as accurate as possible. Season 2 is full of relatable and deep character arcs that portray the human experience and progress in realistic ways. Dialogue and conversations are excellent although slightly lacking some of the philosophy that we grew to love in Season 1. In Season 2, we get to watch a plausible interpretation of how the disciples might have interacted and how outside groups like the Pharisees and Romans may have approached Jesus in His early earthly ministry. There’s no doubt that the creators took the storytelling of the series to the next level by building intrigue and backstory for the outside events that were likely surrounding Jesus’ earthly ministry. For the most part, all characters are depicted as nuanced and motivated by various factors rather than all good or all bad. Further, the world-building in this season is superb as the writers demonstrate firm commitment to exploring and portraying the first-century Jewish culture in which Jesus lived. The main contention in this section that prevents a perfect score is the somewhat disjointed ending to the season. Some leaps in logic are taken to force a certain point, and the core philosophy of the show is temporarily abandoned just so certain moments can happen. This conclusion seems out-of-place compared to the rest of the season, which is disappointing since it’s the last thing that is seen. Nonetheless, there is still plenty to celebrate in this season as this plot is still very high quality.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, The Chosen, Season 2 picks up right where the first season left off in the acting department. Sporting an extremely talented cast of culturally authentic members, the learned accents enhance the realistic experience. Nearly 95% of all performances are very strong, including emotions and line delivery in key moments. However, there are a few missteps that keep this section from being perfect. For instance, Noah James is expected to do a lot more than his acting range allows him to do, which is a drag. Other scenes are obviously one-takes due to extenuating circumstances, so this is an unfortunate fact. In the end, however, this section still receives a very high score due to loaded talent.

Continuity Quality (3 points)

The writers of The Chosen are clearly skilled in establishing setups and payoffs in their narratives. In Season 2, character arcs and storylines are also superb. No scene is wasted, and logical reasons are given for why things happen. As previously mentioned, the world-building of this series is unparalleled as the viewer is drawn into an authentic experience in first-century Judea. There are virtually no errors in this section.

Conclusion

The Chosen, Season 2 receives one x-factor point for attention to detail and making everything count. However, unlike the first season, this follow-up seasons does not receive the other x-factor point for rewatchability. It was evident during the lead-up to this season that Season 2 would be one that sets up many future events, and this assertion was definitely true. Set-up is necessary, but it doesn’t always produce rewatchability. Nonetheless, we respect what is being done here since it will hopefully make future seasons even better. One word of caution that we have to offer is that, much like Jesus’ ministry in the series is becoming more popular, as The Chosen increases in real-world popularity, especially among the Christian elite, the creative team will face an even more daunting task of avoiding the accidental creation of an echo chamber. We love The Chosen and everything that they are doing, and there were many enjoyable moments that make Season 2 worth your time (and land the season on the Hall of Fame). Because we care about The Chosen and the team behind it, we feel the need to offer a small warning about the future of this series: don’t let it go the way of all Christian projects. Stay committed to being different and doing what God wants you to do.

Final Rating: 11.5 out of 14 points

Movie Renovation: God’s Not Dead

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

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

Plot and Storyline Improvements

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

Acting Improvements

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

Conclusion

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

Jerusalem Countdown: A Prelude to Armageddon (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nuclear weapons have been smuggled into America, and FBI agent Shane Daughtry and his team have been ordered to find them before they are detonated.  They must reluctantly collaborate with an old weapons dealer, a corrupt CIA director, and an ex-Muslim spy in order to find the dangerous contraband before America and Israel are blown off the map.  Little do they know is that their true hope lies in a Jewish researcher who has come by valuable information about his mysterious next door neighbor.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The good video quality is the only positive element to mention.  Otherwise, this movie is barely watchable.  The cheap action scenes are unbearable and poorly executed.  The camera angles are below par and the musical score is what one can expect from such a film as this.  The editing is as maddening as the jumpy action sequences.  CGI and special effects are very C-grade.  Nothing can compare with the incessant John Hagee product placements as the audience is spoon-fed his controversial views on eschatology and international politics.  Unfortunately, the negativity doesn’t end here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It doesn’t really seem like David A. R. White and company really did any research on the inner workings of government organizations or the true nature of terrorists when they were planning this movie.  The way that the plot unfolds is so unrealistic that it feels like a comic book.  Leaps in logic and plot holes litter the landscape.  The ways that the characters proceed forward with ‘leads’ is absurd.  Searching the internet for ‘Iran Shipping Ltd’ and then snooping around in a house they own to see whether or not they have nuclear weapons probably takes the cake, but it’s not to be topped by a librarian assisting FBI agents in a confidential case.  Every character is a ridiculous caricature and not believable.  The only consolation is that this is an apocalyptic plot that doesn’t take place on an airplane, but that’s not saying much.

Acting Quality (0 points)

We are convinced that PureFlix believes that if you have enough action scenes in a movie, you don’t need to coach the actors.  Such is the case in Jerusalem Countdown.  The delivery of lines is lackadaisical and emotions are lackluster.  So-called interrogation scenes are forced and awkward.  In short, there is little to nothing good to say about this film.

Conclusion

Is this movie supposed to have a sequel?  We certainly hope not, but ending the movie the way it does suggests that this film was only created to push John Hagee’s unusual worldview.  Movies in the action adventure, suspense, and apocalyptic genres can be used to reach audiences outside of the church, but when films like Jerusalem Countdown crowd out the field and water it down.  The next time an unbeliever hears about a Christian action film, they may only think of movies like this one and roll their eyes, as we do.  We implore Christian film-makers everywhere to learn from the mistakes of movies such as this one and not repeat them.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Book of Esther (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following the banishment of Queen Vashti from the royalty of Medo-Persia, King Xerses, lonely and confused, takes the advice of his closest advisors and decrees that all the young women be brought to him, given beauty treatments, and then displayed before him so that he can choose a new queen from among them.  Among them is a Jewish girl, Hadassah, who had been admonished by her cousin Mordecai to hide her cultural identity from those in the palace.  Against all odds, she is chosen to succeed Queen Vashti, just as the wicked advisor Haman is plotting to destroy the Jewish people from the face of the earth.  Queen Esther must decide that she must live up to the calling God has put in front of her in order to save an entire race from extinction.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The Book of Esther commits every Biblical movie error in every category, beginning with production.  The sets and costuming are very cheap, like this is a children’s church play.  It would be one thing if PureFlix did not have the funding to put on a better production, but this is not the case.  The camera work and video quality are passable, but the sound quality is very inconsistent.  There is really nothing to comment on regarding the editing, either good or bad.  In short, the first rule of Bible movies is to create a realistic and high quality setting, including backgrounds, sets, props, and costumes.  The Book of Esther does none of this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

The story of Esther is overused in movies, probably because it is easy to replicate and the plot suits most audiences.  But this film is not even a good adaptation—it misrepresents Biblical and historical events and includes unnecessary parts.  It seems like the viewer is being insulted and being treated like a child in a bad Sunday school class.  The film contains ridiculous over the top characters, more so than usual for a Bible film.  The dialogue is overly dramatic, like most Scripture screenplays.  There are also creepy undertones and insinuations regarding Haman and his eunuch.  A lot of content takes place off screen and this plot generally has no real potential and is even offensive is some ways, thus warranting negative points.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

As a whole, line delivery is horrible and emotion is absent.  The acting is either absurd or too theatrical.  The only exception is some small acting potential from Joel Smallbone and Jen Lilley, as their talents seem to be wasted on this nonsense.  Otherwise, there is unfortunately nothing positive to say.

Conclusion

Needless to say, The Book of Esther is another ruined Bible movie.  The audience will learn nothing worthwhile from it except that they probably don’t want to watch anymore films based on Scripture.  This movie is the embodiment of why Box Office Revolution feels the need to speak out for quality Christian films and against low quality ones.  It feels like PureFlix isn’t even trying when they make movies like this, which further warrants a very low score.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

God’s Not Dead (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points