Vindication, Season 1 [2019] (Series Review)

Plot Summary

Detective Travis always wants to bring the criminals of his small Texas town to justice. However, he’s not always right, and he can’t do it all on his own, despite what he believes about himself. Through every twist and turn of each case, the detective learns something new about himself and about life, but the ultimate challenge of his work and life involves his daughter and her checkered past. Thus, when she comes to stay with him and his wife, he’s sure she’s got something to hide. However, he could have never foreseen the end result of this.

Production Quality (1.5 points)
For a relatively low-budget series, Vindication is definitely trying when it comes to production. The video quality is great throughout, and the camera work is respectable. Sets, locations, and props are mostly fine, but the audio is sometimes too quiet. At first, there’s basically no soundtrack, but this tends to improve as the series goes on. While there are some creative story overlays and plot criss-crossing throughout, the editing can be fairly choppy at times. Sometimes, scenes start and stop at awkward places, and some portions seem unnecessary. However, this element also tends to improve with time. In the end, this is an average production that shows commendable effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
What an absolute roller coaster of a storyline. It’s difficult to know where to begin with this; in the first two-thirds of the series, many of the cases are either fairly unrealistic or extremely simplistic. Some contain improbable circumstances just for the sake, it seems, of being unique and tricky. Others contain lots of coincidences and convenient turns; many of them include partially or mostly inappropriate content seemingly just because. While being edgy and realistic is a good quality to have in Christian entertainment (rather than white-washing humanity), there’s a fine line to walk between authentic and trashy. As a side note, some of the ‘crimes’ that are actually ‘twists’ are substantially questionable and borderline ‘vindicate’ the wrong types of behavior. Elsewhere, the suspense elements don’t seem to jive with reality even though there are some interesting psychological elements throughout. Besides the head-scratching partially objectionable content included, the treatment of police ethics and criminal procedure throughout the series would be offensive to many real police officers. Rules are callously broken with no resource, and while it would be one thing to portray a rogue cop in a negative light for the purpose of being realistic, it’s another thing to downright condone unethical practices in the name of doing the right thing, including mixing personal vendettas against certain people and in favor of family members with police work. The detectives’ time is spent on petty misunderstandings that would likely draw the attention of higher authorities due to their frivolous use of resources and questionable methods of arresting people with little reasonable suspicion. These two major problem areas (inappropriate content and offensive portrayal of procedure) are almost enough to totally derail the series from the get-go, especially when these issues are combined with a lot of blank and empty dialogue and cheap Christian messaging throughout the first two-thirds of the season. Odd portrayals of women and minorities throughout the series are also concerns to contend with, but the recurring subplot between the main character and his daughter keep the narrative on life support long enough to get to the final two episodes of the season, which almost save the writers from themselves. It’s clear that the entire series was made for this storyline, and the daughter is the only notably interesting character in the entire creation. The last two episodes are so starkly different from the other ones (except for the disregard for jurisdiction and other questionable practices in the name of being police with agendas) that it seems like an entirely different idea, yet the thinly-developed characters still shine through due to their lack of depth in the first eight episodes. Had they been properly built in the first two-thirds of the season via real cases and authentic circumstances, we would be looking at a totally different concept. As they are, the last two installments include very effective flashbacks that take a good look at hard issues effecting many people. In doing so, the final ‘villain’ is fairly realistic, and the partial conclusion of the subplot between the father and daughter is mostly authentic and believable. Nevertheless, despite the acceptable ending, it doesn’t cover over the multitude of sins committed by the rest of the storyline.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)
Acting isn’t a glaring problem throughout the series even if many cast members come off as very robotic and overly practiced. However, this is likely not a talent problem or a coaching issue because the lines they are given are usually uninspiring. This is evident since acting seems to improve as dialogue gets a slight upgrade in the latter third of the season. Although makeup is terrible at first, this seems to get better too. The key standout performance from every episode she’s in comes from Emma Elle Roberts as she sets herself apart as a truly talented actress with potential beyond this series. In the end, this is neither the best nor the worst acting from a Christian season.

Continuity Quality (1.5 points)
As previously mentioned, the only significant continuity throughout season one of Vindication involves the storylines of the central character’s family, especially his interactions with his daughter and her checkered past. However, these recurring subplots are fairly good in the midst of a mostly typical recurring crime drama style. Still, it would have been preferable to see some other interwoven subplots that were worthwhile to follow.

Conclusion

The creators of Vindication are trying to do something, but there are too many elements of season one that are way off base. The use of edgy content is commendable for a crime series, but it would be nice to see better standards of propriety when it comes to dealing with sensitive topics. For another, a lot of significant research needs to be conducted before anyone creates a drama centered around criminal procedure and police work because it can be easy to make careless mistakes. Further, there needs to be a better look at mental and behavioral health issues beyond simplifying them and reducing them to trite Christian sayings and prayers. In the end, this concept may work better as a larger-scale federal investigative storyline rather than confining it to a small town with unusual half-mysteries. To summarize, the creators have potential somewhere in here, but there’s too much blocking out the light.

Final Rating: 5 out of 14 points

A Man Called Jon (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jon is a pastor who likes to express himself by dancing and running around, but this practice is condemned by his employers since they run a stiff white church.  Thus, they reassign him to new duties: to be the pastor of an African-American church who is begging for a new pastor.  All seems well at first, yet the former pastor of the African-American church is jealous and Jon and seeks to have him removed.  Will they all be able to find a compromise for the sake of the people?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Unlike their previous production disaster Hiding in Plain Sight, Poorchild Films has discovered a better production formula in A Man Called Jon.  Video quality is good, as is camera work.  Audio quality is also professional, even though the soundtrack is a bit generic.  Sets, locations, and props are appropriate and well-used.  The main issue to point out here is, of course, the editing as there are too many lagging and dead sequences as well as some scenes that are confusing and seem unscripted.  But overall, this is a decent production that shows a lot of good effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, this plot is an extremely limited idea and is completely uncreative as it has been done before in movies like The Rev and Brother White.  The awkward white guy is kicked out of the stiff white church and is reassigned to a struggling African-American church in a supposedly comedic fish-out-of-water plot—we’ve seen it all before.  Besides this, there is truly barely any plot content to speak of here as a lot of scenes appear to just be filling time.  Dialogue is fairly empty and does nothing to improve the already cheesy characters.  The scope of this story is severely limited and really doesn’t have anything going for it.  Any attempts at comedy fall awkwardly flat.  Thus, due to lack of character and story development, this plot can’t muster any points.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast demonstrates some potential as at least some of them appear to know what they are doing.  Some cast members appear to be phoning in their lines, while others are cheesy, but there is enough good here to make this section average.  Emotions and line delivery are not quite what they should be, but they are adequate.

Conclusion

It’s possible that the Poorchild team means well and just doesn’t know what they are doing.  They obviously learned how to improve their production quality, so perhaps they have more improvements in store down the road.  They need to write some more creative plot ideas and coach their cast members to be more engaging and realistic.  Also, their characters need to be more accessible and down to earth without being caricatures.  In the end, they have plenty of potential if they will make some improvements.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Hiding in Plain Sight [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Almost overnight, the Blackmon family finds themselves unemployed, homeless, and running out of funds.  As they try to make their way on the streets, they discover that the world is hostile towards the homeless and that they will need to figure out how to fend for themselves.  As the going gets tough, will they reach out for help where they know they can find it or will they continue to hide in plain sight?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Possibly in an attempt to be overly realistic, this film looks like it was literally filmed on the sides of busy roads with cars constantly driving by either in front of the camera or behind the set.  There are also many other artistic angles, such as filming through fences and from behind other barriers and objects.  But randomly, the video quality and lighting of the scenes are professional, which seem out of place in this production.  Most, if not all, of the audio is either severely muffled or obviously overdubbed in post-production.  The soundtrack is also very loud, probably to cover up outside sounds.  Furthermore, editing is atrocious as scenes jump all over the place and transitions are very choppy and disorienting.  In the end, this production is unfortunately a train wreck.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While the writers appear to mean well, this storyline is next to impossible to follow.  There are some interesting points in here somewhere, but they are hard to decipher amidst this story’s general lack of focus.  It’s mostly just a collection of random scenes about people wandering around and sitting around outside, with some montages thrown here and there.  There is no plot continuity whatsoever and no depth to these characters.  Whatever dialogue is even discernable does nothing to help the plot or the characters.  There are too many off-the-wall elements and goofs to take this movie seriously.  Unfortunately, this was a swing and a miss.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though there are some cast members that appear to mean well and it is likely that this cast had no coaching or assistance, this is still a mess.  There are too many mumbled lines that are completely indecipherable.  Emotions are also forced and extreme, with either too much yelling or too little expression.  It really seems like in many ways that this film was thrown together on the fly.

Conclusion

Though there were some well-meaning intentions here and there is certainly potential to be found in Hiding in Plain Sight, as it is, this is nothing but a disaster.  The team clearly tried to patch up some of the glaring problems in post-production, but the problems were too great.  This film needed to be totally scrapped and started over.  Yet it is highly possible that this was not financially feasible.  Thus, this further shows the importance of doing things right the first time and making sure you don’t take on more than you can handle.  Sometimes it’s better to start out small before moving to bigger things.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points