Sons of Thunder, Season 1 [2019] (Series Review)

Sons of Thunder | Pure Flix

Plot Summary

Simon, ever since becoming a Christian, doesn’t want to be in his motorcycle gang anymore, but the gang leader won’t let Simon out very easily. Afraid for his girlfriend’s life and uncertain of the future, Simon decides to go on a road trip since he thinks this will keep everyone safe. Along the way, Simon hops from town to town, trying to make enough money to pay his way. In each area, he’s able to magically help someone before he has to return to his pursuit of unknown goals. The question is, will he ever be safe from the grasp of the biker gang?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, in keeping with the new ways of a well-funded PureFlix machine, Sons of Thunder sports a respectable production. This is evident in the video quality, camera work, and audio quality, including a pretty good soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props are also above average. Despite some obvious continuity errors and less-than-perfect editing, this production improves as it goes. Thus, this section is easily the strongest point of the series.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the get-go, the first season of Sons of Thunder is full of constant narration, which is only combined with cheesy, juvenile dialogue that’s quite obvious and expository in most scenes. Many of the plot’s circumstances come off as unrealistic and trumped up, and many of the situations characters find themselves in seem quite staged and contrived just to move the narrative forward. This makes it difficult to know who the characters actually are and why they do what they do other than the fact that they are pawns in the whims of the storyline, which forces everything to reach certain conclusions, no matter how unnatural the premises may be. Some characters have extreme swings in their behaviors without legitimate explanations or catalysts, all just to make specific instances transpire. Besides these obvious problems, the fact that the protagonist can just stumble from town to town without any clear direction or objective and always find some kind of sticky situation to patch up with his wisdom before quickly leaving without good explanation is pretty ridiculous. Why would so many people trust him and benefit from him right in a row, and how would one person benefit from so many coincidences? Elsewhere, the villains and ‘bad’ characters are beyond cheesy strawmen, and basically all of the action sequences are unrealistic. However, surprisingly, not all is bad in this section since there is a consistent presence of partially effective flashbacks that build some semblance of a backstory for the main character. Further, there are some interesting themes explored in a few of the episodes, such as desperate people doing illegal things for desperate reasons, but any good is easily wiped out by the cringe-worthy climax that leaves the viewers with a painfully obvious attempt to create a second season of this madness. Therefore, only half a point can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Moreover, despite obvious plot problems, the acting of this series actually isn’t half-bad. Though there are moments of unsure delivery and while some performances could be better, this section is at least above-average. Dramatic scenes are a bit overacted at times, and the villain cast members were presumably coached to be absurd. Nonetheless, this aspect of the season shows improvement with time, which is enough to warrant this score.

Continuity Quality (1 point)

Sons of Thunder follows a typical recurring drama model that hearkens back to The Lone Ranger where every episode has different characters save for the main ones. As such, the protagonist hops from situation to situation, easily resolving problems within the given episode time frames. In this pursuit, episode conclusions aren’t backed up by logical progression and are rushed for the sake of time. Every episode ending is essentially the same, and while the flashbacks tend to interrupt this mold, it’s not quite enough. Another predictable aspect of this series is its use of the premiere and finale episodes to explore the bigger subplot outside of the smaller episodic ones, and though not all is bad, it’s just not quite there.

Conclusion

Despite itself, this series is actually best PureFlix Original series to date, which is really saying much considering the other options (see The Encounter, Hitting the Breaks, Malibu Dan the Family Man, and Hilton Head Island). Sons of Thunder has moments of potential and is definitely well-funded, but it just commits too many avoidable errors, mostly pertaining to poor writing. However, this isn’t anything new when it comes to PureFlix, so, at this point, we unfortunately don’t expect anything less from them.

Final Rating: 6 out of 14 points

Crave: The Fast Life (Movie Review)

Image result for crave: the fast life movie

Plot Summary

For years, Max has resented his father for leaving them. Now, this anger boils beneath the surface as he endeavors to make a big name for himself as a club promoter in the LA night club scene. However, when he’s faced with a lucrative offer he can’t refuse, little does he know that he’s sinking deeper into pride and arrogance. He refuses to turn to God as things seem to be falling apart around him, but a series of events begins to change his heart and remind him of his mother’s faith.

Production Quality (2 points)

Since it is a 2018 production, Crave: The Fast Life should have exhibited a bit more of a dynamic nature. As it is, the video quality is grainy at times, even though the camera work is mostly fine. At times, there is odd lighting throughout, but all production elements do get better as they go. Subtle camera angles throughout reveal well-placed recurring props, and settings are overall realistic and authentic. The soundtrack is also effectively integrated throughout, and the editing is mostly average. In the end, the production does enough in the second half to achieve and above-average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

From the get-go, it seems like the screenwriters have a fairly interesting story to share in Crave, which is evidenced by an effective beginning that contains a key character flashback. Other flashbacks are also well-done throughout the course of the plot, yet this technique isn’t used to its fullest potential as the storyline tends to jump around in time using only time stamps to keep the audience oriented. This method of storytelling isn’t the best, even though there are some good attempts to gradually develop character personality and motive. Even so, the time jumps can be a bit disorienting at times, and while the avoidance of narration is commendable, it’s still somewhat confusing for character continuity. Sometimes, dialogue tends to be a bit forward and forced, and the Christian message-pushing seems off-base as it’s portrayed as primarily a church-going habit combined with some behavior modification. There’s some sermonizing done by ‘perfect’ Christian characters who seem to assume that giving people verses without getting to know them is sufficient for a life change. However, one of the plot’s central themes is a hard, realistic look at how generational patterns repeat, which is good, but it tends to wade into some too realistic and slightly edgy content at times. The middle of the story lags and loses some focus and creativity as dynamic storytelling is exchanged for Christian platitudes and quick fixes. The character arcs in the last third of the film are too steep to be believed, and it all culminates in a very quick and rushed ending that easily fixes things with little to no consequences. In the end, there was a lot of potential here, so hopefully, next time, this creative team will be able to work out the kinks of their otherwise good storytelling.

Acting Quality (2 points)

On the whole, the acting in Crave is mostly average. It starts out a bit slow but improves with time like other elements of the film do. Some scenes can feel a bit awkward and have a one-take tone to them while others come off as quickly filmed. Moreover, emotional scenes can seem forced at times, but in the big picture, there is enough good here to outweigh the inexperience. The cast members appear to mean well and want to do their best, so this is a good way to approach things. In the end, this film has some positive marks, and it’s a good start for this creative team.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that Christian entertainment creators are trying to expand the horizons of the genre with films like Crave that would have never been considered just under a decade ago. This progress is encouraging, so we hope to see more forward motion in this area. However, as creativity grows, we also need to see production, acting, and plot qualities grow with it, especially storyline and character growth. We’re just now getting to the point where Christian entertainment is depicting ‘flawed’ characters in the world outside the church, so now, as Christians, we need to get better at telling captivating stories that will truly reach people for Christ.

Final Rating: 5.5 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