Faith.Hope.Love. [2021] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When six college students are invited to a mysterious getaway in the snowy mountains of Utah, they have no idea what’s in store for them. What begins as a retreat of self-discovery quickly becomes a life-changing experience that many of them will not soon forget. How will they apply the changes that they have experienced to their everyday lives?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Faith.Hope.Love. has a good production with very few errors. One of these mistakes is the existence of background sounds. The set is fairly limited but well-utilized. As a whole, the production gets better with time, including high-quality video and camera work. The editing is acceptable, which rounds out a section that warrants a high score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

At the beginning of this story, the premise seems very trumped-up. The conversations are awkward and stiff, sometimes cutting off without warning. In the first half of the narrative, the dialogue feels very strained, forced, and unnatural. Many things are said without actually developing the characters, and there’s a tendency for the writers to be fixated on edgy and provocative content. However, the plot tends to get better as it goes as the characters improve due to more natural conversations. The second half of the film presents real people rather than characters representing social issues, but the initial presentation may discourage viewers from proceeding. The backstories of the characters become very strong if you wait long enough, even if the dialogue sometimes steers the screenplay in the direction that the writers want it to go, including some slight elements of propaganda. This is a testament to how strong characters can make up for other shortcomings. The conclusion is bit rushed, and the twist ending isn’t all that shocking. Thus, one point is awarded here.

Acting Quality (3 points)

For the most part, the acting is likely the strongest area of Faith.Hope.Love. Despite lacking a dynamic quality in the first half of the movie, this aspect of the film improves with time. The performances grow stronger by the second half, including believable line delivery and emotions. Thus, this rounds out an overall encouraging effort.

Conclusion

This creative team has demonstrated plenty of potential for the future, so it will be interesting to see what they produce next. With tighter storytelling and better messaging, they have nowhere to go but up. Hopefully, screenplays like this one represent a new positive trend in the Christian entertainment industry.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

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The Christmas Dragon (Movie Review)

It’s magic!

Plot Summary

After her parents are kidnapped, Ayden and her new orphan friends will have to retrieve the magical orb that keeps Father Christmas alive and will have to save the Christmas Dragon from being killed.  Will they be able to prevail against the evil creatures and people that are chasing then?  Will everyone be able to find out what the true meaning of Christmas is?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It’s very hard to make a fantasy movie on a low budget, so it should probably be avoided.  Nonetheless, while The Christmas Dragon has some good production elements, it also has some glaringly bad ones.  As usual, video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  Yet there are many obviously cheap special effects used throughout, including a lot of poorly animated overlays.  Unfortunately, the fantasy props used are among the worst; it also does not help that the sets and locations are fairly limited.  One consolation is that the editing in this film is fine, which keeps this production from being below average.  In the end, fantasy productions require a lot of funding, so a low budget will always be exposed by this type of film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

First off, it’s very hard to discern how The Christmas Dragon is really a Christmas film, but at least John Lyde and his team are trying to do something different.  However, it still seems like he and his team are better than this silliness.  With no clear Christian message or purpose to guide it, this storyline meanders along as a vague allegory that simply copies concepts (very poorly) from popular fantasy stories.  The characters are too one-dimensional and not dynamic at all.  They seem to be pawns in the plot, and their dialogue is stunted by action sequences.  Allegory and fantasy plots need a driving purpose that keep them from going off the rails, and some creativity is not discouraged either.  Unfortunately, this movie lacks these parameters.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Besides having the most terrible makeup jobs ever, these cast members are forced to don obviously homemade costuming (and sometimes stupid masks) that attempts and fails to make them look like mythical creatures.  Elsewhere, emotions are either too dramatic or too matter-of-fact.  There is too much yelling and forced drama, as well as poor action acting.  While some roles are poorly cast, there are some good moments here that keep this section from being any worse.  In the end, the potential here was not fully reached.

Conclusion

A word to the wise: do not make a fantasy movie with this sort of budget and don’t make one just to rip off other ideas and to smash Christmas into it for no good reason.  John Lyde and his team usually produce quality content, but this movie is an exception because they overextended themselves with a complex production.  Fantasy plots need to be well-planned from the beginning, and if they are, they can be very dynamic.  Perhaps John Lyde and his crew will continue to improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Heaven is Waiting {Midway to Heaven} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ned Stevens has been a rich bachelor living in a small Utah town ever since his wife died and his daughter went off to college.  But everything changes one day when his daughter surprises him by coming home…with her boyfriend, whom she is very serious with.  Ned immediately sets off to make her boyfriend look bad and to dig up some kind of dirt on him.  All the while, he continues to carry on imaginary conversations with his dead wife and his daughter is trying to get him to date a woman his age who lives in the area.  Torn in multiple directions, Ned must find a way to reckon with himself and move on from the past.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Production is the only strong point of Heaven is Waiting, formerly known as Midway to Heaven.  The video and sound quality are both clear.  The camera work is passable and the editing is pretty good.  Despite their absurdity, the imaginary conversations are produced and edited well.  One problem to bring up is that the sets are limited and seem low quality.  Another issue is the makeup and costuming—the few characters within seem unrealistic and vain.  Otherwise, there are no issues where production is concerned.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Okay, so the entire premise of this movie is absurd.  While we do not have an issue with psychological self-conversation within characters, it is not clear whether or not Ned’s wife is in his head or if she is some kind of spirit guide.  Besides this, a dead wife trying to convince her husband to marry another woman is totally ridiculous.  This plot is very limited and rests entirely on Ned’s imaginary conversations.  The few characters contained in the plot are haphazardly cheesy; their dialogue belongs in a parody.  Once the movie has accomplished a certain amount of ‘comedy’, it digresses into cheap musical montages.  A lot of events take place off screen and there is unnecessary narration throughout.  In short, there is really no plot content here that is worth anything.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

In an attempt to be funny, most of the acting comes off as juvenile.  There is really no acting coaching for this very small cast, which is a problem since these few actors carry the entire movie.  As previously mentioned, a lot of the characters seem vain and unrealistic in their appearances.  Unfortunately, the only good thing to say here is that the acting could have been worse.

Conclusion

Heaven is Waiting, also known as Midway to Heaven, seemed like it started out as a good idea that never materialized.  There is a small amount of potential, but the film needs a complete rework.  I think that most sensible women would agree that a dead wife would never constantly ask her husband to marry another woman, even if that were possible for them to communicate.  Another conclusion to draw is that Ned was using his dead wife’s memories as an excuse to get married again, which is even more ridiculous.  In short, this movie should have been sent back to the creators in the early stages for a re-write.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

The Last Sin Eater (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cadi Forbes has lived all her life in a Welsh immigrant settlement deep in the Appalachian Mountains, isolated from the world outside.  She has lived in fear, as have the people in her settlement, and now she has a terrible secret to guard.  Not only that, but she has risked trouble on her life by laying eyes on the forbidden sin eater—the cursed individual who must atone for the sins of those who die in the settlement.  Seeking a way to end it all, a mysterious girl guides Cadi to listen to a stranger preach to the forest about a hope she has never heard before.  She is now more curious than ever to learn about the stranger and even the identity of the cursed sin eater.  But what will it cost her in the end?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The production of The Last Sin Eater is excellent, with only minor problems.  The camera work is good, as is the video quality.  The only issue to raise is the inconsistent lighting in some scenes, though it could be argued as realistic.  The audio quality is overall good, though the soundtrack could be a little more inspiring.  There are diverse sets and the Appalachian scenery is realistic.  Some of the flashback content seems a little low quality, perhaps on purpose.  In the end, this production is done very well.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

This is likely Michael Landon Jr’s best movie to date, but it can be credited to the writing genius of foundational Christian author Francine Rivers.  Her book that inspired this movie is among her best, and Landon’s adaptation is seamless.  The plot ties realistic historical events to an excellent fictional story built around believable characters.  The superstition is woven wonderfully with Biblical elements.  The characters are realistic and flawed, driven by true-to-life dialogue.  There are twists and turns in the plot, and the end is slightly unexpected.  In short, this excellent plot can be attributed to the genius authorship of Francine Rivers and to the honest adaptation of Michael Landon Jr.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

For a cast of largely little known actors, they perform quite well.  The line delivery is mostly accurate, though it seems forced at times.  Sometimes the Welsh accents seem fake, but other times they do not.  Despite these small issues, there are no extremely negative elements where the acting is concerned.  This cast is a good example of what can be done with the proper coaching.

Conclusion

There are plenty of lesser and well known Christian novels that can and should be adapted for the screen.  Where many movie plots are stock, there are plenty of Christian works of fiction that could be portrayed through video instead of more bland inspirational films.  The Last Sin Eater is an example of what can happen when an excellent novel is adapted correctly into a movie.  This film should be a blueprint for many more movies in the future.

 

Final Rating: 8 out of 10 points