MBF: Man's Best Friend (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Paul Landings retired from the military after a disability prevented his further service, so now he works at a dog shelter and takes in dogs who have no homes. However, his practices draw ire from locals, and several troublemakers set fire to his house with the dogs still in it. Affected by PTSD, Landings commits a crime in revenge for his dogs and finds himself embroiled in a lawsuit charged with local politics. Will he be able to be set free from the bondage both in his head and in his life?

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the production of Man’s Best Friend is respectable, including good video, camera, and audio qualities. While the sets, locations, and props are mostly well-chosen, there is some inconsistent lighting in the indoor sets. However, the outside locations are better, and these issues overall improve as the film progresses. Elsewhere, the soundtrack is acceptable, and the editing is a bit odd at types although it is mostly fine. In the end, this is an above average production that could have been a little better due to the year it was made.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The opening sequences of MBF are a bit of a drag for the viewer since they are drawn out and full of stock footage and vague voiceover that both isolates the audience and wastes valuable time. However, once it gets to the substantial parts of the plot, there are actually some good explorations of how warfare effects people after the military and how one’s life can be greatly altered by the service. Nonetheless, there are a number of problems in this narrative’s character department, beginning with the fact that most of the ‘bad’ characters are total strawmen who hate the main character for no particular reason, are unrealistically anti-military, and are generally annoying. At the same time, the military characters are painted in perfect lights as they create a very odd dichotomy that tries to force the viewer to choose between the importance of a paralyzed character’s life and the lives of dogs that died in a fire. There are either perfect victim characters (though it’s not clear how some of them are actually victims) or highly corrupt small town characters, which is likely realistic in many contexts but is too over the top for this situation. Moreover, the storyline provides both a realistic look at post-war trauma and a hard examination of corruption in small towns, but many audiences may find the premise to be a bit dark and without significant hope or redemption. Elsewhere, the judge seems unnecessarily biased toward the protagonist, and some of the characters attempt to nearly justify the paralysis-inducing crime that is on trial. Dialogue is inconsistently used for information dumps, and a lot of the characters feel unfinished as they tend to crowd each other out for screen time. Also, there is some inappropriate language throughout the plot, and the ending is a bit hard to follow. Overall, much like this creative team’s previous efforts at crafting complex suspense situations (Wild Faith), MBF tries to interest the viewer in legal intrigue mixed with military drama, but there are just too many issues with this concept to justify any points for this section.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While many of the cast members of MBF tend to force their lines and their emotional deliveries in the beginning, the performances as a whole improve as the film progress. The most significantly positive aspect is the fact that DJ Perry posts an extremely memorable and groundbreaking performance as he becomes a character unlike any other he’s previously played and transforms himself for a very difficult role. This element is very impressive and is one of the main bright spots in this otherwise flawed project. Thus, this rounds out an overall above average acting effort that could have been slightly better.

Conclusion

Man’s Best Friend, like many of this creative team’s past projects, had a lot going for it, but it didn’t quite make it past the finish line. Perry, Hagedorn, Teaster, Hornus, and the rest had a lot of momentum following Wild Faith and The Christ Slayer, but MBF tends to blunt this success with its confusing messaging and dark focus. However, Perry’s breakout performance is a key bright spot that gives renewed hope for the future, so it will be interesting to see what this collective produces next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Lost Heart (coming in 2020)

Shane Hagedorn and Melissa Anschutz in Lost Heart (2020)
Victoria Jackson in Lost Heart (2020)

Coming to select theaters and streaming services in 2020 from Collective Development Incorporated

Writer(s): DJ Perry

Director(s): Jesse Low

Producer(s): Melissa Anschutz, Debbie Thomey Bennett, David Gries Shane Hagedorn, Anthony Hornus, Rebecca Lawlor, Jesse Low, John Mashni
DJ Perry, Nathan K. Robertson, Dean Teaster

Starring: Melissa Anschutz, Shane Hagedorn, Victoria Jackson, DJ Perry, Josh Perry, Don Most, Christine Marie, Dean Teaster, Anthony Hornus, Melissa Anschutz, Lauren LaStrada, Michael Rene Walton, Abigail Mason, Greg Mason, Tonya Hawkins, David Gries

Plot summary: Hannah, a burnt out, mega-music star, returns to her small Northern Michigan hometown of Lost Heart, for her estranged father’s funeral. There she will confront the ghosts of her past and perhaps find her peace and balance once again.

M.B.F. (coming in 2020)

Coming in 2020 from Collective Development Incorporated

Writer(s): DJ Perry

Director(s): Anthony Hornus

Producer(s): Melissa Anschutz, Debbie Thomey Bennett, Deborah Bennett
David Gries, Shane Hagedorn, Anthony Hornus, Rebecca Lawlor, John Mashni, DJ Perry, Nathan K. Robertson, Dean Teaster

Starring: Don Most, Tim Abell, DJ Perry, Melissa Anschutz, Christine Marie Dean Teaster, Garry Nation, Kimberly Harsch, Shane Hagedorn, Sammy A. Publes, Robert Henline, John DeMarco, David Gries, Lauren LaStrada
David Michael Reardon, Austin Two Feathers, Walker Fairbanks
Robert Bradley, Greg Mason, Anthony Hornus

Plot summary: An engaging tale that shows the parallels between the treatment of wounded military veterans and ‘last chance’ shelter dogs.

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