The Gift of Christmas [2020] (Movie Review)

The Gift of Christmas (TV Movie 2020) - IMDb

Plot Summary

After George and Allen Barnett went across country to fulfill their father’s dying wishes, both brothers came back changed men. For the holidays, George asks him brother for a favor: bringing home the prodigal daughter of George’s friend. As such, Allen and the woman embark on their own cross-country journey of good deeds, learning a lot about each other along the way.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the production in this film is average. This is due to clear video quality yet inconsistent lighting: some shots are either poorly lit or overly lit. Camera work and audio quality are acceptable except for some background echoes, and a generic soundtrack sometimes covers up other sounds. There are also some obvious overdubs and continuity errors that seem avoidable. Further, the editing is passable, but some scenes linger too long. Thus, due to the mixed bag, a middle-of-the-road score is warranted.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Much like its predecessor, The Good Journey, The Gift of Christmas fails to adequately engage its audience. This is due to cardboard characters that are built with expository dialogue rather than the deep conversations that are needed to support a character-based plot. Vague and blank sequences don’t offer much interest, and many scenes simply waste time. Some concepts seem under-explained, and the overall messaging teaches that simply going to church fixes everything. Despite some slightly interesting ideas that are very slow to develop and somewhat aimless, the narrative wanders around until everything is magically fixed in the end. It’s hard to believe the resolutions, and it makes matters worse that the vague story doesn’t hold the attention. Hence, with no tangible potential, no points can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting of this is fairly vanilla. There aren’t any particularly bad performances to point to, but no standouts can be found either. At times, the emotions and lines are robotic and stilted. However, other times, the acting is acceptable. Thus, this run-of-the-mill section rounds out an overall underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

Did anyone really ask for a sequel to The Good Journey? Many audiences never even knew that the first movie existed, much less a Christmas installment. These two screenplays are the perfect example of making entertainment just for the sake of it. Some slightly interesting ideas were included, but nothing was enough to truly engage the viewer. Half-hearted attempts are still hurting the field’s reputation, which means we still need quality over quantity.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

The Good Journey (Movie Review)

The Good Journey (2018) - IMDb

Plot Summary

George and Allen Barnett are extremely different as brothers, but when their father dies, part of getting their inheritances is working together. Though they don’t get along, the brothers are forced to retrace the steps of their parents’ honeymoon trip, which was aided by many different Good Samaritans. George and Allen are tasked with repaying these kind people for their good deeds, and along the way, they discover more about themselves.

Production Quality (1 point)

The production isn’t quite up to the mark despite its clear video quality. Camera work is inconsistent although it gets better as it goes. Audio quality is fine except for loud background noises and a generic soundtrack that hardly stops playing. Sets, props, and locations are okay, but there are cheesy graphics throughout. Elsewhere, the editing is average, and the amount of negatives overall isn’t enough to warrant a score any higher than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Between the choppy story presentation and the lagging nature of many scenes in this screenplay, The Good Journey is a boring experience. Tons of time is wasted with musical montages that displace substantial conversations, making the film feel like a collection of randomly disconnected sequences. The character have absolutely no substance or depth, seeming strangely unconcerned about family deaths without good reason. They do things simply because the writers want them to. As a whole, the dialogue is bland and generic. Thus, with no real potential in this section, no points can be given.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Robotic acting dominates the first half of this movie, making for an annoying experience. Emotions are stoic and nonexistent as line delivery is uneven. Nonetheless, slight improvement in the latter parts keep this section from being nothing but still isn’t enough to buoy an overall underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

The Good Journey was based on a nice idea, one that seemed slightly different from other run-of-the-mill Christian entertainment. However, poor funding and misfired presentation sunk whatever creativity was possible here. As such, this film joins the long line of offerings in the Christian market that could have been something yet fell short of the mark for a number of reasons.

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Echo Rhyme (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Frank is a known counterfeiter and professional all-around criminal.  He has is hands in a lot of dirty businesses, but his fast and checkered lifestyle catches up with him finally, when he is faced with a medical complication he cannot overcome.  Thankfully, he is able to secure a heart donation to improve his medical condition, but this miracle sends him on a journey he never thought he would travel as he crosses paths with the family of the man whose heart he now has.  Will Frank be able to find redemption in the unlikeliest of places?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

From the studio that brought us 2 to Tangle and Time Collectors: Return of the Giants comes another poorly funded and poorly executed production mess.  However, Echo Rhyme surprisingly has the highest production of the group.  Still, this film has a lot of production problems, such as very obvious overdubbed lines, a loud and generic soundtrack, and sound effects that are not natural to the scenes they are stuck in.  Video quality is fine, but lighting and camera work are inconsistent throughout.  There are also some sequences of unnecessary slow-motion.  However, there is some improvement throughout as it seems like some parts of this film were better funded than others.  Even still, the editing is horrific, with very abrupt and choppy cuts and transitions in very awkward places.  Having a one-point production as your best achievement isn’t saying much.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unlike the severely limited scopes of their previous two films, Son Films went all out with Echo Rhyme.  They attempt a level of plot complexity that even the audience cannot understand at times, as subplots are very disjointed and confusing, especially in the first thirty minutes.  As things unfold, the premise becomes more and more cheesy as it is fixated on the organ donation of the heart and how this affects all of the characters involved in the most far-fetched ways.  This story is based entirely on very juvenile coincidences and a childish outlook on life as content meanders along endlessly for over two hours.  Everything is too connected yet not rooted in reality as one chance encounter after the next prolongs this story far beyond its welcome.  This goes without mentioning the very thin dialogue and empty characters in this story.  Although this ‘unique’ plot structure had some potential, it did not manifest in this presentation.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Son Films has put together some notoriously awkward casts, and this one isn’t much better, even though there are a few good moments that keep this section from being zero.  Nevertheless, this group needs some serious acting coaching, as they are very robotic and overly practiced.  As a whole, this movie needed a total redo, if it needed to be made at all.

Conclusion

Besides all of the other obvious issues with this film, what on earth does this title mean?  I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise coming from the studio that brought us 2 to Tangle and Time Collectors.  However, despite the myriad of problems in Echo Rhyme, there was actually a chance for a unique storyline here that was totally bungled.  Centering the plot around an organized crime character is a creative idea, but the sheer amount of coincidences and childish version of Christianity in this plot are just too much to bear.  Maybe somebody can responsibly reuse a portion of this idea in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Guided by the Word (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Right before Steven’s wife dies, her dying wish is for him to reconcile with their estranged daughter by taking her the Bible she used to use in Sunday school.  Though reluctant at first, after his wife dies, Steven honors her wishes and makes a trek across the country to find his long-lost daughter in order to give her the Bible.  Along the way, he reconnects with the faith he forgot he still had.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though this is a 2017 production, it is still relatively underwhelming.  Video quality and camera work are really the only good elements that can be highlighted here.  Audio quality is too inconsistent, including loud outside sounds and an overbearing soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are too limited and are obviously cheap.  There is also some randomly poor lighting.  Editing is basically non-existent as one long diatribe is presented here.  In the end, it’s hard to see a justification for this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Much like Almost Home, Guided by the Word us another half-baked idea that is better suited as a short film rather than a feature-length film.  The story wastes tons of time in an attempt to be longer and is full of empty dialogue and one-dimensional characters.  There’s probably a good message in here somewhere, but it feels too plastic and childish.  It also suggests a lot of quick fixes to problems.  It’s very hard to connect to these characters and their circumstances when they don’t even seem like they are real.  Unfortunately, it’s very hard to justify the existence of films like this.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Much like Almost Home, this cast is overly practiced and stilted in their line delivery.  They are also not very good at showing any emotions as they come off as monotone and lifeless.  It is unclear that John Lina should be in a lead role.  In the end, this film is just another disappointment that will be forgotten.

Conclusion

It’s sad that movies that have well-intentioned motives behind them like this will be washed away in the ever-increasing tide of Christian films being made.  In order to stand out, you absolutely must have professional production quality.  You need at least a marginally realistic plot that contains accessible characters.  Finally, you need a cast that can carry the film by becoming the characters.  Movies like this will only find themselves as thrift store fodder.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Homefront {The Things We Leave Behind} [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When three American soldiers are taken captive by the enemy and trapped in a dungeon awaiting their fate, their minds wander back to the lives their left behind in their home country.  As they share stories and regrets, one of them tries to help the others come to Christ before it’s too late.  Will they be able to leave behind their regrets and embrace a new future with Jesus before time runs out for them?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, throughout his film career, Chip Rossetti has struggled with production quality.  Homefront is no exception.  Camera work is stationary and video quality is grainy.  Lighting is terrible in a lot of the scenes.  Audio quality is also bad and the soundtrack is basically nonexistent.  Sets and locations are severely limited.  Furthermore, editing is not what it should be, although there are some efforts to make it that way.  In the end, it’s unfortunate that the production quality of this film is so low because it had some potential.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

It is clear that this film was intended to be a big military epic, but it fell very short of expectations.  The story is very flat and boring, even though the dialogue has some potential.  Flashbacks barely keep the movie alive, but they need a lot more development, as do the characters.  There is a part of this film that is interesting and makes us want it to be better because we can see what Chip was trying to do here, but it just didn’t work.  As it is, Homefront does not have the stamina or powerful content to sustain a two-hour film.  Though it was intended to be an international suspense epic, this dream unfortunately did not come to fruition.  Thus, we are left wandering what could have been.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast, while they are not as bad as they could be, is very dry and cardboard in their emotions and in their line delivery.  Some lines are severely mumbled, yet sometimes they surprise you with a randomly good performance.  Since they were so underwhelming yet showed potential, they desperately needed some acting coaching.  With that, this section could have been improved.

Conclusion

Homefront is the bare bones skeleton of an idea that needs serious fleshing out and a huge production and casting upgrade.  It’s not like there’s not potential here—the potential is the one thing that keeps this film from being zero points.  But with a production this bad, a film can never succeed.  With a plot this understated and under-developed, there is no way a movie can make a difference.  Furthermore, when your cast does not reach its full potential, you are in for disappointment.  The good thing is that Chip Rossetti is making strides to improve his brand, and is having some success at this (see 94 Feet).  This is all we ask from Christian film makers.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points