The Investigator [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sergeant James Buanacore loved his job as a leader on the police force, but when he got caught up in a street fight that ended with a gang member shot to death, he is pressured to retire from his post to mitigate bad publicity.  At the same time, tragedy strikes his family and blindsides him, which causes him to lose his faith in God.  Thus, James’ brother gets him a job as a baseball coach and criminal justice teacher at a local private Christian school to help him find new meaning in life.  But what James finds there is students searching for hope and a corrupt leadership, so he sets out to use his investigative skills to determine whether or not Jesus was a historical figure.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For a slightly unknown independent Christian film, The Investigator has a surprisingly good production.  Video quality is great, but the only issue in this production is the odd camera work that is sometimes employed.  Otherwise, audio quality is professional, as is the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are well-funded and appropriate.  The editing is quite good and is successful in most ways.  If it weren’t for the unusual camera usage, this would have been a perfect production.  In the end, this is an excellent example of how an independent production can succeed.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The Investigator has a lot of interesting ideas and takes big risks in breaching less-discussed topics such as corruption in private Christian schools.  However, the story is all over the place and is somewhat disorganized as a lot of ground is attempted to be covered.  The circumstances portrayed are realistic and honest, and the characters are actually quite believable and realistic, but the organization of this story is greatly lacking.  The creativity here needs some serious honing and better development.  Too much time is wasted on sports montages and unrelated scenes.  In the end, this is a very unique plot, so it’s a shame it couldn’t have been better.  Yet it does show potential for the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is a semi-professional cast, and they post mostly good performances, but emotions tend to be too extreme at times.  Line delivery is nearly perfect and it’s evident that acting coaching is present.  Only a few minor problems hold this portion back.

Conclusion

There is a lot of good content packed into this film, but there is perhaps too much that is included here.  It’s great to deal with the issues of tragedy, corruption, and apologetics, but in this disorganized fashion, it’s difficult to follow.  Yet the production and the acting successes show that independent films can be professional if the proper resources and effort are put towards them.  Regardless, it should be interesting to see what this creative team comes up with next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

The Turnaround [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Marquise tragically loses both of his parents, he is raised by a family friend and tries to find his way through life.  His parents had always taught him the Christian faith and how to live, but he is confused about Christianity since he feels like God took them away from him.  He is tempted to get involved in drugs with a friend since he cannot seem to find stable income elsewhere.  But he is also in love with a pastor’s daughter, and the pastor sees great potential in Marquise and wants to disciple him.  Which path will Marquise ultimately choose?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Turnaround has a better production than you might expect, but it still commits some rookie errors.  Video quality and camera work are fine.  The audio quality is good except for the awkward soundtrack that sometimes overpowers the scenes.  Sets, locations, and props are average but demonstrate effort.  The biggest problem with this production, besides the useless time subtitles, is the extremely choppy editing that leaves the audience very disoriented and confused.  Scenes jump from one thing to the next with no warning, which hampers the experience.  Overall, this is an average production that has clear areas for improvement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, the scenes cut back and forth so quickly and jump all over the place so much that the story is next to impossible to follow.  It is difficult to see how the characters and their situations relate to each other, except for some loose associations.   There is probably an interesting story in here somewhere if it were ordered and organized better.  In the aftermath of the confusion, characters are left under-developed due to empty and wanting dialogue.  There are too many unrelated subplots interspersed with random narration.  It feels like there were too many people writing these ideas and not enough people organizing them in a way that would help the audience appreciate them.  Essentially, this is a nice try but no success.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The acting is actually the strongest element of The Turnaround and keeps it from being in the complete basement of Christian entertainment.  The only real problem to point out with the acting is the fact that there are too many scenes that have people talking over each other.  Otherwise, emotions are mostly believable and line delivery is acceptable.

Conclusion

The Turnaround, though it has some good elements, is one of those films that will easily be forgotten due to otherwise avoidable errors.  We believe that the creators of this film meant well, but in order to make this sort of plot work, the characters have to be realistic and accessible by the audience.  The characters are what make audiences interested in the movie, so without them being properly developed, little interest is generated for the film.  Perhaps the creators will heed this advice in the future.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Love Different (Movie Review)

Thug life.

Plot Summary

When a dippy white blonde named Jenn Gotzon Lindsay decides to take a job at an African-American marketing firm, she finds herself in the midst of a major culture shock.  So the head of the firm assigns his best marketer, Neque, to help Lindsay integrate into the new culture that she is completely foreign to.  Little do neither of them know that they are both in for a new look at life, not only their own lives, but also the lives of others.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, Love Different sports professional production quality.  Camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all on par with what they should be.  The soundtrack is a little quirky, but it seems to work.  Sets and locations are adequate for this story.  There is really little to complain about here, except for some choppy editing as this film tends to jump from one supposedly funny sequence to another.  But otherwise, this is what productions should look like, even if the story is greatly lacking.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

What. Is. Happening.  From one forced comedy scene to the next and from one quirky racial joke to another, there is no sense here and little method to this madness.  A lot of the time, it seems like these cast members were set free to ad-lib with no real direction except to act as juvenile and silly as possible and to make as many racial jokes as they can get away with.  This story feels like it has the zany influence of David A. R. White, Kevin Downes, and Tommy Blaze, but it does not.  As previously mentioned, this story is really just a loose collection of skits about racial differences with a few ‘meaningful’ scenes sprinkled in.  It’s hard to follow the arc of these characters as one is constantly distracted by the outrageous behaviors of Jenn Gotzon that simply have to be seen for yourself.  A lot of the dialogue constantly refers back to racial differences without truly building these characters beyond their skin color.  Yet believe it or not, there is a powerful message hidden somewhere in the midst of the zaniness, if you stick around long enough to find it.  But in the end, any movie that includes Jenn Gotzon trying to act like she’s African-American cannot be taken seriously.  It’s funny for all the wrong reasons and is simply too much to be true comedy.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Sometimes it seems like this cast has potential.  But then it doesn’t.  Jenn Gotzon is a self-parody in this film with all her antics.  Other cast members seem like they have potential and even have good moments, but they short themselves by acting like fools in attempts to be comedic.  They really seem like they are better than this, which makes this performance overall disappointing.

Conclusion

In the opening credits, God is blamed as an executive producer of this train wreck.  Can I just say, please don’t blame God for your disasters.  There is certainly a place for comedy centered around cultural differences and how we tend to isolate ourselves from different people, but whatever good Love Different was trying to accomplish unfortunately falls flat.  There are simply too many outrageous sequences and purposely over-the-top comedy elements for this movie to fully accomplish its goal.  There are so many memorable moments in this movie that are memorable for the wrong reasons.  From a class dedicated to teaching white people about African-Americans to Bon Quisha and Jenn Gotzon’s thug life, Love Different is one for the history books, but we’re not sure if its original intent will be remembered in the midst of the outrageousness.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points