China Cry (Movie Review)

Image result for china cry movie

Plot Summary

Sung Neng Yee was glad when the Chinese Communists rose to power in her homeland to drive out the occupying Japanese, but she never anticipated the ultimate consequences this would cause. First, it cost her father his wealth and respect as a successful doctor, and then, the Communists began to tighten their grip on every aspect of Chinese life. However, she and her fellow people adjusted and went forward. Moreover, after beginning a family of her own, Sung Yeng Nee was accused of consorting with Westernizers and Christians. In the darkest moment of her life, she reached out to the God she had always shunned for the help only He could give her.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As an early 1990s production, China Cry has a handful of concerns with it, such as a loud, outdated soundtrack and odd soft lighting at times. Video quality is also sometimes blurry even though the camera work is overall fine, including good establishing shots. For the most part, audio quality is average, and the sets, locations, and props are very realistic, culturally accurate, and historically appropriate. Although the film overall seems outdated and has a lot of quick cuts and awkward transitions due to time jumps in the plot, the production does enough to achieve an average rating, especially considering the time period it was made in.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Right out of the gate, unnecessary narration tends to hurt the plot development, but once it ceases, things begin to unfold naturally without hindrances even though the narration does pop up here and there afterward. Had more substantial and qualitative flashbacks been employed to replace the narration, this plot would have been even better. This would have better helped to bridge the large time jumps throughout the story (non-linear plot structure is the only way to effectively handle lots of content), yet on its face, this narrative is still engaging and very intriguing due to the obscurely interesting portions of history it explores. Key themes are subtly introduced in order to let the character feel more authentic and real than they otherwise would be; the writers definitely did a good job at presenting people at face value rather than trying to push messages via strawmen. Even still, there are some lagging scenes that could have been better re-purposed to improve character growth even more, especially since the second half of the story tends to rush through a lot of content that would have been better explored slowly. This is why a non-linear plot style centered around the weak explanation for the narration would have been appropriate. In the end, China Cry still packs a very powerful message that’s still relevant for all Christians today. It’s too bad that’s is hidden behind poorly designed storytelling, but this true account is nonetheless engaging for all audiences.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Although many of the cast members tend to be dramatically stiff, the lead actress and lead actor are standouts for their comfortably real line delivery and believable emotions. Others tend to lack natural flair for acting, but it’s refreshing to see a culturally authentic cast. Costuming also reflects this commitment to cultural accuracy. In the end, the acting improves enough by the second half of the movie, and the lead acting carries it most of the way.

Conclusion

China Cry definitely deserves a remake, possibly in a miniseries form to further explore alternate subplots and to present the story in a more comprehensive and non-linear fashion. In the end, this film was made very early on in Christian entertainment, but it was onto something we don’t see in many newer movies: a poignant message about relying on God during difficult times and witnessing His miraculous intervention. Thus, many audiences will enjoy this movie, and maybe, new film makers will be inspired to try something outside the norm.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

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Carman: The Champion (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Orlando Leone is not in good health, but after inheriting his father’s gym, he finds himself with mounting debt and not enough income to cover his bills.  His only choice is to re-enter the boxing scene and win a high-stakes prize fight in order to earn the money he needs to save the gym.  However, the fight will be against his gravest rival.  Will Orlando’s medical condition keep him from being the hero?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For an early 2000s film, Carman’s self-titled ego trip is not a bad production all around.  This means, as usual, that video quality and camera work are good, even in the sports action scenes.  Audio quality is adequate, even though there are some minor background noise issues and the soundtrack is sometimes too loud.  Yet there are plenty of good sets, locations, and props, especially pertaining to the sports elements.  However, there are also some editing concerns, mostly pertaining to the sports montages and the slightly choppy presentation.  But on the whole, this is an acceptable, above-average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While there is some potential in this story, mostly pertaining to the realistic circumstances portrayed in this plot, there are also a lot of formulaic elements here.  This film is basically your average sports redemption arc combined with a predictable save the farm with an impossible sports feat subtext, mixed with a dash of the medical complications subplot.  Thus, the characters are too shallow as they mainly function as pawns in the plot’s circumstances that are inevitable regardless of what they do.  Things happen because they need to and mostly consist of typical scenes and sports montages, as previously mentioned.  The romantic subplot is cheesy and rushed and the villain is a strawman.  There are also some unnecessarily edgy elements just because.  Basically, while this was a nice try, it’s not good enough.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite Carman being a lead in this film and putting a damper on things, the other cast members aren’t really half bad in this film.  However, there are moments of emotion that are too dramatic and forced.  The villain cast member is basically annoying.  On the while, this is just one of those films that has good elements but is mostly forgettable.

Conclusion

Carman the Champion was a part of an early 2000s push from Trinity Broadcasting Network and others to bring a diverse collection of Christian films to the big screen, but the effort was not entirely successful.  While this movie was sort of the first of its kind in Christian circles, replicating the basic Rocky plot using Carman isn’t really worth doing.  Christians should be more creative than this, so maybe future film makers can take cues from this.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Paul the Emissary: A Biblical Epic (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Paul was called out by God to become a world-shaking Apostle for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  God took him from being Saul the persecutor of Christians to becoming Paul the Emissary.  He took the Gospel to the furthest reaches of the Roman world and literally turned the world upside down.  His work for God still has a lasting impact on Christianity today.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a 1997 production, Paul the Emissary is fairly good, but it still comes out at average.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine, as they should be.  The soundtrack is also okay, but it is somewhat generic.  Sets, locations, and props are surprisingly well-constructed and realistic, but most of the good elements in this production are marred by the most ridiculous special effects you can imagine.  If you don’t have the funding for professional special effects, just don’t do them at all.  Furthermore, the editing of this film is horrific, as tons of content was shoved into a short runtime, as will be discussed next.  Basically, this is another run-of-the-mill Bible production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s simply not possible to condense the entire life of Paul in fifty minutes.  Paul the Apostle couldn’t even do it properly with nearly two hours under their belt.  There is little to no point in trying to accomplish this impossible task.  Why not focus on one element of Paul’s life, like in Saul: The Journey to DamascusPaul the Emissary is way too condensed, which causes the story to jump from one high point to the next with no continuity or flow.  It’s basically a collection of random scenes about characters that are lofty and inaccessible.  There’s no way to get to know them as the dialogue is too theatrical.  Essentially, there’s no way you can call this movie an epic when it’s less than an hour.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this isn’t an overly BRITISH cast, most of the cast members sport weird fake accents that off-putting.  Besides this, most line delivery and emotional delivery are overly dramatic and theatrical.  However, the performances are not all bad and there is some authentic costuming to save this section from the abyss.

Conclusion

If you only have fifty minutes to make a film, do not try to make an entire life epic about a Biblical character with a lot of known content.  Either focus on one aspect of their life, or choose a different character.  Also, don’t use any special effects if you can’t use them properly.  In the end, while there were some good elements in this film, it simply wasn’t enough.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Omega Code 2: Megiddo (Movie Review)

Just wait until I turn into a monster…

Plot Summary

Stone Alexander always craved power and always knew that he was meant for something bigger.  As he grew up and rose through the ranks of the military, he was ruthless and unfeeling.  His own family never understood him, especially his brother.  The older he became, the deeper he became involved in darkness and evil.  Stone quickly became a raving, power-hungry madman committed to do anything to achieve world domination.  Ultimately, it comes down to the differing choices of the two brothers and how they affected humanity.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Needless to say, The Omega Code 2: Megiddo has better production than the previous installment, The Omega Code 1.  Sets, locations, and props are all fairly professional and camera work has improved.  Video and audio quality are also improved, and the soundtrack is intriguing.  However, there are still cheesy special effects and confusing crossfades.  Editing is overall okay, but there is too much useless footage that drags down the film.  In the end, this is just an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though it portrays an odd view of the Thousand Year Reign, this story shows an interesting side to the development of the antichrist.  Thus, it jumps back in time to before the first movie ever began and works its way up to where the first film left off.  However, it does fill in missing parts from The Omega Code 1, which becomes sort of a crutch to ‘fix’ the first film.  Also, this filling in is not done in the best way as it relies on information dump dialogue, time jumps, and of course, over-dramatization and sensationalism.  There is, as usual, an addiction to creepy and weird spiritual elements and a fixation on the demonic.  This story gives tons of attention to Satan and barely any to Jesus and Christianity.  Finally, similar to the first one, as this movie goes on, it gets stranger and stranger until it boils down to a very bizarre ending that leaves you scratching your head.  When all is said and done, the plots of the two Omega Code films are the same—ridiculous.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Acting somewhat improves between the two films, but there are still problems here.  Lines are sometimes overly practiced and emotions are often over-the-top and extreme.  However, not all is bad here and there are some bright spots.  In the end, this portion is also just average.

Conclusion

What was ever to be gained from The Omega Code series?  Megiddo barely has any reference to the original dubious premise of printing out codes supposedly hidden in the Torah.  It’s highly unlikely anybody but white evangelical Christians will ever see these disasters, but if anybody else did, they would probably find a good laugh and then forget about them.  The creepy obsession with the demonic in these films does nothing but fuel sensationalism and the messaging only preaches to the choir.  In short, these films are utterly useless and have no part on Christian entertainment.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

The Omega Code 1 (Movie Review)

There’s these codes, see…

Plot Summary

Gillen Lane is a genius who has a massive following as a motivational speaker.  He believes in some form of spirituality, but when he is recruited by the powerful Stone Alexander to work for his new world empire, Gillen doesn’t know what to think.  Times are becoming stranger on earth, especially as someone as discovered that the Torah supposedly holds a secret code that predicts major world events.  With everything spiraling out of control, is there anywhere safe to turn?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

For an independent production created in 1999, The Omega Code 1 is ambitious yet misguided.  While it’s clear that effort was put into the international sets and locations, many other production elements fall by the wayside.  Video quality and camera work are average, but audio quality is quite poor.  The soundtrack is also annoying.  The film is filled with cheap and obnoxious special effects, not to mention the fact that the CGI is cheesy.  Finally, the editing is very choppy as the story attempts to cover too much ground at once.  In short, trying to attain this level of production was not really the best idea in this situation.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The entire premise of this film is that the Torah supposedly predicts key events through a secret code of moving letters around or something, and this plot device is used to move the plot along.  However, this convention isn’t even necessary as the plot does plenty of jumping all over the place without needing printouts from a primitive computer to aid it.  The plot actually focuses more on the inner workings of the antichrist, who is a highly cheesy and sometimes wacky character.  There is no plot continuity as time speeds forward at a breakneck pace in an attempt to cover the entire traditional evangelical Tribulation period in the span of 100 minutes.  No, seriously, it goes from Rapture to Second Coming in less than two hours.  What’s more is that TBN inserts its typical obsession with spiritual sensationalism into the story, which causes things to get weirder and weirder as it progresses.  By the time it’s all over, the audience has either abandoned the film, is laughing at the attempts to portray demonic activity, or is extremely confused as to what they just experienced.  In short, there was little to no justification for this film being made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

A majority of this acting is bizarre and overly dramatic, which shows more TBN influence.  Emotions are sensational and line delivery is lazy.  There are also some inconsistent accents that make it clear several cast members are trying (and failing) to fake them.  Unfortunately, there is really not much good to say here.

Conclusion

I would have liked to hear the rational behind the creation of this disaster.  Was it similar to Timothy Chey, who wanted to “scare people into being saved” with that horrid thing called Final: The Rapture?  Or was it just a sales pitch to try to sell sensationalism to white evangelical Christians who all talk to each other about how the end of the world is near?  Whether it was juvenile evangelism or preaching to the choir, The Omega Code 1 is a train wreck from start to finish.  But guess what!  There’s still a sequel to watch!

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Time Changer [2002] (Movie Review)

We should go back to the good ole' days...when old white guys ran everything
We should go back to the good ole’ days…when old white guys ran everything

My time machine is far too complex for you to understand
My time machine is far too complex for you to understand

And over here we have an even larger selection of horrid Christian films
And over here we have an even larger selection of horrid Christian films

Plot Summary

The year is 1890.  Dr. Carlisle does the unthinkable and writes a seminary textbook advocating for the teaching of morals apart from Jesus Christ, Dr. Andersen sees fit to stall his vote for the book’s endorsement until Carlisle comes and sees his time machine invention.  When Carlisle finally stops moping around and agrees to meet with the mad scientist, he is roped into travelling through time to the future so that he can learn what supposedly happens when society teaches morals apart from Christ.  What he finds is a shocking new culture he’s not familiar with in many ways.  Will he ever make it back so he can sell his textbook?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Time Changer is one of those films that is very memorable, but for all the wrong reasons.  While the production team should get some slight credit for attempting to dress characters in historically appropriate attire, there are too many other negatives that outweigh the small amount of positive.  For starters, money was wasted building ridiculous time travel contraptions that look like they belong in a 1980s sci-fi film.  The camera work and video quality are okay, but the audio quality is inconsistent, including a very annoying soundtrack.  As usual, the editing is all over the board and is basically just a pasting together of heavy-handed scenes that demonstrate the Christiano brothers’ ridiculous worldview.  Unfortunately, the production isn’t the worst this film has to offer.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Time travel plots are always going to be a problem.  There’s rarely an instance when this concept can be justified.  But when you merge this mind-bending sci-fi premise with an extreme fundamentalist Christian worldview, disaster occurs.  There is no plot present here, since the Christianos are content to shove their unwanted opinions on the state of humanity in your face at every possible turn.  Who believes that if some crazy professor from the late 1800s discovered time travel, he would use it to ‘solve’ the world’s biggest theological nitpick?  Time Changer is entirely built on the incorrect assumption that the ‘good ole days’ were better, when old white guys made all the decisions, women were not allowed to do anything but sit at home, and religious idolatry reigned.  Thus, the dialogue is chock-full of religious jargon and fundamentalist talking points while at the same time making a mockery of anyone who opposes the assumptions of the writers.  Besides this, in an attempt to be ‘historical’, the dialogue is also overly awkward and cumbersome.  Because of this, the characters are extremely programmed and robotic, just waiting to spew their lingo when the time is right.  There are also subtle racial stereotypes and jabs at modern women’s roles throughout the film.  The ending of the film is borderline bizarre, as it quietly depicts the nutty professor trying to find the ‘end of time’ using his contraption.  Not only do the writers silently let you know that they think the end of time occurs before the year 2050, but they also show disdain for Jesus’ own words in the Scriptures, which state that no one knows the time or day when He’s returning.  In short, there is nothing good about this storyline, and it even goes far enough to be rated in the propaganda category.  It’s purely preaching to a small audience that already agrees with these narrow-minded views and accomplishes little else.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

As can expected, the acting is as outdated as the ideas in this film.  Line delivery is forced and awkward and emotions are not present.  Male cast members are overrepresented while female cast members are painted in a strange light.  As previously mentioned, there are also some subtle racial stereotypes.  But what else is new about this film?

Conclusion

This movie is a wide open window into the disturbing worldview of the Christiano brothers.  In the end, they blame all of society’s ills on Hollywood.  There may be some truth to this, as there are other nuggets of truth buried throughout the sludge of this film.  Immoral Hollywood movies have certainly contributed a great deal to the corruption of society, but the world is always going to do what it does best—recede into sinful entropy.  It is up to the Christians to stop this slide; we cannot expect the world to fix itself and pat us on the back for it.  What people like the Christiano brothers really want is a return to their idea of a comfortably religious society.  But what they don’t realize is that today’s culture is a reaction against that older worldview.  If a white patriarchal religious utopia built on ivory tower theology was the answer to the world’s problems, it would have never ended.  The problem is that those who claimed the name of Christ tainted His Name with their actions, not those who do not claim His Name.  Jesus is the answer for culture’s problems, not some Pharisaical dominion.  And when it comes to movies, if you don’t like what you see, make something better.  So far, Christiano brothers and everyone else who complains about the state of Western culture, you have not produced any movies that are better or more worthwhile than the Hollywood alternative.  So shame on you.

 

Final Rating: -1.5 out of 10 points