Movie Renovation: Hardflip

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

One of the biggest production annoyances with Hardflip is that too often, it feels like one long Decypher Down music video (oh the good ole’ early 2000s).  However, there is a healthy dose of Red that helps things.  Nonetheless, though this movie was marketed as a music-filled experience, this is just too much.  The music is too loud most of the time, and it thus hampers the film’s potential.  Two main things that would make this production higher are to cut down the music to a more palatable amount and to bring the schizophrenic editing up to industry standards.  These two fixes would have gone a long way in pushing this film closer to the Hall of Fame.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

The music overload also undercuts the plot’s ability to truly flourish in this film.  There are a lot of creative artistic undertones in Hardflip that do not reach their fullest potential due to the wild and dizzying presentation of the plot events.  Thus, some organization was in order.  The psychological elements of Hardflip are a plus, but they need better development.  For example, the asides with the homeless guy are interesting, but we need to be better connected with this subplot.  Also, as with most films, improved characters via more complex and meaningful dialogue would have gone a long way to increasing this film’s overall score.  Thus, with fewer music videos, a more responsible use of artistic and psychological elements, and stronger characters based on realistic dialogue, Hardflip could have been a Hall of Fame film.

Acting Improvements

John Schneider and Randy Wayne are a shaky lead role combo at best.  If Caleb is supposed to be a teenager, Randy Wayne looks too old.  John Schneider has shown that he is a product of his directors, so some better acting coaching was in order here.  The supporting cast members could also use some upgrades.  In short, better casting and acting coaching always go a long way.

Conclusion

Johnny Remo has always been close but not quite there in his films.  Hardflip was possibly the closest he has ever gotten to true greatness in film making.  He had great ideas here that, with further refinement, such as a more professional production, a more responsible use of music, a more organized plot, and more refined acting and casting, could have been a Hall of Fame film.  We may never know the fullest potential of this movie, but perhaps future film makers can learn from Hardflip to make their films even better.

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Saint Street (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Percy believes that he has to work long hours in order to be more successful in his business so that his family has more possessions.  Yet his family just wants to see him from the holidays.  One fateful night, when he insists on driving all night to a family gathering, a car accident changes his life and his family’s lives forever.  Will Percy be able to find faith and hope in the tragedy’s wake?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Overall, Saint Street is a fine production, including good video quality and camera work.  Audio quality is fine except for some odd sound effects; however, the soundtrack is fine.  Sometimes lighting is also not what it should be, but there is improvement throughout.  For the most part, sets, locations, and props are what they should be.  At first, the editing is a bit disorienting, but this also improves throughout.  In the end, this is an above-average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

At the beginning, Saint Street is a typical businessman-is-forced-to-slow-down Christmas plot, combined with some ‘magical’ elements.  However, it is sometimes hard to follow, and it tends to have too much wasted time without enough substantial content.  It seems like most of the time it’s just trying to get to the end, and it has some slightly obvious allegorical content.  However, there are some good psychological elements, as well as a good message.  Yet the characters come off as cheesy and under-developed due to unsubstantial and underwhelming dialogue.  While things tend to happen because they need to, the ending is at least interesting and thought-provoking.  Yet this movie still leaves a lot to be desired.

Acting Quality (1 point)

At first, there is a lot of overdone acting and forced, unnatural emotions.  However, some improvement is shown throughout as coaching seems to improve in some areas.  Yet there are some other unusual performances by some cast members that do not change.  In many areas, it seems like Saint Street leaves a lot of potential on the ground.

Conclusion

These types of psychological Christmas plots can sometimes be predictable and worn out, but they usually contain enough elements to be interesting.  Some audiences will still enjoy Saint Street, and there is something everyone can learn from it.  There is just a collection of lingering issues that keeps it from being all that it could be.  Perhaps Rob Diamond and his team will continue to improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Reggie’s Prayer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Reggie Knox is a successful professional football player, but he feels the call of God to leave the league and go to make a difference in the lives of struggling inner city teenagers.  He feels like he can make more difference in the world by coming down the world of real people rather than insulating himself in a professional sports bubble.  Thus, he and his wife move to Oregon to work at an inner city high school, where they find many opportunities to impact the lives of young people who desperately need the love of Christ.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a 1990s production, Reggie’s Prayer has a lot of raw moments.  This include some dizzying camera work and some inconsistent audio quality.  There are also some odd sound effects and weird special effects in certain parts.  However, video quality is fine throughout, and the aforementioned areas show good improvement as the film goes on.  The good thing is that sets, locations, and props are well-used and well-constructed throughout.  Yet there are some moments of disorienting editing, even though this area also shows some improvement throughout.  In the end, this production is a mixed bag, thus warranting an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

While this is a good story idea based on true events and realistic and believable circumstances, there are still some issues here that hold it back from being all that it could be.  One such area is the confusing and isolating psychological elements near the beginning of the film.  Also, while characters are somewhat accessible, they could still use some better development through deeper and more meaningful dialogue, even though the dialogue is fine as it is.  There is also a lot of content that needs to be further explored as there are plenty of under-developed subplots throughout this storyline.  Also, while there is a very good message in this plot that many audiences will enjoy, the villain that somewhat dominates the plot is cheesy.  In the end, this is an enjoyable plot, but it seems like it could have gone further.

Acting Quality (2 points)

It’s likely that the casting and acting of this film is its strongest point.  Though there are some moments of over-acting, there are also plenty of great moments that make this section above average.  With the exception of the villain character, emotions are believable and line delivery is on point.  Most cast members are cast appropriately.  In the end, this film has plenty of good in it.

Conclusion

If this film had been slightly modernized and refined in some of the rough areas, it could have been way better.  Even so, many audiences will still enjoy this film, and future film makers can learn from its desire to portray real people with real struggles.  The core concepts of this plot can be used in the future to ensure sports plots do not become so formulaic.  The important thing is to capture the accessible struggles of characters audiences can relate to.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

A Strange Brand of Happy (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

David Weathersby has no clear direction in life, especially after being fired from his job by his hotshot boss, who is impressed with himself.  He feels like he doesn’t have any purpose and decides to languish away, so his roommate decides to introduce him to a random life coach he ran into so David can find a fresh purpose for himself.  But this introduction only creates a problematic love triable between David, his old boss, and the life coach.  Will this silliness ever be resolved?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In a change from previous Rebel Pilgrim productions, such as Hope Bridge and the awful Fenced Off, A Strange Brand of Happy at least has an above-average production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine.  The soundtrack is a bit silly, however, and there is some odd soft lighting throughout.  There are also a lot of cheesy animated interludes that give the movie a juvenile feel.  Also, a lot of the sets are relatively limited, as well as the props, and there are no real locations.  Finally, editing is just average and contributes to a slightly above-average, but not quite all-the-way-there production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Full of cheesy and quirky characters, this story is just a childish romantic ‘comedy’ based on a silly and manufactured love triangle.  Nearly all the humor is very forced and dry and is thus not funny.  There is too much pointless goofiness throughout, including silliness for the sake of being silly.  At times, this story feels like a joke, and it contains some very vague Christian themes.  With no real direction or purpose, this plot is just a bunch of random content assembled in a formulaic and predictable fashion, with a side of weird edgy elements and a very strange tone throughout.  Any meaning that is tried to be inserted at the end is too little too late, thus making for mostly a waste of time.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast is very stiff and wooden in their delivery, as well as awkward.  There is definitely not enough coaching here, although there are some good moments to note.  However, there is a lot of odd makeup work throughout, as well as some unnecessary yelling throughout.  In the end, this rounds out an overall low-average and basically low-effort film.

Conclusion

Rebel Pilgrim certainly knows how to make a strange brand of movies.  What exactly are they going for?  They’ve attempted the dramatic emotional exploration in Hope Bridge and the stupid comedies in Fenced Off and A Strange Brand of Happy, but what do they really have to show for it?  They also present a strange brand of Christianity in their films, so perhaps the title of this movie is not by accident.  Are they actually just trolling like The Asylum to see what some money they can make off of their efforts?  Your guess is as good as ours.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Paranormal [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Novelist Greg Evans doesn’t believe in all that paranormal stuff, even though his son regularly goes to Ouija board ‘meetings.’  But then he begins experiencing paranormal events that he cannot explain, so he calls in a group of paranormal investigators to come check out the weird stuff going on in his house.  Meanwhile, Greg’s wife prays that he will finally see the truth about the supernatural.  Will Greg seek the truth before it’s too late for him?  Will anyone be able to make through this film in its entirety?

 

Production Quality (-2 points)

From the studio that brought you the awful Pray. trilogy comes another cringeworthy horror production literally filmed with a camcorder that somebody carries around their houses and some abandoned buildings they commandeered for this madness.  In this other worst possible production from Cross Shadow, everything is wrong.  Sound quality is terrible, including the always unacceptable overdriven audio.  The soundtrack is also strange.  Video quality is blurry at times and lighting is inconsistent, including a lot of night vision scenes.  Sets, locations, and props are very lacking and sad.  Probably one of the worst elements of this film are the cringeworthy special effects that seem like they were pasted on top of the video.  Basically, with nothing good to say here and many extremely bad elements, this is another negative production from Cross Shadow.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Much like Pray., Pray 2, and Pray 3D whatever, Paranormal is full of the worst possible portrayal of the spiritual\supernatural realm.  Demons can only gain power over people through Ouija boards and extreme hauntings are apparently very commonplace in this universe.  Stupid jump scares are used to make this movie ‘interesting,’ as if that’s possible.  The whole thing is designed to scare you into not playing with the devil, but it’s done in such a juvenile fashion that this movie is only good for laughs.  The characters are so poorly designed due to impossibly bad dialogue that there’s no way to take this seriously.  The Christian message is equally silly.  All drama is completely forced and manufactured as time is wasted on pointless night vision footage and exposition.  Essentially, the Christian horror genre is among the worst.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Much like their other awkwardly titled movies, the Cross Shadow casts are stiff, awkward, and sometimes annoying.  Of course, it’s not like they had actual lines to work with, but the lack of coaching makes matters way worse.  Emotions are forced and unnatural, thus making for an even more painful experience.  Unfortunately, there is nothing positing to note about this film.

Conclusion

Why do we need another one of these after Pray., Pray 2, and Pray 3D whatever?  Why does this sort of horrifically low quality film making need to be perpetuated?  Why is the Christian horror genre so bad?  There are all pressing questions, but none of them are answered in this film.  All we are left with is another embarrassing display of ineptitude and an example how to not make a movie.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

The God Question [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Stephen Kendrick (not the film maker) is a computer science expert who finds himself a part of a major project on artificial intelligence at MIT.  However, when the government shuts the project down due to safety concerns, Stephen and a friend of his decide to go underground with the project and ask the new AI software some pressing questions.  They want to know if the AI can prove the existence of God, as well as other important philosophical concerns.  Will they be able to discover the answers they are looking for before time runs out?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though it’s a clear effort was put into this production to make it professional, there are still some nagging issues with The God Question that keep it from being all that it could be.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine.  However, sometimes it seems like there needs to be more of a soundtrack.  There are too many cheap special effects pertaining to the technological props, which also need somewhat of an upgrade.  Sets and locations are okay, yet they are partially limited.  Finally, the editing of this film is quite poor as sequences lag too long and there is little driving purpose.  In the end, this is a good effort, but there are definitely places for improvement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is an interesting and unique topic to make a movie on, it’s too focused on only the artificial intelligence concept.  There is little plot content or character development outside of this one idea that dominates the film.  Though there are attempts at complexity, there isn’t any real complexity or plot development that would otherwise make this film interesting.  The story is all about the same thing and is fixated on the artificial intelligence concept, although there is some brief exploration of the philosophical debate surrounding this idea.  Yet it’s still not enough and we don’t get enough of a change to get to know the people who are involved in this story.  After killing and wasting a lot of time, the plot finally paints itself into a corner and ends abruptly without figuring out what it really wants to do.  In the end, this is an unfinished idea that feels like it was forced to happen.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this cast is semi-professional, they often come off as overly practiced in their line delivery and extremely matter-of-fact.  Emotions are not always believable, yet most of these performances are average.  But the bottom line is that there were a lot of elements in this film that feel like they’re not reaching their full potential.

Conclusion

We definitely different sorts of plots and ideas like this in Christian film, but the biggest temptation for sci-fi stories in general is to make the movie all about the centralized concept.  In doing this, dialogue and character development are left by the wayside in pursuit of the ‘big idea’.  Besides this, production and acting in this film, while passable, are simply underwhelming.  It might have been better to give a little more thought to this film before it went to distribution.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Beyond Acceptance (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Though they have comfortable lives, the Border family feels like God wants them to adopt a child.  As they look into the process, they are somewhat skeptical but their hearts are stolen by a little boy who they feel needs their help.  They begin the adoption process and bring him into their home, buy they soon discover the terror and violence he conceals inside of himself due to the trauma he has experienced.  Will their family be able to survive this new strain or will they give up?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Though this film is obviously a cheap church production, there is no excuse for the production being this bad.  The only good assets are the clear video quality and lack of poor lighting, but that’s not saying much.  Camera work is very shaky and dizzying and sets are very cheap and limited.  Audio quality is very poor and the soundtrack is too loud.  The most obvious and negative standouts pertain to the horrific editing, which includes terrible transitions and far too many repeated sequences.  The editing is disorienting and creates a lot of confusion for the audience.  Overall, this is a highly disappointing production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though Beyond Acceptance can be commended for attempting to highlight good and pertinent issues pertaining to foster care and adoption that need to be discussed in Christian film, this is the worst possible way to do it.  The plot structure is hopelessly disjointed and confusing, mostly because the story jumps all over the place with no continuity or sense of direction.  Mental health is portrayed very well, however, even though there are too many unrealistic occurrences in this story.  Finally, there are no meaningful or tangible solutions to the problems presented here—only magical and unrealistic solutions are given that automatically fix everything.  Unfortunately, though it’s likely this creative team meant well in this film, the delivery is not there.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

As an amateur cast, these actors and actresses have some work to do.  Again, it seems like they really do mean well, but their emotions are either flat or extreme.  There is too much yelling and screaming.  Line delivery is disjointed, but there are some brief good moments here.  In the end, this cast needed a lot more coaching.

Conclusion

First-time, under-funded productions like this one are often better suited as short films rather than feature-length films because it gives the team better opportunities to focus their limited resources on a smaller scale.  Making a short film at first can give the team experience and help them work out the kinks without having to go through the hassle of making a longer film that will only hurt their reputation.  But perhaps this is only the beginning of something greater at hand.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

The Light of Freedom (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In 1861, the rumblings of the Civil War were just beginning and the work of the Underground Railroad was in full swing.  Christians from the Union bravely joined the slavery abolition movement and saved runaway slaves from their evil masters.  Both the Confederacy and the Union armies pressed their male citizens into military service.  A group of friends and families is followed as they make brave and heroic decisions that forever alter the course of American history.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is an obviously amateurish production, a lot of time and money was spent on making sure that the sets, locations, and props of this film were historically realistic.  They succeeded in this goal, but it was at the expense of other production elements.  Camera work is fine, especially in the action scenes, but video quality is blurry at times.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is a bit generic.  Furthermore, there is a lot of wasted time and one too many dead scenes, which reflects poor editing, even though there is a lot of content to use here.  Nevertheless, this is at least an average production that spends time making certain elements good; it is at the very least a starting point for greater things in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is a period of history that is very much under-explored in Christian film and though there is a lot of potentially interesting content in The Light of Freedom, this film is a collection of random disjointed stories that have no real correlation or driving focus.  Care is given to historical accuracy, but with this comes archaic Shakespearean dialogue that the viewers cannot relate to.  Most scenes are full of information dumps that do not allow the content to develop naturally.  All of the subplots and characters presented need further development so that we can get to know them better and truly understand how we can relate to what is happening.  The purpose of these stories, aside from the historical content, is quite vague, even though there are plenty of opportunities for overarching themes here.  The sheer amount of scenes that contain characters sitting around and talking about trite ideas is frustrating because this time could be given instead to truly character-building, focused, and meaningful content.  In short, while we can see a lot of potential in this story, it’s disappointing that it does not follow through.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a largely amateur cast, they are mostly fine.  They are sometimes too theatrical, but costuming is at least authentic.  There is a need among this cast for more realistic emotions, but they are at least trying, which is the best we can ask for in this situation.

Conclusion

The Light of Freedom desperately needs a remake, or at least another Civil War film like it.  This is an important period in American history for many reasons, one being that it was a time when Christians made a true difference in the culture.  Thus, we absolutely need more Christian films about this era.  It is certainly hard to be historically authentic on a limited budget, but this creative team pulls it off well.  Now if they can just improve other elements, such as characters and plot, they will be well on their way to greatness.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 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

 

Disconnect. Reconnect. (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Mark Vanderberg’s Com 16 project falls through and causes a massive error in the communications grid of the country, his employer tells him to lay low and stay home with his family until it all passes over.  With nothing better to do besides clean their rooms and discuss the curious social media site called Blended Planet, the family decides to practice their survival skills while trying to understand their strange astronomer neighbor and his antics.  But then the unthinkable happens as the power grid nearly reaches its quantum threshold and Mark is the only one who can save the world from reddish orange destruction.  What will they ever do?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Despite trying to create some kind of high-profile premise, Disconnect Reconnect has a very cheap production.  Video quality is quite poor and there are a lot of unnecessarily dark scenes.  Camera work is inconsistent.  Audio quality is unprofessional, as is the juvenile soundtrack.  Sets and locations are severely limited to one house and the surrounding neighborhood and do not give off a professional persona.  There are too many abrupt cuts and transitions in all the wrong places, thus making the editing very amateurish and silly.  Unfortunately, there is nothing positive to say about this production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Disconnect Reconnect is one of the most off-the-wall premises ever constructed.  The story is driven by very quirky and offbeat characters that are built using absurd and childish dialogue.  The writers construct a bizarre world filled with forceful references to their other films, especially product placements for Healed by Grace.  Besides the large of amount of wasted time, there is no way to really understand what is happening except for a bunch of isolating technical lingo that only demonstrates how little the writers really know about how the American communications infrastructure works.  Why center a plot around this obscure concept without attempting to be realistic?  To make matters worse, a cheap and juvenile Christian message is shoved into the story as it all culminates in one of the most laughable climax scenes ever.  In short, though this movie is good for laugh, it’s funny for all the wrong reasons.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The unintentional comedy continues into the acting as cast members unwittingly portray caricatures of themselves, as if their lines were written for a cartoon film.  Some performances are lazy while others are forceful.  Any way you look at it, it’s all one big mess.

Conclusion

It’s very difficult to pinpoint where the Blended Planet team is coming from.  They definitely wanted to be funny and different in Disconnect Reconnect, but it definitely did not work.  True comedy requires believable and accessible characters, not comic strip characters.  A comedy premise can certainly have an air of absurdity and still be good, but not this absurd.  Also, there is certainly no excuse for poor production quality.  Perhaps their work will improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Walk By Faith [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Corey Montgomery must live every day with sickle cell anemia and even face stigma for it.  But he feels like he has a chance to live a normal life when he receives word of a possible but risky cure to his disease.  As he continues to hide his disease from some, he tries to convince his mother to try to cure, even though her friends are skeptical of it.  In the end, they will all have to learn to walk by faith.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

From start the finish, the production of Walk By Faith is generally horrible.  Video quality is underwhelming and camera work is very shaky.  A lot of the shots are very tight to hide a lack of extras and resources.  The audio is most often overdubbed due to lack of proper equipment—the scenes that due have live audio recording are full of outside sounds.  The soundtrack is also very loud and annoying.  Many of the scenes look like they only contain one character talking to the air, and the sets and locations therein are extremely limited.  As for the editing, the transitions are very choppy and there are quite a few continuity errors.  In summary, due to lack of funding, resources, and general expertise, this production contains so many errors that its creation must be questioned.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s very difficult to determine what message the writers of this film are trying to convey.  Sometimes they attempt to create a bizarre dichotomy of persecution between Christians who are for and against technology and medical advances.  They also sometimes advocate for ‘faith healing’ but other times they do not.  Thus, the story constantly sends mixed messages of what they actually believe and what they think other people should do in this situation.  The plot is almost non-existent as this is just a random collection of useless scenes that are constantly obsessed with talking about sickle-cell anemia without even trying to develop any of the characters.  Literally nothing happens throughout except for a bunch of unusual and hard-to-follow conversations that do nothing to build up the characters or the subplots.  Also, the ending makes no sense.  Basically, it’s very hard to grasp what the motivation behind making this film was.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As a small and inexperienced cast, these cast members were in severe need of coaching.  However, this was not present, thus causing line delivery to be very stilted and measured.  The overdubbed lines wreak havoc on everything.  Also, emotions are very awkward and ingenuine.  Unfortunately, from start to finish, this film is an absolute train wreck.

Conclusion

It’s one thing to want to create a movie depicting the struggles of people with chronic illnesses, but this is absolutely not the way.  No attempts were made to make these people seem remotely realistic or accessible.  What is the point to giving screen time to obscure and bizarre worldviews or toying with their ideas without actually advocating for them?  In the end, the funding for this film should have been saved for another effort because it was certainly wasted here.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Fathers [2012] (Movie Review)

Yup

Plot Summary

Michael was randomly abandoned by his wife while Rick’s wife and daughter died in a car wreck.  Rick hates God now but Michael is still a perfect role model for his son.  Rick has let his life fall into shambles, but Michael and his son reach out to Rick and his son and try to help them with stuff.  After hanging around the doing stuff for a while, tragedy suddenly strikes these characters and they will have to try to face it together.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Seriously, this movie looks like it was filmed with a camcorder on the cloudiest days possible.  We’ve seen some doozies when it comes to bad productions, but Fathers really takes the cake.  There are absolutely no positive elements here as everything about this production is terrible and horrific in every possible way.  From blurry video quality to shaky camera work to horrible audio quality to a loud soundtrack to highly unprofessional sets, this film is unrivaled, except for unforgettable gems like Final: The Rapture or My Refuge.  As if it matters, there is also no editing.  Just when we think we’ve seen it all, along comes another medieval production.  How does this stuff get made?

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With barely any plot or purpose to speak of, Fathers mindlessly slogs along until the time is up.  Full of meandering emptiness and utter pointlessness, there is no clear story here to speak of.  Whatever point is trying to be conveyed here is totally lost in the disaster that this film is.  The characters therein in are totally empty and laughable, burping out garbled dialogue here and there.  Though there is an attempt at a plot twist near the end of the story, it’s just too little too late.  Words can’t even begin to describe how inept this film is.

Acting Quality (0 points)

If the Rossetti’s team goal was to find and cast the most awkward white people Walmart has to offer, then they succeeded with flying colors.  They succeeded in mumbling at least half of their lines and demonstrating to most dorky emotions ever.  They constantly repeat phrases like ‘you know’ over and over again.  At this point, it must be considered how much those involved in this film actually cared about what it looked like in the end.

Conclusion

There is little else we can say.  If you want a good laugh, you simply have to see this one for yourself.  If you don’t laugh, then you have to cry at the fact that this kind of stuff is made in the name of Christian film.  Money was spent on this and somehow it was released as a feature length film.  The only thing we can ask is why.  Why, why, why, why, why, why, why.  Why.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Accidental Activist [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ted Murphey never thought he’d see the day when his signing of a traditional marriage petition would push his important t-shirt business to the brink of destruction.  His gay friend gets angry at him when he reads about Ted’s evil deeds in the local ‘gay newspaper’ and doesn’t want to talk with him anymore.  The local gay activist leader raises a ruckus with protests and media attention around the t-shirt business.  The store is attacked and the Murpheys are ostracized by the evil gays and their media buddies.  With such persecution, how will anyone’s business ever survive?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though Accidental Activist has a fine production overall, including good video quality, camera work, and audio quality, it still leaves much to be desired.  The soundtrack needs a little more creativity.  The sets and locations that are used are fairly cheap and pedestrian.  There is also no editing as pretty much all of the content is used, and the film still barely cracks fifty minutes.  Overall, though the production looks good on the surface, it’s really hard to find a justification for this film’s creation.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Similar to Right to Believe, Accidental Activist is basically a collection of long conversations, complaints, and debates over the issue of traditional marriage.  However, this film uses borderline propaganda messaging to get its point across.  This is done by constructing a very unrealistic premise of persecution and by creating a strawman of the ‘opposition’.  Though one gay character is portrayed fairly well, other portrayals are downright embarrassing.  All of the dialogue is full of talking points from both sides and does nothing to build believable characters.  There is no real plot focus except for the agenda the American Family Association is pushing here.  Also, the ‘persecution’ these Christian characters endure is unfairly compared to the chattel slavery that led to the Civil War, and we find this to be a highly offensive suggestion.  In the end, Accidental Activist really accomplishes nothing except appealing to a group of Christians that wants to have their ears tickled with this sort of nonsense.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

To be fair, this cast is not horrible and is overall average.  Their performances are mostly fine, although they tend to be overdone in their emotions at times.  There are also a few too many stereotypes constructed therein.  Overall, it comes out as average.

Conclusion

Creating another movie that depicts an us-versus-them mentality in the traditional marriage debate is not the answer.  Whipping up support and anger among your base is merely political, not Christ-like.  The reality is that American Christians have no idea what persecution even means, even though they eagerly jump to such conclusions when things don’t go their way.  Of course the fact that traditional marriage has been altered is a major problem, but it’s a symptom of something deeper that the American church has been reluctant to deal with for decades: the broken Christian family.  Movies like Accidental Activist only further drive a wedge between Christians and ‘the world’.  We are supposed to be influencing the culture, not battling against it.  I think it’s time we take a good look at the state of the Christian family before we go pointing fingers.  Only then will things start to change.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Charge Over You (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Sarah’s mother tragically dies, she begins to lose her sense of purpose in life.  Then, in a moment of weakness, she allows herself to be influenced in a dangerous way and finds herself being pursued by a dark and mysterious man who suddenly takes interest in her.  Life becomes more confusing for her when her father tells her his future plans.  She wants to believe that there is more to life than she can perceive, but as the darkness closes in, she has nowhere to turn.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a low budget production, Charge Over You is great, though it still has some issues.  Video quality and camera work are mostly good, though the opening sequence is pretty roughly done.  The audio quality is sometimes too poor, including loud background noises, but the soundtrack is superb.  Sets and locations are realistic, but some of the inside scenes are too dark.  There also tends to be too much silence throughout, along with too many wasted sequences.  However, it is clear that thought was put into this effort as there is plenty of positive to find here, especially for a first time work.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Despite the confusing opening sequence, Charge Over You makes excellent use of flashbacks and well-constructed dialogue that is centered around the debate of logic versus spirituality.  Though this film deals with the demonic and the Satanic, it handles the issues differently than most films, although we would have liked to see a deeper storyline to accompany it.  There are great ideas embedded into this plot, but they need more development and complexity, as do all of the characters.  Dialogue ranges across many topics, but more focus is needed to give this film a sense of direction.  The mysterious elements in this film are commendable, but they also seem to waste too much time—more content was needed to make them effective.  While there is a good message in this film that is not overly-preachy, there are some cheesy characters to derail it.  Also, the ending sequence is fairly amateurish and leaves something to be desired.  In short, this is a great effort and has tons of potential; cultivating this will lead to great things.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The casting and acting are the strongest points of this film.  Though these are mostly ‘amateur’ actors and actresses, they do a great job.  Line delivery is effective and emotions are believable.  The only caveat to highlight here is some cheesy acting by one particular cast member, but it’s not enough to hurt this effort.  This portion is a job well done.

Conclusion

The CitiPointe Church team has a lot of potential and creatively waiting to be tapped into.  They handle spiritual warfare issues fairly well, though this movie is overall an unfinished idea that desperately needs a remake.  Nonetheless, this low budget production shows promise and the casting is excellent.  Therefore, it will be interesting to see if this team has any more productions planned for the future, because they could be onto something big.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

The Sound of the Spirit (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rivka and her father are Messianic Jews, but when her father dies, she must go live with her aunt and uncle, who still follow Orthodox Judaism and do not believe Jesus is the Messiah.  As the time approaches for Rivka’s Bat Mitzvah, she becomes increasingly divided as to which path she is supposed to follow.  As she meets different people and tries to keep ties to her father’s friends, she will have to decide if she will try to please her aunt and uncle or follow Jesus.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

The only two positive qualities in The Sound of the Spirit pertain to production, and they are the clear video quality and the pretty good camera work.  However, there is literally nothing else good to say about this movie.  The audio quality is deplorable, including a blaring soundtrack and loud background noises.  The sets and locations are very limited and cheap.  Finally, the editing is nonexistent as this two-hour film is filled with wasted time and the same things happening over and over again.  Unfortunately, the negativity doesn’t stop there.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, it feels like the one-dimensional characters of The Sound of the Spirit continually have the same meandering conversations over and over again as literally nothing is accomplished for two hours.  Even so, the dialogue therein is disjointed and the subplots are very confusing.  Things happen because they need to as the viewer is forced to constantly witness obscure Jewish concepts and conflicts as the non-Messianic\Messianic Jew split is forced down your throat over and over again.  This could have been an interesting idea if the isolating ideas were explained better, but as it is, it’s very hard to follow or understand.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is full of tons of offbeat cast members and unfortunate Jewish stereotypes.  Their emotions are incongruent and they constantly talk over each other.  Line delivery is either forceful or robotic to the point that it sounds like someone is dragging the words out of them.  Needless to say, this was a total fail.

Conclusion

The Sound of the Spirit had the opportunity to showcase a unique and intriguing topic in Christian film—Messianic Judaism.  But audiences will only come away from this film frustrated and some Jews may find it offensive.  We have no idea who these characters are except flat stereotypes and their conflicts are isolating.  We needed to be able to understand and appreciate their struggles, but we never got the chance.  It’s just another disappointing day in Christian film.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Christmas Child (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jack Davenport loved his adoptive parents, but he always wanted to know who his real parents were.  So when his adoptive father dies and Jack finds a clue in his belongings that could speak to Jack’s biological parents, he decides to go to a small town in Texas that could hold some answers for him.  He and his wife have grown distant from each other, so she lets him go without telling him that she is carrying their first child.  Jack hopes to find what he is looking for, but that he doesn’t know is that the answers he is looking for are not what he thinks.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Christmas Child is a fairly respectable production.  It sports good camera work and professional audio quality, though the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  Sets and locations are engaging and realistic.  However, there is some low video quality throughout.  The editing is also an issue as some scenes lag longer than they should while others are understated.  Overall, this is an average production that seemingly could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Max Lucado is well known for his poignant plots, but Christmas Child was probably not the best one to choose to make a movie out of.  It’s basically just a typical small town plot filled with stereotypical characters that fit into molds.  However, the characters are at least down-to-earth and believable and their struggles are accessible.  There are some interesting elements and portions of dialogue, but the plot is reliant on too many coincidences.  Overall, this is very safe and pedestrian plot with no real plot twists than many will find enjoyment in.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The casting and acting is this film’s strongest suit.  The cast clearly knows what they are doing and have been coached well.  However, there are some lackluster lines and emotions that keep this section from being all that it could be.  Yet this should be an example of the baseline for acting in Christian films.

Conclusion

Many people love Max Lucado and will enjoy this movie.  There is nothing glaringly wrong with the movie, but we feel that Lucado has more to offer than this.  It’s always nice when movies portray people as regular and realistic, but Christmas Child as a whole is perhaps too slow for some audiences.  In short, as we have said before, this sort of movie should be commonplace in Christian film, not the exception to the rule.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

What Would Jesus Do? (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a down-on-his-luck pastor encounters a mysterious drifter who wants his help, the pastor is unsure of how he is to respond.  Mired in his own self-pity, the pastor lets the drifter pass on by.  As the drifter makes his way around the small California town searching for someone to help him, he only meets distrust and resistance.  The people of the town are all hurting and struggling in different ways, and it seems like the upstart mayoral candidate’s plans to bring a casino to town is the only hope.  But one day, the ‘few’ Christians that are ‘still faithful’ are forced to take a good look at the lives they are living when the drifter collapses in the middle of a worship service.  From there, the Christians must decide whether or not they are going to live their life by the slogan ‘What Would Jesus Do?’

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

All\KKO Productions were never much for investing money in films.  We completely understand that far too often, funding for Christian films is scarce and hard to come by, but if you’re going to make a movie, there’s no point in propping up a cut-rate production, because no enough people are going to watch and enjoy it, unless other elements, such as the plot, are very profound.  WWJD falls in line with many low quality Christian productions before and after it, sporting the typical symptoms of the same old malaise: poor video quality, cheap camera work, inconsistent sound quality, and the like.  The sets are very sloppy and the surroundings are glaringly low budget.  The soundtrack is one part Hallmark and another part indie worship band.  Finally, we have to question whether or not the editing department knew what they were doing with this film, as the plot zings all over the place, trying to land on and amplify in-your-face Christian elements.  In short, this production barely keeps its head above the water of zero points, but not by much.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With seemingly good motives, WWJD is actually the most disjointed plot we have ever seen.  Sporting an infinite cast of shallow caricatures with laughable dialogue, this vastly meandering storyline is enough to make your head spin.  From a bumbling-borderline-creepy drifter to a depressed burned-out pastor to an awkward amateur ‘musician’ to a generic realtor to a scrupulous newspaper editor to a cartoonish political villain…the list of characters goes on and on and on.  There are numerous other peripheral characters, but you get the point.  Each character is complete with bizarre one-liners there are intended to be serious but instead come off as comical.  Strawman issues facing modern Christians (churches shutting down, casinos being built in suburban areas, evil realtors buying up low income housing, spreading rumors in the media) are presented and quickly fixed as the characters diverge to either become perfect slogan-spouting Christians or hopelessly wicked power-hungry snakes.  Everyone is either transformed into a do-gooder when a drifter collapses in the middle of a church service or is condemned to live a life of forever evil.  What’s more, this ‘plot’ limps along on childishly unrealistic elements, such as a church taking care of a sick man rather than a hospital.  By the end, this film will be trying to sell you cheap WWJD gear that makes you a better Christian (not kidding).  In short, the intent of this movie is beyond our comprehension; all we know is that it’s a mockery of Christian film—again.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is essentially John Schneider and a whole host of amateurs, all of which are provided zero acting coaching.  Line delivery is awkward and emotions are either nonexistent or forced.  Positivity is overplayed; sometimes people are very over-excited to the point of embarrassment.  Lines that are meant to be serious come off all wrong and appear comedic.  Basically, if you watched Decision and Lukewarm, you get the picture of what the acting is like.

Conclusion

What else can be said that hasn’t already been said?  Between Decision, Lukewarm, and the WWJD trilogy, All\KKO Productions has really done a number on the reputation of Christian movies.  The real question is this: the message of asking what Jesus would do in every circumstance that faces us as Christians is highly important, but who is going to watch this movie to learn that?  Even if someone did watch this movie, they are highly unlikely to either be converted to Christianity or to be inspired in their faith.  Since neither of these objectives is accomplished, what’s the point of making a half-cocked, cheap, and downright embarrassing production?  We implore future film makers to take notice.  Make a difference in Christian film, not another thrift store reject.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

Fenced Off (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Josh and Anne has recently moved into a new house in a neighborhood that is considered ‘the hood’.  While Anne is away on a short business trip, Josh tries to settle into the house before beginning his new job, but he cannot help being unnerved by the surroundings.  He is seemingly the only white guy in the neighborhood, and he keeps thinking he is witnessing crimes occurring around him.  In order to cope with his new life, Josh will have to decide whether or not he believes in stereotypes or if he is going to love his neighbor.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Fenced Off is obviously a very cheap production.  The sets are very limited and the camera work is terrible, sometimes showing very tight shots and other times showing cutoff shots.  The sound quality is inconsistent and there are a lot of cheap music montages that cover up the need for a boom mic.  The video quality is at least clear, but the editing is bad.  Granted, there is an iota of content to work with, so it is difficult to know what they were supposed to do.  In short, based on the production quality alone, Fenced Off should have been rejected in the early stages or sent back for a makeover.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

There is only a small amount of potential in this plot, since it tries to deal with race relations and stereotypes.  However, in doing so, it seems to reinforce stereotypes and make a joke out of real life struggles.  It is hard to discern whether or not Fenced Off is an overt comedy.  Sometimes it seems like a sick satire.  The dialogue is grade school level and a majority of the movie is focused on Josh wandering around his house and property, pretending to do yard work, having childish phone conversations, getting a car wash, and yes—trying to cook meat.  The conversations between the retired couple next door have little to no point and are grasping for meaning.  There is also some edgy content that is misplaced and unwelcome.  In summary, while it is noble to try to talk about racial stereotypes and collaborations in a small scale plot, Fenced Off never finds the point and needed a severe rewrite from the beginning, since it seems like this is a rough draft that accidentally got recorded.

Acting Quality (0 points)

There is no good acting in this film, absolutely none, only awkward and forceful delivery.  Many lines seem impromptu and most of the actors seem unsure of how to perform simple everyday tasks like yard work and cooking meat.  One actress in particular seems to be making a joke of the movie since it seems like she is always trying not to laugh.  Some actors poorly mimic the racial stereotypes this movie is trying to speak out against.  It appears as though the actors were just handed a vague script and told to follow it however they wished since they were only going to do one cut per scene.

Conclusion

Fenced Off is an idea that needed a lot more brainstorming and thought put into it before it left the proverbial roundtable of discussion.  We have seen time and time again filmmakers who claim the name of Christ decide to just quickly make a cheap and rushed film about an interesting topic without putting any real effort into it.  The issues need to be portrayed, but how are they being portrayed?  In order to make a lasting impact, time and effort must be put into the movie’s production.  Otherwise, it’s just a waste of everybody’s time.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Hardflip (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Caleb, a delinquent teenager who wants to make it big in the skateboard scene, has his world rocked when his single mother slips into a coma, thus threatening his financial security and very existence.  Desperate, Caleb sets out to search for his long lost biological father with some hope that he may want to take him in.  But when his father acts like he doesn’t care, Caleb is further driven into darkness, immersing himself in the world of skateboarding and drugs as his mother’s condition grows worse.  Little does he know that the only way to escape the darkness around him is to face the darkness inside of himself.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a PureFlix distributed film, the production quality of Hardflip is decent, but not above average.  The video and sound quality are both clear, but the music levels are very inconsistent—sometimes blaringly loud and other times too silent.  The camera angles are sometimes interesting and artistic and other times unprofessional.  The editing is all over the map, probably due to the small amount of plot content.  There is a lot of artistic potential in this film, but it is often drowned out by the high music content.  Overall, the production is back and forth and is unfortunately most positive section of the movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Hardflip has a vast amount of potential that is not tapped into.  The plot structure is very unique and not typical of these types of movies.  There is good artistic material and musical overlays, but the music sequences are too long and too many in content.  There are some interesting psychological and abstract elements, but they are lost among the negative issues.  These include cheap dialogue and many wasted filler scenes.  The skateboarding subplot is not properly developed and only contributes an air of unprofessionalism.  The end is slightly unpredictable, but it is difficult to reach that point.  In short, where some movies have no potential, Hardflip has plenty of it.  Unfortunately, it is not used properly and is wasted.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

John Schneider has cheesy delivery of his lines and Randy Wayne looks older than he’s supposed to be.  This is not necessarily their fault—there is really no acting coaching present in this film.  The cast is small, but it has more potential than most casts.  All of the skateboard actors seem amateurish.  In summary, the acting keeps with the theme of Hardflip and never reaches its ceiling.

Conclusion

The theme of this film is wasted potential.  The idea behind Hardflip is more creative than most, and the music adds an interesting element to it.  But the music’s overuse seems to indicate that there is not enough plot content to sustain a nearly two-hour film.  This movie needed an additional writer to come alongside the original writers and help craft and synthesize the subplots better.  The characters need to be fleshed out, perhaps through flashbacks.  The music needs to be brought to a happy medium.  In short, Hardflip needs a remake because it would be a shame to let these good ideas go to waste.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Indescribable (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Blynn Lehman is just one of nine children in a second generation immigrant German family, living in California during the early days of World War I.  Times are hard, and his pastor father must take on extra work in order to make ends meet.  Blynn’s older brother has been drafted into the war, and Blynn’s father grows more frustrated by the day as he tries to write a song about the love of God.  Blynn becomes determined to help his father finish the song so that it will bring their family needed income.  In order to do so, he and his siblings begin to explore the origins of a mysterious Jewish poem that will take them further than they ever imagined.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

First off, Indescribable has good video and sound quality, but unfortunately, this is the extent of its positive production elements.  The film contains amateur camera angles, which can be slightly forgiven due to its microscopic budget.  However, the editing is all over the map, including unnecessary filler scenes and awkward cuts to historical flashbacks and fantasies.  The sets are very cheap.  There is also bad makeup and costuming; however, much of this can be overlooked for the sake of its budget.  Yet this begs the question: with such a small budget, was this movie worth making?

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The idea behind the plot has some interesting potential, but due to the wasted time and confusing flashbacks\fantasies, the original point is eventually lost.  This movie is based on true events, and Box Office Revolution realizes that it is attempting to be realistic in its day by day feel, but it just comes off as amateurish.  Some of the scenes are downright head-scratching as to why they are even included.  Much of the dialogue is unfortunately childish, thus making for odd character development.  There is an uncanny worldview undertone to the plot that cannot be quantified, except to say that it feels like a vague point about Christian-Jewish historical relations is trying to be impressed upon the viewers.

Acting Quality (0 points)

There is no acting coaching whatsoever.  It seems like a lot of the actors have been pressed into service with no backup.  The emotional delivery is unbelievable and goes over the heads of the audience.  Most of the actors are overly practiced and extremely stiff, and they commit out of place actions with no warning.  In short, some amateur acting can be forgiven, but the blame for this cast must fall upon the movie’s creators, since many of these people are being expected to play parts they have not been properly prepared for.

Conclusion

The Christian movie scene is full of good intentions.  Indescribable is a well-meaning movie about an important topic.  It could have been a truly intriguing historical plot, but it simply falls short.  Once again, funding of independent Christian films is a huge issue, but with a budget this small, the creators should have thought twice about forcing it to happen.  If one wants to get started in independent Christian film making, short films is probably the best route to begin on.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points