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

 

Advertisements

I Am Potential (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Patrick Henry Hughes was born blind and disabled, and even though his parents were discouraged by this, he never let it get him down.  Though sometimes it was one medical procedure after the next, Patrick always kept his head up and did what he could to spread the love of Christ to those around him.  His father constantly wrestled with the reality of his son’s condition, but ultimately, it was instrumental in bringing the family closer together and closer to God.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As is the typical practice of American Family Studios, the production of I Am Potential is highly professional.  Video quality and camera work are excellent.  Audio quality is flawless and the soundtrack is engaging.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and appropriate.  The only real nitpick to raise here is some choppy editing due to the large amount of content presented here.  But besides this, American Family Studios is continually setting the standard for how Christian films should be produced.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As I Am Potential is based on true events, the plot has a built-in advantage over your run-of-the-mill inspirational plot.  This is a really good story to depict, but there is a large amount of content to cover in a short amount of time.  It’s very difficult to deal with this sort of plot.  There is a tendency to skip through time too rapidly, and this causes the story to skate on top of everything.  This in turn makes everything shallow, including the characters.  While the dialogue therein is good, there is not enough time focused on developing the characters, even though they are real people.  It’s a real shame that this story could not be deeper, because it carries an important and meaningful message.  It could have been Hall of Fame had more attention been given to deepening the story and the characters instead of trying to cover tons of content.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Much like the productions of American Family Studios, the casting and acting of I Am Potential is highly professional.  Each cast member fits their character well.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is effective.  The only small issue to highlight here is some underwhelming acting, but it’s not enough to keep this portion from being high quality.

Conclusion

It’s refreshing when a studio like AFS consistently rolls out quality films.  We need every Christian film distributor and creator to have this mentality because things will not change for the Christian film industry until this happens.  Professional production is an absolute must, and AFS has perfected this.  Acting and casting must also be professional, as their films demonstrate.  As the overall quality of productions and casts improve, the final frontier for Christian films is the plot.  Once plots become more creative and deep, Christian movies will finally take the culture by storm.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Hope Bridge (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jackson’s life has never been the same ever since his father committed suicide.  Searching for reasons why, he begins examining his late father’s belongings and begins to go to the places he went in order to discover his father’s secret double life.  In order to do this, he teams up with a girl he met in the office of his new psychologist.  Their journey takes them further than they ever expected as they discover a terrible family secret that could bring healing if reckoned with.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the production quality of Hope Bridge almost renders it unwatchable.  The camera work is very poor; the camera angles confuse the audience and the video quality is grainy.  The sets, in an assumed attempt to be realistic, are sloppy in their construction.  The editing is questionable, since some scenes repeat over again for no particular reason and since some scenes cut back and forth with no warning or meaning.  Any good elements in a movie can be greatly detracted from by poor production quality; such is the case with Hope Bridge.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Hope Bridge is a noble attempt to present the important issue of suicide in a meaningful way.  However, the attempt falls flat.  The plot is very vanilla and not dynamic at all.  The dialogue is head-scratching and un-compelling.  All the characters seem perpetually somber and appear generally lifeless.  Too much time is spent ‘investigating’ in night clubs and driving around and not enough time is spent developing the characters or presenting the issues in a palatable manner.  Furthermore, the few elements related to psychology and counseling are incorrect and misleading.  Were more correct elements included in regards to mental health counseling, this plot could have improved.  As it is, the only positive about the plot is its noteworthy attempt to discuss suicide and generational patterns.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While the actors did not have much dialogue to work with, the delivery of the lines is facepalm-worthy.  Some of the actors seem aloof and detached from the story while some seem mired in self-pity.  Believable emotion is absent.  One actor in particular seems to make sarcastic jokes out of everything—Box Office Revolution is unsure whether or not she is making fun of the movie or if she is just an awkward actor.  In short, the acting is another element that can make or break a movie with most audiences, and Hope Bridge does not pass the test.

Conclusion

Suicide is a very important subject that does need to be portrayed in Christian movies.  The same can be said for mental health and generational patterns.  While Hope Bridge tries to incorporate these issues into the movie, all that ends up happening is the creation of another low-quality Christian movie, thus a disservice to the Christian cause.  BOR realizes that everyone has meager beginnings, but they should not include unintentional detraction from Christianity.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

The Song [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jedidiah King has long lived in the shadow of his father David King, famous country music star.  His dad’s agents are pressuring him to make a name for himself by being his own artist instead of trying to replicate his father’s glory days.  Jed doesn’t know where he is going to receive his inspiration until one day, while scoping out a new gig in a small town, he meets a girl who changes his entire outlook on life.  She inspires him to sing for her and to write music for her, thus giving him a new direction in life.  After a whirlwind romance and marriage, Jed’s music for his new wife suddenly lands him with unexpected popularity with the public.  His new agent convinces him to use his new identity to make a name for himself in the entertainment industry, and all seems well at first.  But as Jed is asked to make compromise after compromise in exchange for more popularity, he finds his world crashing down around him.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For a first time church production, The Song has high production quality.  The camera work is great and the sets are well-constructed.  The movie has an overall real-life feel.  There are a lot of artistic and musical overlays that give the movie a character of its own.  It seems directed and produced well, except where editing is concerned.  Some scenes seems unnecessary and the movie has several additional endings that make it drag on.  Otherwise, there is nothing wrong in this category.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The Song deals with some very difficult yet realistic topics.  The plot is a mixed bag due to this and due to the fact that it is problematic to transpose a Biblical story on top of a modern day setting.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this concept, some elements of it come off as cheesy, such as the character names.  But still, it is a noble effort.  As previously mentioned, the issues portrayed in the plot are not completely family-friendly.  While the issues explored do not need to be ignored, as is a common Christian custom, Box Office Revolution feels that they should have been presented in a more palatable manner.  A lot of time is spent on depravity, which is to be expected when depicting an allegory on King Solomon.  Still, it is done in a pretty good manner.  Yet BOR feels that potential was left on the proverbial playing field.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The acting is pretty good, considering this is a basically ‘amateur’ cast.  Sometimes they did not have much to work with, but some of the lines and delivery seem forced.  Still, Alan Powell and Ali Faulkner are great in their roles.  In the end, The Song shows that ‘professional’ actors are not always needed.

Conclusion

The Song is a difficult movie to contend with for multiple reasons.  Fame and popularity are corrupting, and Christians do not need to be ignorant of these real issues.  However, dwelling on depravity too much reduces a potentially redemptive movie to average Hollywood garbage.  The Song walks the line between redemptive and hopeless, and BOR is uncertain which side it falls on in the end.  However, the message is important and may reach audiences outside of the church effectively.  In short, this is a great movie for a beginning crew, and we expect greater things from them in the future.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points