Unplanned [2019] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director and abortion rights advocate, was taken by God on an unforgettable journey of redemption and forgiveness that led her to reject her former way of life and trade it for a ministry of pro-life activism. Though no one could have ever dreamed that an abortion clinic supervisor would switch political sides and join her former enemies, there is no end to the power of prayer.

Production Quality (2 points)

As expected at this point from PureFlix, the production of Unplanned is above-average and hits all the right notes, for the most part. On the surface, it looks good due to high video quality, professional camera work, and adequate sets, locations, and props. Audio quality is also good. They’ve checked all the typical boxes, but there are some issues with the soundtrack as many of the songs don’t properly fit the situations they are played in. However, the most glaring problem is the horrific editing that takes the viewer all over the map of a story that could have been good but only ends up playing like an audio book, as we see next.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

At this point, it’s painfully clear that the current PureFlix team can’t even properly portray a great true story even if it hit them in the face like Abby Johnson’s story did. Even if the book is already written for them, you can count on PureFlix to fumble the ball at the goal line by falling back on their old tried-and-failed pitfalls of trying to be too obvious without trusting the audience to read in to the subtlety and of crafting too many climax scenes for dramatic effect. The obvious goal was the hit all the high points of the story in order to maximize the most shock and awe possible with the hopes of scaring people about abortion. There’s no doubt that there were many powerful parts of Abby’s story, but we’ll never really know as the demonstrative elements are over-emphasized in the movie while the potential for character building is simply replaced with incessant and heavy-handed narration. They seem like great characters, but it’s impossible to know them due to the narration and the wild time jumps that leave the viewer disoriented. Since there’s a lot of content in this story, it could have been effectively laid out via flashbacks that built character motivation, yet instead, we were left with talking-points conversations and overly emphasized strawman villain moments. The film is written for basically one good scene near the end where we actually get realistic dialogue uninterrupted by Bratcher’s narration, but it’s too little too late. Unfortunately, where Abby Johnson’s story could have been a powerful treatise on prayer and a change of heart, all we’re given is a smile-and-wave, run-of-the-mill experience dedicated to grossing people out about abortion whose R-rating is warranted due to lack of balance.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, Ashley Bratcher is a bright spot in this cast, which suggests her performance in Princess Cut was heavily controlled by the creators of that film. While the supporting cast might have been interesting, it’s hard to tell due to the famine of lines and dialogue in this film. Even still, the casting and acting are mostly good without many glaring errors…it’s just basically unfinished and left wanting, like the overall feel of this movie.

Conclusion

There’s absolutely no doubt that Abby Johnson and David Bereit played integral roles in bringing the pro-life movement out of the dark ages through prayer and expert leadership, and Abby’s story is an amazing one that deserved a movie of its own. However, PureFlix’s treatment of the story doesn’t do it any justice. Moreover, Unplanned, in a way, represents the current state of the pro-life movement: lots of well-meaning people who want to do the right thing, along with a collection of more influential people who believe that ‘gotcha’ talking points and graphic displays of the evils of abortion will change things. The early marketing for this film proclaimed it to be (another) death knell for the corrupt Planned Parenthood, yet we beg to differ. Any success the pro-life movement will find moving forward is by both listening to and telling actual stories of real people, not by falling into the trap of unleashing smoking guns that will ‘sink’ your opposition. There was a massive opportunity to tell a real story in Unplanned that could actually reach people, but once again, PureFlix proves that they can’t tell stories properly because this requires actually knowing people. Unfortunately, while the gory moments of this film can be powerful if packaged properly, when they are separated from an emotional connection with the characters, they can re-traumatize those who have been hurt by abortion, which doesn’t win any ‘converts.’

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

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Two Weeks by Karen Kingsbury

Image result for two weeks karen kingsbury

Author’s Note: We were provided with an ARC of this novel in exchange for a  fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Karen Kingsbury’s newest novel in the acclaimed Baxter family series, titled Two Weeks, is coming out in early April next year. The novel tells the story of Ashley and Landon’s son Cole, and a young woman named Elise. Cole is just starting his senior year in high school, and has big plans to be a pre-med major at Liberty University by the next school year. Elise is a hurting young woman who has just moved to the area and is staying with her eccentric aunt and alcoholic uncle. Cole has a stable family life, good friends, and a strong faith in Christ. Elise has never known her father, and her mother has worked full-time – sometimes at multiple jobs – for as long as she can remember, leaving her little time to spend with Elise.
Elise’s dream is to be an artist – a dream her mother disapproves of. She doesn’t see how God could love her after the bad choices she has recently made. Cole has never been interested in dating and wants to wait to start a relationship towards the end of his college years. That changes on the first day of school. He finds himself drawn to Elise and her difficulties – a fact that soon leads him to more involvement than he bargained for. Elise soon spills her secrets to him – she just left an abusive relationship and thinks she could be pregnant – and both of them are left floundering. Cole seeks God for wisdom, while Elise retreats deeper inside herself. In the end, God orchestrates a divine plan that involves healing many hearts, and leading some back to Him. First, there are many positives to this novel. I was impressed at Kingsbury’s obvious growth as an author and at her apparent spiritual growth, which was reflected throughout the story. Her examples of God’s perfect plan for each person’s life are relatable and encouraging to the reader. Additionally, her characters’ commitment to prayer is the central theme of the novel. (spoiler) I also liked that Cole and Elise do not end up married. In comparison, the only flaws here are minor. First, the Baxter family theme is a bit repetitive at this point. Second, at times the novel lapses into the information-dump style of writing. However, these flaws are inconsistent at best, and do not majorly affect the plot. Therefore, Kingsbury earns an almost perfect score in this section.

Character Development (3 points)

Kingsbury’s commitment to character development is upheld in this novel. Cole and Elise’s characters are shaped by their past experiences, and both are realistic and have a clear purpose in the story. The secondary characters are also quite good because they add continuity and depth to the plot. Furthermore, Kingsbury does a good job of connecting her characters together without being cheesy or predictable. One special note here is that the characters are used to present the Biblical view of the unborn in a non-preachy and down-to-earth manner. The unexpected plot twist with one of the minor characters is also quite good. Additionally, the flaws here are few – a bit of melodrama and a few too many people with the same personality. Needless to say, Kingsbury earns just shy of a perfect score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

In conclusion, Kingsbury earns a full point in originality for writing a novel unlike any I have read from her before. She avoided most of her usual pitfalls and turned out a poignant and faith-based read that is sure to inspire many readers. For this reason, I feel that this novel could either be a part of the Baxter Family TV Series already in progress, or a standalone film. As a film, it could promote the Biblical view on life before birth as a drama/coming of age storyline. The casting would have to be on point, for the characters drive the plot. Good production quality is also a given, not to mention good continuity. In the hands of a proven or budding filmmaker, this could be a pro-life film to rival the famous October Baby. Great job Mrs. Kingsbury! I was pleasantly surprised by what Two Weeks has to offer.

Wish List Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In late 2009 and early 2010, the evil deeds of a rogue abortion doctor, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, were uncovered when his suspect abortion clinic in downtown Philadelphia was raided by multiple agencies due to suspected drug laundering and mysterious deaths of women who went there.  What the authorities found during the raid was shocking and appalling.  A local prosecutor and her detective friend were immediately plunged into a politically-charged trial centered around the controversial social issue of abortion.  As it becomes more evident that Dr. Gosnell exhibited the behaviors of a serial killer, the pushback from powerful lobbyists only increased until the truth was finally exposed for the world to see.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Gosnell had fairly good funding despite their persecution-complex claims.  This translated to a mostly professional-looking production, including good video quality and camera work.  The sets, locations, and props are mostly well-constructed and well-utilized.  There are some randomly dark scenes throughout, but this may be purposeful.  Also, the editing of the film is fairly choppy due to the large amount of plot content that is taken on.  However, overall, this production is above-average even if it could have been a little better than it was.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Gosnell makes many attempts to be overly realistic in its presentation of real events, including unnecessary profanity and edgy content that may be off-putting to a lot of pro-life audiences.  Besides this, there is a lot of expository dialogue throughout that is designed to mask the time jumps and to connect otherwise unconnected scenes together.  Thus, there is lots of content shoved into a small amount of time, even though the writers found plenty of time for shock-and-awe scenes.  There are one too many over-dramatized sidebars detailing the perceived persecution of the pro-life movement, and the ‘bad’ characters are flat-out strawmen.  One bright spot is the interesting use of flashbacks with characters we don’t see enough of, which is a technique that needs to be used more.  If this film’s plot had been more about detailing the real stories of the women who were adversely affected by the negligence and twisted ideas of Dr. Gosnell rather than a politically motivated trial plot reminiscent of God’s Not Dead 2, this would have been an entirely different film.  Thus, while there is some good messaging in this film that keeps it from having no potential, the real stories of real people need to be depicted in film rather than political grandstanding.  Stories and personal experiences are what changes the culture and changes people’s minds on social issues.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Some cast members are hamstrung from the get-go of this film by the poorly written dialogue that is a direct consequence of the time jumps, but Dean Cain posts another weirdly awkward performance regardless.  Cain’s fake attempts at a Philadelphia accent are annoying, and his typical forced line delivery and emotions are wearing.  However, the rest of this cast appears to know what they’re doing, and despite their shortage of things to work with, they are mostly professional and comfortable in their roles.  Overall, this film is basically average.

Conclusion

The pro-life cause does have history and science on its side, but pro-lifers must be very careful to avoid becoming caught up in the political games that are played by the pro-abortion lobby.  There’s no denying that the abortion business is gruesome and downright evil, but the pro-life cause is better than stooping to their level.  Gosnell presents a very important and real-life issue, but one has to wonder how many people will be converted to the cause due to the gruesome nature of this story.  Though it’s extremely difficult to maintain professionalism and balance in a heavily biased and lightning-rod political culture, it’s important that pro-lifers don’t adapt the pro-abortion mentality of victim status and shock-and-awe theatrics just to try to gain political power.  The pro-life movement should not be politically charged, but we are unfortunately far from that reality.  Politics is only a reaction to culture, but changing the culture is much harder to do.  However, it can be done with real stories, and there were real stories to present in this sordid tale, even if we didn’t get to see them very well in this film.  Real women are hurt everyday by the abortion business, and many of them suffer in silence or are compelled to join the pro-abortion political lobby because they feel like the pro-life movement won’t accept them.  We are seeing some change in this area, however, so hopefully we will see more movement in the right direction in the coming days.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Wraith [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Lukens family is tired of living in their old, creepy house, so they want to downsize.  However, an unexpected addition to the family throws them for a loop, as does a disturbing presence their daughter keeps seeing and hearing in her room.  As they must make difficult decisions regarding the life of their future child, the evil presence seems to tighten its grip on their lives, pushing them to the breaking point.  Will they be able to survive the onslaught of the paranormal force?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For another independent Christian horror film, Wraith doesn’t have that bad of a production, but it is still mostly average on the whole.  Video quality is mostly fine, but there is some poor lighting throughout, perhaps by design.  A lot of the dark scenes appear to be for dramatic effect, but there are other typically cheesy elements that seem to always come with a cheap horror production, such as wild camera work and dizzying cuts.  Though the sets and locations are somewhat limited, also by design, the props are fine, and there appear to be attempts to create authenticity throughout.  The editing is mostly fine, but there are too many issues with this indie effort to give the production anything more than an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Making a pro-life Christian horror film is an interesting endeavor, and it is not one without potential, but Wraith has too many problems in the plot department to reach this possible potential.  When setting out to make a Christian horror film, it’s like it’s a requirement to totally disregard character development.  This film is no exception as the characters are extremely bland and empty due to cheap and stilted dialogue.  Though there are some interesting attempts at flashbacks and creative psychological elements, they are too muted and downplayed in the midst of wasted time that is mostly filled with stupid jump scares and incoherent moments that are meant to be ‘thrilling’ or ‘scary’ but really just end up being stupid.  Randomly vague things just happen as opportunities to build real characters are squandered by kicking the proverbial can down the road just to get to the ending.  Unfortunately, this storyline gets worse and worse as it goes as it slowly reveals a very ill-advised approach to dealing with demonic entities until it finishes with an extremely cheesy climax that endorses dangerous practices.  Overall, this plot is just a mess and really needed to be completely reworked.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While some of the more experienced cast members, such as Ali Hillis, are mostly fine in their performances, some of the younger cast members, particularly the younger female lead, are quite bad at acting.  Some line delivery is painfully forced, and emotions are uneven throughout.  Other moments are far too dramatic, which is an unfortunate byproduct of the difficult horror genre.  In summary, this film squandered whatever potential it may have had.

Conclusion

Christian horror films desperately need a better basis.  It is important that the core concepts of psychological thrillers are well-thought-out and have some logical basis before they are thrown into a movie.  Pro-life themes are great, but this consistently has been one of the worst sub-genres in Christian film.  Besides the fact that the basis for the horror elements in Wraith are difficult for most audiences to grasp, the practices that are seemingly endorsed (trying to cast demons out of houses) are extremely dangerous to practice in real-life and should be heavily discouraged.  Unfortunately, this is just another awful attempt at Christian genre-busting.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Movie Renovation: Do You Believe?

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

Much like other newer, more mainstream PureFlix releases, Do You Believe sports professional production quality with very few errors to speak of.  Naturally, due to the nature of this film, the editing is mostly a mess as each scene tries to be a dramatic climax with no resting periods or relief scenes.  Thus, the only issue with the production can be rectified by improving the plot.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

Much like God’s Not Dead, Do You Believe takes on far too many subplots than it can handle.  Easily half of them are unnecessary, as each of them try to insert a dramatic turn into nearly every scene that comes up.  The paramedic subplot is mostly unrealistic and unnecessary, and its deletion would have also rendered the Andrea Logan White\Sean Astin subplot useless.  The military veteran suffering from PTSD and the girl with the unknown past who tries to commit suicide belong in their own film, so they can be developed better as characters.  The criminal brothers subplot is awkward and stereotypical.  With the removing and reassignment of these subplots, the more pertinent elements of this storyline, namely the older couple who helps the homeless mother and daughter and the pastor and his wife who help the young homeless mother, could have been given more room to grow and be developed beyond their current state.  An alternate option to improve this plot would have been to start at the mass car accident scene and then work backward by following each character’s path to the accident, but this would take a lot of skill and discipline.  Also, the narration has to be totally eliminated.  In short, there is so much content in Do You Believe that there is bound to be potential in here somewhere.

Acting Improvements

While there are some good elements to the acting of this film, most casts would be improved in the absence of Liam Matthews, Andrea Logan White, and of course, Ted McGinley.  There are just so many cast members involved here that any good portions are cancelled out by poor performances.  However, if the storyline was pared down to a realistic medium, the cast would have also been trimmed to ensure quality of quantity.

Conclusion

Quality over quantity was truly the order of the day for this film.  Dumping every subplot you can think of into one film will make a film that a lot of people will see and perhaps like momentarily, but its lasting impact is blunted by its onslaught of content.  However, there are enough good ideas in this film to perhaps kickstart a better film in the future.

 

Double Helix by Sigmund Brouwer

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Double Helix is likely the most controversial novel I have ever chosen to add to the wish list. It is both a brilliant work of art and a puzzling entanglement of fact and sensationalism. Brouwer is obviously a talented author who is not afraid to let his passion shine through his writing. For example, this novel attacks the immoral and inhumane side of genetic research, and strives to make the reader believe in the author’s cause. Brouwer does not care what other people think of his opinions on genetics, instead he plows fearlessly forward through a dark tale about what is done in the name of genetic research. Slater Ellis’ chance encounter with three escapees of a genetics laboratory will force him to either condone or fight against the inhumanity of their situation. His eventual love interest is a woman whose husband has just committed suicide after being exposed to the horrors of “The Institute”. She is left confused and hurt, and eventually finds a way to deal with her grief through pursuing those who contributed to his death. Throughout the duration of the story, both of these characters find themselves making pro-life decisions by giving shelter to children without a home, protecting these same children from their oppressors, and literally facing down death to save the lives of these and other children who are being exploited in the name of science. This novel’s biggest flaw is that Brouwer becomes so caught up in his action-packed tale that he nearly forgets to give the reader hope. Thankfully, even though it is rushed, he ends the wild ride in a sweet moment shared between two people who have seen it all and survived.It would take an extremely talented screenwriter to see past the darkness of this story to find the light, but I firmly believe that it can be done. Therefore, through much deliberation, I have concluded that this novel could make an excellent pro-life mini series that could be featured on an on-demand streaming site. For example, those who have read this novel know that the main character is a man with a colorful past who cares about justice for the oppressed. Double Helix would best be translated to the big screen through a mini series that focused on the three main pro-life points of the story that are outlined above. Granted, the novel would take dedicated editing, and the gritty action scenes would need significant toning down before the real writing could even begin….but….it is possible. We here at Box Office Revolution would like to see someone recognize psychological suspense/thriller novels for the potential that they have, and translate that potential onto the big screen in a way that brings glory to God.

Wish List Rating: 10 out of 10 points

Voiceless [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jesse has been recently discharged from the military, so his wife Julia pulls strings at an inner-city Philadelphia church, where she grew up, to get him a job as an outreach pastor.  Once there, Jesse desperately wants to make a difference everywhere he goes, but he and Julia are haunted by their own secrets from the past.  Jesse is plagued by constantly seeing young women enter an abortion clinic right across the street from where he wants to have an outreach center for the inner-city youth, and he is determined to do something about it.  However, he takes matters into his own hands and makes things worse by inviting his church’s criticism and making himself a target with law enforcement.  Will he and his wife be able to resolve their differences and make a real difference in a dark place?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though Voiceless had a fairly limited budget, the production of this film is quite good.  This includes good video quality and fine audio quality, although there are some moments of shaky camera work.  There is also some odd filtering throughout that might have helped outdoor lighting.  The soundtrack is very good, and sets, locations, and props are very realistic, appropriate, and authentic.  Further, there are a few editing issues due to a large amount of content, but on the whole, this is a respectable effort that accompanies a very worthwhile film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

It’s rare to find a ‘cause’ movie that actually portrays real people living real lives, especially in the pro-life genre.  However, Voiceless stands out among the rest by developing flawed, gray, and accessible characters through rich dialogue, well-explained motives, and deep back stories.  The authentic struggles of real people are depicted in this plot and help to amend the common black and white perception of pro-life issues.  There are no heroes or villains here—only real people who make mistakes and try to rectify them.  Further, subtlety is employed very well without the use of narration.  The only issues to raise here pertain to a large amount of content that could not be fully included and to the lagging finish that tries to patch things up a bit too neatly.  Nonetheless, this is not enough to keep this plot from placing this film on the Hall of Fame.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The acting is the strongest point of this film as there are no errors to highlight here.  A little-known cast of people is very well-coached and well-utilized for this film.  Line delivery is nearly perfect, and emotions are very authentic.  This is a superb acting accomplishment and a great finish to a job well done.

Conclusion

Voiceless is a rare pro-life movie that will actually make a real difference.  Many people will be able to find their own stories in the stories of these characters.  There are no strawman portrayals of pro-life people or pro-abortion people here.  This is a real story that could happen anywhere and is one that shows the only way we can end abortion is not through heroics or fighting, but through prayer and community culture change.  Films like this one can also promote culture change, which is exactly what we are looking for.

 

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

 

A Distant Thunder [2005] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ann Brown is a successful prosecutor, but when she is tasked with trying a case of a double homicide that involves an unborn child, she begins having strange psychological experiences and attacks beyond her control.  As the experiences continue unexplainably, Ann feels like she is going crazy or being targeted by her opponents.  She has no way to stop them, so she cries out to God for answers, and she gets answers in an unexpected way.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

It is difficult to quantify A Distant Thunder without telling you to watch it.  However, you definitely shouldn’t watch it if you have epilepsy or don’t like horror productions, because it’s a real doozy.  This includes a lot of disorienting and dizzying special effects, with weird sound effects to accompany them.  There are also random lapses in audio throughout.  However, video quality and camera work are surprisingly okay.  The soundtrack is somewhat intriguing.  Yet the editing is fairly poor, which rounds out a confusing experience that is sometimes a pain to watch.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Most of the time, it is very hard to know what in the world is going on in this film.  It makes a strange attempt to combine creepy and off-putting horror elements with an otherwise profound pro-life message.  However, this ‘story’ is just too bizarre and strange to be fully embraced due to its general wackiness and off-the-wall nature.  Yet the legal case therein is interesting and mostly realistic, as are the psychological elements, except that the horror themes constantly distract from anything good.  The ending also has some potential, but the weirdness is too much to overcome.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Despite the other issues in this film, the acting is actually mostly fine.  There are a few overly dramatic moments, but on the whole, line delivery and emotional delivery are on point.  Nonetheless, one can’t help but wonder if this effort was wasted due to the other strange parts of this movie.

Conclusion

The idea behind this film needs a total rework, because as it is, it is not going to have very wide appeal.  The unappealing horror elements will turn off people too easily and will stunt the impact of this important message.  Perhaps one day more improved pro-life films will begin appearing on the market.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Holly’s Story (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Holly is a popular Christian teenage girl, but she has a much older boyfriend named Chad whom grows much too close to.  The end result is an unplanned pregnancy for Holly, and her parents become livid over this.  They allow her to go in for an abortion in order to salvage their reputation at church, but the procedure causes Holly to descend into depression and poor self-worth, which then leads her to begin doing drugs with her neighbor.  Will she be able to get out of the spiral of guilt and shame before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though the production of Holly’s Story is still bad, it’s an improvement over other Cross Wind films like The Saber and In the Mirror Dimly, believe it or not.  The positive elements include fine camera work and okay sets, locations, and props.  However, there are also plenty of negatives to note here, including blurry video quality that makes the movie look very archaic and poor audio quality that consists of a generic soundtrack, some obvious overdubs, and distracting outside noises.  There are also some bouts of poor lighting.  Further, the editing is basically non-existent.  In short, Cross Wind productions still suffer for low quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While this story depicts unfortunately realistic circumstances, once again, the characters are simply pawns in the plot’s obvious message-pushing agenda, even though we do agree with their worldview.  However, the dialogue is very strange to the point of being programmed with talking points, which in turn crafts strawman characters that depict a mindless portrayal of people.  In other rousing storyline centered on a social issue, Cross Wind continues to demonstrate an out-of-touch with reality feel to their films, even though this is a rare look at post-abortive syndrome and post-abortive counseling in Christian film.  While these are highly important issues that would otherwise make a good plot, they are completely bungled—AGAIN—in a Cross Wind film.  Thus, this is another completely wasted idea.

Acting Quality (0 points)

In another repeat sequence, the acting of the film is very unnatural and overly practiced.  There are too many moments of forceful line delivery and downright yelling.  The performances are very much terrible and completely uncoached, as are the poorly portrayed emotions.  Any good idea can be completely derailed by bad acting and casting, as this film demonstrates.

Conclusion

The concept of a character with post-abortive syndrome absolutely needs to be used in another film that actually has an internal locus for quality and has a true to life grasp of how to actually portray real people.  The ways that Cross Wind largely treat their characters is basically insulting to those who have walked through the tough issues they like to talk about in their films.  As Christians, we need to be more in touch with the real struggles of real people, but movies like this one do not demonstrate this fact.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Dying to Be Heard [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rachel Angelo is a high-powered executive who has put in the hard work and hours to get a big promotion, and when she gets it, she goes out to party and makes a lapse in judgment regarding a man at the bar.  Thus, she ends up pregnant and her boss threatens her to get rid of the child.  However, she accidentally goes to a crisis pregnancy center and becomes conflicted about her decision.  When she watches a random music video, she also thinks back to her family’s Jewish heritage and how they endured the Holocaust.  Thus, she begins to change her mind about the life growing inside of her.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

Tender Shoot Films is unfortunately among the worst at production.  Their productions are consistently below market standards and below even zero-point productions.  In Dying to Be Heard, video quality is poor and camera work is often filmed extremely close to people’s faces, not to mention the fact that it’s very shaky.  Lighting is somewhat poor and sets, locations, and props are severely limited.  Audio quality is also poor, picking up unnecessary background noises, not to mention the fact that the soundtrack is blaring.  But by far the worst element of this production is the terribly disorienting editing that rivals My Refuge for how bad it can be.  In the end, it feels like one has to try to make a production this bad.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Unfortunately, this theme being terrible only continues in other elements of this film.  It’s extremely disappointing that often pro-life films are so ruined in this way.  As previously mentioned, this so-called story is all over the place and lacks any continuity whatsoever.  The subplots are extremely disjointed and are only very thinly related.  Things are forced to go together as this story tries to cover way too much ground, even by having flashbacks within flashbacks.  Perhaps the worst part of this plot is the fact that the dialogue is so poorly written that the characters are laughable.  The ‘bad’ characters are extreme strawmen and nearly every conversation is either full of message-pushing or elements that make characters extremely black and white.  Problems are fixed for no good reason and the ending is a very rushed and forced conclusion.  Once again, you almost have to try to write a story this bad.

Acting Quality (-2 points)

Probably the worst part of this film is the awful acting.  The lead actress often comes off as drunk or high, and she is awful at delivering her lines, even though there’s not much for her to work with.  Most cast members fumble through their lines from time to time, like every scene was done in one take.  Emotions are among the worst and everything is so awkward and unsure that it’s nearly unwatchable.  It’s very hard to believe that movies like this are made.

Conclusion

Companies like FaithHouse, Cross Shadow, and Tender Shoot are extremely hard to figure.  They churn out film content on a regular basis, yet it’s often very bad in every way.  Production is often awful, plots are nonexistent, and acting is extremely amateurish.  Yet they truck along and keep putting out films.  Do they mean well?  Do they just need more direction?  We can only wonder about these things.  All we can do if offer constructive criticism and hope it matters somehow.

 

Final Rating: -4 out of 10 points

 

Alison’s Choice (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Alison is young and pregnant and she has no idea what to do.  Her boyfriend Rick is pressuring her to ‘take care of it’, so she drives herself to the abortion clinic and tries to go through with it, even though she is not sure.  As she continues to go back and forth in her decision, she meets a mysterious janitor who seems to know everything about her.  He tries to convince her not to end her baby’s life, but Alison is still torn.  As the clock ticks down, will she be able to make the right decision before time runs out?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The good thing about Alison’s Choice is that the production quality is nearly flawless.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all very professional.  However, the soundtrack is somewhat typical.  Though the film is limited to basically one set and location, it is utilized well and the props therein are realistic and appropriate.  Really the only production problems to point out pertain to editing, as there are too many wasted scenes and sequences included and too many long scenes.  But despite this fact, it is very clear that great care was taken to make this production excellent.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the rest of this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

We went into Alison’s Choice with an open mind—we really did.  We still really love the idea behind this film, which keeps this portion from being zero or worse.  Yet this is one of the most horribly wasted ideas on the face of the earth.  Much like David A. R. White and Kirk Cameron, Bruce Marchiano’s movie making style has no respect for subtlety, as everything must be plainly spelled out in black and white without trusting the audience to figure things out on their own.  The Jesus character must be obviously highlighted through dialogue, and other dialogue elements are also extremely forceful.  There is nothing to do in this story except have characters talk (there’s nothing inherently wrong with this if it’s done correctly), but the conversations in this film contain some of the most bizarre insinuations and comments that make for an extremely unusual experience.  There are overt racial stereotypes and borderline racist jokes, not to mention weird comments about biology.  The portrayal of pro-abortion characters is largely strawman and downright embarrassing.  As the conversations meander on and weird things continue happening, Alison’s Choice really just boils down to a cringeworthy portrayal of the pro-life argument combined with a wasted idea.  It’s such a disappointment.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Some of these cast members could be good actors and actresses if they had coaching.  As it is, most of the cast members act like they have been instructed to ad-lib and ramble on in order to fill time.  It’s very hard to believe that some of the sequences of dialogue were actually written as the actors and actresses appear to strain for something to say.  Most of them are either extremely awkward or very over the top, including some laughable racial stereotypes.  In short, there is nothing in this film done subtly or tastefully.

Conclusion

It feels like Alison’s Choice is the Twilight Zone.  There are so many out of place and unnecessary commentaries, besides the ramblings of Bruce Marchiano and other cast members.  This film is essentially another version of The Encounter, just more disappointing.  Marchiano and his team get high marks for production effort, but they completely lost out on the rest of the movie.  This story needed a total rewrite before it was allowed to film, to ensure that this idea was not wasted.  The cast members also needed coaching and refinement.  Though we have been accused of personal attacks in the past and though some lives have been changed as a result of this film, we cannot help but feel that Marchiano’s ego is the thing that keeps Alison’s Choice from being all that it can be.  This is unfortunate, for there was an opportunity for a blockbuster film here.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Atonement Child: A Summary

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The Atonement Child…what a book, what a topic to take on. Francine Rivers takes this difficult subject on like a champ, and while some may say that this is not her best novel, it has always been my favorite. Even in her early novels it was clear that Rivers had a God-given talent that surpassed most authors in her genre. We here at Box Office Revolution believe that it is time for this novel to grace the big screen with it’s presence. The Atonement Child covers subjects such as abortion, rape, Christianity, the sanctity of human life, tragedy, generational sin, marriage, parent-child relationships, sickness, selfishness, selflessness, and unconditional love. The opening sequence sets a nostalgic scene, featuring a young Christian college student who is finishing her night shift and heading back to her dorm. She bids farewell to her boss, declines the offer of a ride home, and heads out into the darkness on foot. When Dynah is almost back to her college, tragedy strikes, she is attacked by a stranger whose face she never sees. Her resulting pregnancy, and other events that follow, will change her life and the lives of those she loves forever. When Dynah’s ‘pro-life’ fiance learns she is pregnant, he suddenly decides that abortion is acceptable after all. Most of her friends tell her that it is okay to have an abortion because she didn’t love the father, and her parents are too horrified and occupied with their own problems to be of any help to her. To top it all off, the dean of the college kicks her out because he feels that her situation would be an embarrassment to their fine institution. There is, however, one person who cares about Dynah and secretly loves her unconditionally, but he is afraid to tell her how he feels. Eventually Dynah realizes that the only way she can think clearly is to get away from all the voices telling her what they think she should do. What will Dynah decide? Will she choose convenience over sacrifice? Will she listen to the voice of God or the voice of the world? While the ending of this novel is somewhat rushed, the spirit of the story is upheld. I think that Rivers could have taken the time to add a few additional chapters, therefore giving more depth to other subplots. However, in film context this is a small problem that could be easily fixed with the right writer and director. The writer/director would have to be careful to use original content, and adapt the film to clearly communicate the message to today’s audience. In the right hands, The Atonement Child could be an amazing movie. That being said, this is a project I would like to see either the Erwin brothers or the Kendrick brothers take on, as they have the talent and resources to make this novel a great film. In conclusion, if you want to make a movie that will make a difference in culture, look to this novel for inspiration.

Sarah’s Choice (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sarah wants a big executive break like her boyfriend has, that’s why she sees an opportunity when she gets interviewed for a temporary job.  The only catch is that in order to get hired, she has to prove that she’s not pregnant.  But after she takes a test, she finds that she is pregnant and is faced with a serious decision: pursue a career and abort her child or give up her career and have her child.  Sarah will have to decide how real her faith is and what direction she wants her life to go in.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The one thing PureFlix usually has going for them is that they can put together a respectable-looking production.  Sarah’s Choice is not an exception.  Notwithstanding an odd opening sequence, the camera work is at least above average.  The video quality is good, as is the audio quality.  The soundtrack could use some improvement, but the sets are respectable.  Also, the editing is mostly average, though there are a handful of unnecessary scenes that put a damper on this production.  But overall, despite their obvious flaws, PureFlix can usually put together a semi-professional production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Leave it to PureFlix to take an important social issue and mutilate it with over the top messaging.  As a plot filled with typical White-style extremist characters, Sarah’s Choice sports a ridiculously unrealistic premise that is designed to force the issue of abortion on the audience.  As usual, pro-abortionists and other people who disagree with the PureFlix worldview are portrayed in offensive ways.  The dialogue is very obvious and forces the plot along, even though there is plenty of time wasted on bizarre asides.  There is also a silly shoehorning of the Christmas story into this plot, along with some odd ‘magical’ Christmas elements.  While the psychological parts are intriguing, they are not enough to offset the onslaught of nonsense in the remainder of the storyline.  As can be expected, the end is neat and tidy with no real justification for it ending up that way.  Basically, every horror story regarding the combination of PureFlix and the issue of abortion comes true in Sarah’s Choice.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While some cast members, including Rebecca St. James, post moderately respectable performances, this is probably Andrea Logan White’s most obnoxious role to date as she attempts to caricature a vain (well this mostly true) pro-abortion feminist.  There are some bright spots here that keep this category from being terrible, but there are still too many unrealistic emotions and drama moments.  Line delivery is fairly average throughout.  Overall, this is just average, despite Andrea Logan White.

Conclusion

In a PureFlix Christmas movie about abortion, what could go wrong?  Well, a lot, actually.  The Whites and company continue their addiction to portraying non-Christians as heartless ogres and construct an unrealistic framework designed to shove a social issue down your throat.  Do they even have any regard for reality or are they just trying to sell movies?  Movies like Sarah’s Choice are exactly why people tire of legalistic Christianity.  Unfortunately, while this blog is unashamedly pro-life, this is not the type of film we can support.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Do You Believe (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Pastor Matthew has almost forgotten why he believes what he believes.  His spiritual life is stagnant and he wonders why he is even a pastor, until one day he when he encounters an eccentric man on the side of the road carrying a cross.  The man asks him if he truly believes in the cross he preaches about.  This prompts Matthew to alter his approach to ministry by assisting a homeless pregnant girl and by learning more about the lives of his congregants.  Outside of his realm of influence, events begin to take place that indirectly affect him and the people of his church.  They are all headed for an unexpected collision and are forced to truly look at the lives they are living—what do they truly believe?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

In the same vein of God’s Not Dead, the production of Do You Believe is an improvement over previous PureFlix installments.  The camera work is good; several difficult action scenes are portrayed well.  The sets are realistic and diverse.  Audio quality is also good and the soundtrack is respectable.  There is not too much wasted time in the movie, but the editing is not the greatest.  However, this is most likely due to the high amount of plot content.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

There are a lot of well-meaning intentions in the plot of Do You Believe.  There are a lot of good stories, but like God’s Not Dead, they are all crammed together, thus making it hard to focus on one or for each one to develop as they should.  There are more subplots in Do You Believe, and a handful of them are unnecessary and stereotypical.  There is also too much narration that replaces the value of developing a plot.  Due to the large amount of content, most of the characters are reduced to stereotypes and are therefore not accessible.  What would have greatly improved this movie would have been to start at Do You Believe’s climax and then work backward by integrating the past and the present.  As it is, a lot is left on the field.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Some actors are professional, while others seem unrealistic in delivery.  The cast is very diverse, which is a plus.  It is possible that the many characters crowded out the scene and did not give actors enough time to work through their characters, but it is also possible that not enough acting coaching was employed in Do You Believe.

Conclusion

Do You Believe has an excellent message, but it is too issues-based.  The better production quality and the action sequences do hold the attention of the target audience, but the movie is not as good as it could be.  There is plenty of potential with some of the better story lines, but they are drowned out by too much content.  It is noble that the creators wanted to address a lot of important issues in a Christian movie, but the point may be lost.  In the end, it will be interesting to see how this PureFlix saga plays out in the future.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

October Baby (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Hannah Lawson grew up a fairly normal girl with some slightly unusual health issues, but she adjusted fairly well and had an enjoyable albeit sheltered family life.  However, everything changes when she has another onslaught of health issues while performing a college play.  This only exposes her silent struggle with depression and a secret her parents have kept from her all her life—that they adopted her as an infant because she is the survivor of a failed abortion.  This revelation leads Hannah to confide in her childhood friend Jason, which prompts him to help her find her birth mother, who might live six hours away from her.  Against the advice of her overprotective father, Hannah embarks on a spring break trip with Jason and his friends in order to discover her origins.  However, a fight with Jason’s girlfriend causes Hannah to strike out on her own, prompting Jason to follow her.  Together, they not only discover Hannah’s past, but also the feelings they have kept hidden from each other.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For a pilot movie, the production of October Baby is top notch.  The camera work, including angles and shots, is exquisite with an artistic flair.  This is not a cheap production.  Filming is not contained to buildings, and outside scenes are not cheaply produced.  Lighting and video quality are very professional.  The soundtrack is excellent and enhances the movie; audio quality is exquisite.  The only caveat here is that some scenes seem too long; some editing might have been prudent.  But besides this, October Baby is very refreshing.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

October Baby has a simple linear plot, but it is a deep plot.  The Erwin Brothers did everything they possibly could to do the best with what they had.  There are some slight plot twists that are not overstated.  The characters are well-developed through believable dialogue and are very authentic.  There is even dry humor that is pulled off well and is not cheesy.  The plot is not entirely about forcing the pro-life message, but it still offers a poignant true-to-life expose on the importance of valuing all human life.  This is a truly meaningful plot that could convince someone to become pro-life.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Casting is perhaps a special talent of the Erwin Brothers.  Every actor is cast perfectly with their part.  The less experienced actors are as well coached as the more experienced actors.  In the opinion of Box Office Revolution, this is the best movie John Schneider has ever acted in, and it can be credited to the expertise of the Erwin Brothers.  The story behind Shari Rigby’s casting is a divine appointment.

Conclusion

October Baby receives an extra point for having an x-factor of dealing with the sensitive issue of abortion in a superb manner.  Issues like this can come off as too pushy or preachy, but not so with the Erwin brothers.  Instead, the issue is woven throughout the plot through believable characters.  This movie’s only weakness is some scenes that appeared to last longer than they should have.  The production is excellent, as is the acting.  In short, October Baby is the Erwin brothers’ huge entrance into the Christian movie scene—signaling even better things to come.

 

Final Rating: 9 out of 10 points