Upside (Movie Review)

Upside (2010) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Solomon White was a successful high school lacrosse player until a concussion knocks him out of commission. What’s more, the head injury also causes him to see everything upside down. This puts his lacrosse scholarship in jeopardy as he does his best to recover. Part of this rehabilitation is attending a sight impairment support group. At one of these meetings, he meets a blind girl whom he falls in love with. However, with his new complicated life, what path will Solomon take?

Production Quality (2 points)

Despite some instances of shaky camera work, such as dizzying action shots, other camera elements are fine, and the video is consistently clear. Audio is acceptable even though the soundtrack is a bit generic and too loud at times. Additionally, there are some loud sound effects and confusing special effects. However, the sets, locations, and props are great, as is the lighting. Also, all aspects of the production get better as they go, and it should be noted that the camera work depicting the protagonist’s medical condition is creative. Thus, an above-average score is warranted.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

In the beginning, Upside tends to waste time with sports and musical montages, along with basic, vanilla dialogue that leaves characters as somewhat vague. Nonetheless, the narrative contains a good exploration of disabilities even though the characters tend to represent the issues rather than actual people. Also, the first half of the plot meanders as it lacks focus and wastes good ideas, but the psychological elements are notable. Unfortunately, it’s hard to understand how some characters know certain things, and there’s an arbitrary application of character motive. As the storyline celebrates unearned victories that lack basis or lead-up, it’s mostly a collection of random scenes that lack consistency and major themes between them, which causes the movie as a whole to lack a focused purpose. At times, it’s hard to understand why certain things transpire except for the fact that the writers needed them to happen at specific moments. Even with all of these concerns, there’s some potential to note, such as the interesting ending that applies some creatively relevant themes although it takes too long to get to and lacks adequate build-up. In general, there are just too many things going on, and integration of themes throughout the narrative is greatly lacking as some portions of the movie unnecessarily fall by the wayside. The character arcs are just too steep for what the creators wanted to do, and in general, Upside needs a full rewrite.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though some of the acting in this film seems unsure and like it was done in one take, things do tend to improve as they go. Despite slightly robotic emotions and line delivery, some cast members appear to be trying harder than others. As a whole, however, the improvements are enough to warrant an above-average score, which rounds out a basically run-of-the-mill screenplay.

Conclusion

We definitely need more films like Upside that explore the everyday struggles of people who have disabling conditions, but writers have to always be careful not to only treat these characters as representations of disabilities. The only way important issues are presented in movie form is when each character is treated like a real person with believable motives and backstory. When a screenplay is reduced to simply presenting a cause, it doesn’t have anything meaningful to offer even though there may be other positive aspects.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Indivisible [2018] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Army Chaplain Darren Turner and his wife Heather feel that they are called to the life they live as they each minister to those who are connected to the military in different ways.  They are committed to each other and to their family, and they firmly believe God is always supporting them.  However, the months-long separation with Darren’s deployment takes a toll on their marriage and their family as they are apart for months on end with oceans between them.  When tragedy strikes close to home, they will have to decide if they will weather the storm and press into their faith or if they will let it all fall apart.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s very clear that Indivisible was a well-funded and well-organized production.  This is evident in the flawless video quality and the great action camera work.  The sets, locations, and props are also excellent and appropriate for the situations portrayed, and it was smart for the creative team to stay within their budget and to not film too many complicated scenes.  There is a very realistic feel to the film, even if there are some slight audio issues.  However, there is a relatable soundtrack, although some of the editing tends to be a bit choppy.  Nevertheless, this production is still top-notch and demonstrates very wise use of funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

In keeping with the growing trends of using better source material in Christian films, Indivisible seeks to tell a very engaging and poignant true story that explores realistic everyday issues that need to be discussed in the context of film.  There is a very real-life feel to the film as the day to day struggles of military families are portrayed very accurately and in a way that many can relate to.  Although there are plenty of opportunities to develop true-to-life characters based on the real people of the true story, it feels like there were missed opportunities to take them a step further beyond the typical and into the dynamic.  An example of these missed opportunities appears to manifest in the middle of the plot as this part of the movie comes off as just a collection of loosely connected scenes en route to a conclusion it wants to get to.  Time moves too quickly at times, which is never helpful for character growth.  However, even though some chances for dynamic storytelling were left on the proverbial playing field, this movie still presents a very effective and accessible view of PTSD and its psychological and emotional effects on the victim and those around him.  As a whole, this plot is definitely good on paper even though there was the greater potential to go further.  Despite this fact, many audiences will still enjoy this film for its realism.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

It’s evident that Sarah Drew drew on her past acting experience and on her experience with the Erwin Brothers in Mom’s Night Out to both deliver a great performance and to assist the rest of the cast in this same endeavor.  As such, the casting and acting are both very professional.  For the most part, line delivery is on point, and emotions are mostly realistic.  There are some slight issues at times when emotional delivery can come off as a bit forced and over the top, but overall, each cast member appears comfortable in his or her respective roles.  Though there are a few nitpicks in the various areas of this film, Indivisible still has the potential to reach many different audiences.

Conclusion

One can easily see why this great true story was chosen for a film.  There are many important messages in Indivisible that many people will relate to, especially those with close connections to the branches of the military.  The military life has never been easy for anyone, but for too long, this has been kept quiet.  Thanks to the courage of the Turner family, a great story is now being told that reaches out to families who may feel like they are alone.  While there is always room for improvement, there is still plenty of good about Indivisible due to a lot of hard work put into it.  Thus, it earns a rightful spot on the Hall of Fame.

 

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

 

Bringing Up Bobby [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

James and Bobby have taken care of each other ever since their parents died, but Bobby is stuck in high school identity crisis while James tries to figure out what he going to do about his sister trying to take him to court over their parents’ will.  Meanwhile, their other brother Dennis shows back just in time for the court hearing—especially since he’s on the run from Russian anarchists.  But things begin to change when James and his sister’s lawyer begin to fall for each other and Bobby decides he is going to change himself to impress a girl at school.  Will any of them figure out who they really are?  Will we ever be able to understand what this movie is even about?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though the production quality of this film is mostly fine, the same cannot be said about the rest of the film.  Nonetheless, video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine and what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit dumb but not all bad.  Sets, locations, and props are fine, even if they are a bit juvenile at times.  There are some weird sound effects throughout, as well as some awkward transitions and ‘artistic’ asides that tend to hamper things.  But on the whole, this production is respectable enough.  However, this trend does not continue throughout the film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

There is literally no way to understand where this plot is coming from or where it’s even going.  Full of zany, eccentric characters that spout childishly comedic and stupid dialogue, this story overall lacks focus, direction, and purpose.  A majority of the scenes are lazily designed to elicit some sort of amused snicker or even eye-roll just because they’re so stupid.  The storyline is aimless and generally lacks arcs.  It most definitely lacks depth and meaning.  The Christian message is forced and awkward.  Any lesson that is trying to be conveyed here is totally lost in the wake of nonsense.  Basically, this ‘plot’ needed a lot of vetting before it was released to the public.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Much like the characters, the cast members are mostly off the wall and over the top in their performances.  Emotions are forced and so-called comedy is painful.  Though there are some good moments here that save this section from nothingness, it’s just not good enough.

Conclusion

One has to wonder why Provident decided to stamp their name on this madness.  What is the true faith-based on even inspirational value to this film?  It’s not even marketable or watchable.  Most audiences will turn this off after about ten minutes.  True comedy takes well-developed characters and witty, well-thought-out dialogue, not just throwing stuff against the wall to see what happens.  Another day, another failed Christian film.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

All Saints [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Michael Spurlock leaves the sales world under less than honest circumstances, he decides the most natural thing for him to do is become a pastor so he can have more time for his family and so he can give back to the world rather than take from it.  Thus, he is assigned by the parish to head up a dying church in small town Tennessee as a training ground under the church closes up.  Then Michael is promised to move on to better things.  However, the longer he is at the small church, the more Michael sees that there is purpose for it, especially since it is serving hundreds of Burmese refugees who have no one to turn to.  With God’s intervention, they begin to see miracles happen right before their eyes.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In keeping with the traditions of Affirm Films, All Saints is a good production on the surface and has no obvious errors.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all on the professional standards they should be on.  The soundtrack is effective and is culturally relevant.  The sets, locations, and props are all well-constructed and realistic.  However, this film needs some serious editing work.  Time is spent on all the wrong things and the plot overall lacks flow and continuity.  However, Affirm has likely done enough to meet minimum market standards.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is a very intriguing true story that had a lot of potential, this potential is not reached.  There are so many things that could have gone into this film that did not finish developing.  The story is too dominated by the whining, unsure main character.  Unfortunately, there is very little focus or purpose to this plot, even though there were plenty of opportunities to have this.  There are a lot of disjointed and unrelated sequences that fill up the runtime and stunt character development by crowding out any scenes of meaningful dialogue, of which there are few.  In the end, it’s sad to see how this story turned out because it had so much going for it.

Acting Quality (2 points)

John Corbett really puts a damper on this cast since he comes off as very fake and unsure of himself at the same time.  Yet if you can look past him, the other cast members post some good performances.  There is especially good multicultural casting and acting, even if we don’t get to see enough of them.  Overall, this is a good section and makes this movie at least palatable.

Conclusion

Most people will probably be fine with this film, but it’s still a very disappointing experience.  Why can’t we at least see some flashbacks of the Karen people in Burma?  Their subplots are barely developed or explored as John Corbett dominates the runtime with his awkwardness.  In short, though there was a chance for some interesting stories here, it barely materializes and wastes an amazing opportunity.  We believe it’s time for Affirm Films to step out in faith and take a chance on a new genre of Christian film rather than churning out run-of-the-mill films like this one.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas (Movie Review)

Get ready to slide into that New Jerusalem bro
Get ready to slide into that New Jerusalem bro

Plot Summary

The war on Christmas is everywhere, dontcha know?  I mean, we can’t even talk out Santa Claus anymore.  If we say Merry Christmas, we’re practically blackballed in social circles.  We can’t even put Christmas trees or neigh-tivity scenes on government property anymore (or Muslim symbols for that matter).  Something has got to change before ‘Merica becomes one of those atheistic third world countries we buy Christmas junk from.  We need a hero to save our Christmas traditions from extinction.  Never fear, Kirk Cameron is that hero!  Join him on a quest to turn the hardest Scrooge heart back to the good ole’ days of Christmas.  Join Kirk in a meditation experience unlike any other as he guides your mind to focus on rocks, trees, snow globes, ornaments, and nutcrackers.  Experience the Christmas spirit in a way you’ve never experienced it before—with Kirk Cameron as your Christmas Zen master.  By the time it’s over, you’ll want all the Buzz-Saw Louie’s you can grab, because that’s what Christmas is really about.  You’ll probably also join the awkward white yuppie people dance-off to the tune of Family Force 5 Christmas, prompted by your stereotypical black friend DJ.  Get your tickets today, this is a show you don’t want to miss (not)!

 

Production Quality (-3 points)

Saving Christmas is a real doozy, even more so than Mercy Rule, if that’s even possible.  Starting with the three opening sequences and concluding with the two most ridiculous scenes in modern Christian film, space does not permit us to truly convey the lunacy of this film.  Filled with endless narration from the egotistical Cameron, this production is an explosion of every Christmas decoration you can imagine.  As an annoying Christmas soundtrack blares in your ears, you are forced to be subjected to Cameron’s famed use of slow motion and freeze frames, obviously to improve the runtime and give Kirk more chances to impart his wisdom.  The barely one-hour runtime is also propped up by recycled footage, stock footage, scenes of characters endlessly staring, and even an entire minute of total silence.  Besides all this, the meditation on Christmas is aided by fading out to the same scene several times.  Sets are severely limited to an extravagantly decorated house, a vehicle, and some random outdoor scenes.  We could go on and on, but we would risk becoming as long-winded as Cameron.  Basically, think of the worst possible production scenario in a film, and this would be it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)

While there is really not plot to speak of, there is plenty of madness to speak of, from its schizophrenic structure to its racial stereotypes.  As Cameron attempts to tie every Westernized holiday tradition back to the Bible with bizarre correlations and to lead the audience in creepy meditation on these objects, we are left to ponder some extremely head-scratching and sometimes disturbing ideas.  For instance, Cameron advocates for outright violence through the less than historically accurate retelling of Saint Nicolas.  If somebody doesn’t agree with you, body-slam them!  Also, when a character brings up the excellent point of the consumerist waste of Christmas, saying that the money could be spent on charitable work instead, Cameron just laughs it off and later encourages Christians to spend all they want on themselves at Christmas time, just to make sure not to ‘max out the credit card’.  But the nonsensical ramblings are not limited to materialistic apologetics—the centerpiece of the film is Cameron’s strange and laughable holiday concepts, such as trying to link nutcrackers to Roman soldiers and Christmas gifts to the New Jerusalem or something.  While he falls further and further down the rabbit hole of forced correlations, he makes light of real issues in his quest to shove his ridiculous worldview down your throat.  There is far too much nonsense in this film to discuss at length here, but the bottom line of Saving Christmas is that Kirk Cameron paints a giant strawman out of people who disagree with his outrageous claims that white Christians should grab all they can at Christmastime while totally disregarding the poor and less fortunate.  His position is indefensible and has no place in Christian film.

Acting Quality (-3 points)

Besides the patriarchal superiority and zany ‘holiday cheer’ displayed by the self-centered Cameron, his costars enablers post performances that will be forever remembered—for all the wrong reasons.  Darren Doane, who tolerated and assisted Cameron in creating this madness for some reason, comes off as a rambling lunatic.  David Shannon is perhaps one of the most self-parodying actors in history.  From start to finish, Saving Christmas will go down in history as one of the worst films ever.

Conclusion

There is no comprehending the twisted mind of Kirk Cameron.  Calling himself a fundamentalist Christian and donning the cape of a hero who claims to stand for religious freedom, Cameron decides to throw off convention again and opt for…advocating for materialistic Christianity?  Seriously, who cares about Christmas ornaments looking like ‘stylized fruit’?  Why do we need to defend and cling to snow globes, nutcrackers, and creepy Santa’s in order to be better Christians?  If this movie is to be believed, there is no difference between westernized Christmas traditions and the Scriptures.  This is wrong on a number of levels.  Saving Christmas is not only a terribly lame attempt at filmmaking, nor is it only a total waste of your time: it is an affront to the ‘true meaning of Christmas’ because it suggests and infers that Christians just need to have a lot of stuff to be happy.  This childish notion has no place in Christian film and Kirk Cameron should no longer be regarded as a legitimate filmmaker.  He has plumbed the depths of horrible film making and has written the proverbial book on how to run a film into the complete ground.  It’s little wonder he has not made a movie since this one.

 

Final Rating: -10 out of 10 points

 

Ring the Bell (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Rob Decker is a successful sports agent who has his eyes set on capturing another prize: Shawn Hart, a top high school baseball recruit who resides in a small rural town.  When Decker personally travels there to try to scoop up the young athlete, he finds that he is up against more than he thought.  He also discovers a long lost athlete whom he tries to convince to come back into the sports world.  But instead of making converts of his own, Decker finds himself questioning his very purpose in life due to his encounters in the small town.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It is obvious that the creators of Ring the Bell were going for a film that looks good on the surface, but has no substance.  The video quality is clear and outdoor scenes are filmed well, with consistent lighting and sound.  The camera work is solid across the board, but this is the extent of the movie’s overtly positive qualities.  The soundtrack is very stock and only adds the movie’s cheesy image.  The editing is very choppy; it feels like this movie is a collection of random scenes glued together.  It jumps along, hitting high points and movie the plot along at breakneck speed.  But the plot itself is an entirely different story.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Ring the Bell is a typical stuck-in-a-small-town with an extra large dose of cheesiness.  Typical Southern backwards characters populate the plot, but they are all more absurd than usual.  There are also the typical ‘off-beat’ personalities who make themselves too well known to the audience.  There’s also the town pastor, who serves the purpose of inserting awkward theology into the film at opportune moments.  Then there’s the female lead who has long debates with Decker about what really matters in life, including hashing both of their life stories after knowing each other for a few days.  All of the dialogue is forced and robotic.  As previously mentioned, the plot does not flow well at all and it is hard to get a bearing on the true meaning of this movie.  The only positive thing we can detect in Ring the Bell’s plot is its clear presentation of the gospel for whoever is paying attention.  Otherwise, there is little to nothing to be excited about in this film.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Barring a few cast members, the acting is overall very in-your-face and extremely obvious.  Emotional delivery is overdone; some actors are like walking commercials.  Steven Curtis Chapman is a really nice guy, but it feels like he was forced to be in this movie with no help.  In short, there is simply too much negative in Ring the Bell.

Conclusion

Ring the Bell falls into an overflowing recycle bin of Christian movies that should have either never been made or greatly reworked early in the pre-production process.  Were all of these films combined into a handful of excellent movies, the Christian movie scene would look vastly different than it does now.  We at Box Office Revolution hope to change this trend by promoting more quality films and by pointing out how low quality films could have been better.  Unfortunately, Ring the Bell is one of those screenplays that had very little potential from the beginning.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points