2nd Greatest (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In Golden, Colorado, local business owners are tired of homeless people and low-income housing, so they convene a meeting at their local business gathering to discuss how they are going to run all the people they don’t like out of town.  A homeless drunk drifter has become the central focus of the town’s conflict, but the new pastor in town takes an interest in the drunk’s well-being.  He convinces a local police officer who knows most things that are going on to take him around one night so that the pastor can see what is going on in the town he moved to.  From that experience, he is inspired of how to help the hurting all around him by following Jesus’ commandments.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

After a very low-quality production like A Perfect Chord, Kingdom Sight Studios has shown concerted production improvement in 2nd Greatest.  This improvement is evident in good video quality and camera work, as well as good sets, locations, and props.  However, there are a few moments of odd camera angles, shaky recording, and poor lighting, but this is not enough to completely detract from the overall quality.  The soundtrack is mostly intriguing, but the editing could use some upgrading as there is a lot of somewhat loosely-associated content throughout the film.  Moreover, on the whole, this production is above average and meets the basic standards necessary for modern films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As this movie’s plot line is based on a true story, there are a lot of good ideas contained within it, but the many storylines that are included are a bit too disorganized to drive the message home properly.  A lot of the characters need further deepening, and even though some of them have some adequate flashbacks, their dialogue and personalities are not quite there.  The stunted growth of the characters is likely a product of the many random and seemingly unrelated subplots that are included in the film.  Not enough focus is placed on the main homeless character, even though he has a potentially great back story, and this seems to be a product of not being able to go deep enough with the characters.  This problem also produces a cheesy villain (if we even need a ‘villain’ in this type of film) and an overly fake ‘perfect’ pastor character.  Basically, there was plenty of good ideas to work with here that needed a bit more refining before being released.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

There are several inconsistent performances throughout as some cast members are skilled while some are not.  Sometimes the emotions feel forced, but other times, they are fine.  Similarly, line delivery is natural while other times it is too unnatural.  There doesn’t seem to be any consistency with acting coaching, unfortunately.  As a whole, while the acting of this movie is a bit uneven at times, there are enough good performances to keep this section average.

 

Conclusion

Basing movies off of true stories is almost always better than your average inspirational fodder, but when the story is mishandled, its full impact is stunted.  Kingdom Sight Studios made some great strides in 2nd Greatest, especially with production quality, and the real stories of the characters were good ideas to use, but we needed to see more of what the real people were like besides being pawns in a plot.  Thus, like many films, retaining a better screenwriter would have done wonders.  Also, it wouldn’t have hurt to upgrade the acting coaching.  As a whole, it is always good to see improvement from a studio, so it will be interesting to see what they do next.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

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Paul, Apostle of Christ (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Paul had completed many full years of missionary work across the continents of Asia and Europe and after carrying the Gospel of Jesus Christ to thousands of people, both Jews and Gentiles, he appealed to stand trial in Rome before Caesar, but this decision only caused him to suffer further for the cause of Christ at the hands of cruel Romans.  With the church in Rome on the brink of total annihilation, Priscilla and Aquila house many wanted Christians in their home, and Luke is sent to tend to Paul in prison.  As many Christians begin to question the words of Christ, Luke begs Paul for a fresh word to strengthen the church in her dark times, yet Paul is plagued by his thorn in the flesh–namely the lives of all he killed while he was a religious zealot.  With darkness seeming to close in on Christ’s people, the story of Paul’s life carries the same message that saved all followers of the Way: where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Gone are the days when ‘Bible plays’ like The Book of Esther are socially acceptable as Christian films.  We are in a new era of Christian productions, and Paul, Apostle of Christ is another hallmark of this era.  Similar to recent Biblical depictions, such as Risen, this new look at Paul’s life is gritty and authentic and has no fear of being painfully realistic.  This is evident in the excellent and historically authentic sets, locations, and props.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are also what a professional production should be.  The soundtrack is very engaging and thought-provoking, and the editing is quite creative and effective in presenting the story.  The only drawback to this production is a collection of very dark scenes that may be realistic but do not make for great viewing.  Nevertheless, this is a top-notch production that we should see over and over again in Christian films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

While most standard Biblical plot fare is very flat, face-value, and vanilla, Paul, Apostle of Christ rejects this mold and upends the Biblical genre once and for all.  By inserting extremely creative and well-crafted psychological elements into the core of this storyline, Andrew Hyatt and his team have created a point of no return for films based on Biblical events.  Much like their work in Full of Grace, which showed the potential they have always had, their portrayal of Paul’s thorn in the flesh and the trauma he went through in his life is revolutionary in this genre.  This is exactly what needs to be done to show the humanness of Biblical characters through the exquisite use of effective flashbacks and through processes that demonstrate real motive.  Elsewhere, dialogue is rich and meaningful, and the other subplots are intertwined very well as each character is very well-developed.  Care is given to demonstrate great historical accuracy, and while there are some slightly slow scenes and areas that could have been fleshed out with further dialogue and flashbacks, this storyline is a breath of fresh air in a world of very poor Biblical screenwriting.  To top things off, the ending sequence completes the film excellently and is well worth the wait.  In short, this film is a job well done in nearly every area.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

While there were a few missteps with cast members that are not entirely culturally authentic, they are trained to appear culturally authentic, which is leagues better than having a fully BRITISH cast.  Elsewhere, there is plenty of culturally authentic casting to make this section great, and there is clearly a presence of professional acting coaching.  There are very few errors to point out here, and costuming and makeup are also extremely realistic.  In summary, there are many positive elements to point out in this breakout effort.

Conclusion

This film receives a full x-factor point for its effective use of poignant psychological elements as Paul, Apostle of Christ takes its rightful place among the greatest Christian films of our time.  Andrew Hyatt and his team are clearly going places, and even though their sophomore effort was somewhat muted by the blockbuster release of I Can Only ImaginePaul is a signal that a new force to be reckoned has finally arrived in Biblical films.  It will be exciting to see what this team puts together next, but for now, we can enjoy this great movie.

 

Final Rating: 8.5 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

 

Wild Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After the Civil War, Emmett returned to his hometown to take care of the widow of one of his fellow troops in order to fulfill a promise he made.  Emmett and his son live with the African-American widow and her daughter, which causes them extra scrutiny in the corrupt small town they live near.  Emmett’s father-in-law, the local pastor, is against him, as are several other colorful characters.  Everything comes to a head one day when the circus train breaks down in the forest and unwittingly releases wild beasts into the woods.  The children are caught in the middle of the animal escape and a kidnapping plot aimed at hurting Emmett, and it will take wild faith to overcome to dark night before them.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For years, DJ Perry, Shane Hagedorn, and their team have struggled with poor production quality and overly artistic attempts.  However, while the artistry is still present in Wild Faith, a higher production level has finally been achieved.  This is evidenced by great camera work and video quality even in the realistic and complex war scenes.  There are great action shots, as well as historically authentic sets, props, and locations.  Audio quality is also great, and the soundtrack is creative.  The only nitpick to raise here relates to some slightly confusing editing, but this is a small issue compared to the great improvement that has been shown here.  Perry and Hagedorn have proven that never giving up and working to improve pays off in the end.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Though the beginning of this plot is a bit disorienting at first, if you stick with it, things begin to make more sense.  Where the characters are a bit raw at first, they become more realistic as time progresses with the exception of the cheesy villains.  Some of the dialogue is a bit vague at times, but there are also some good conversations throughout that reveal character motive, which is a rarity to find in Christian film.  The overall plot structure of this film is fairly unique and creative as it effectively uses flashbacks and other psychological elements to keep things interesting.  This story is a great attempt to be different rather than the typical inspirational fodder, but there are some opportunities for improvement especially in the areas of character refinement and storyline organization.  Some of the dialogue is a bit obvious at times, but Wild Faith takes an honest look at corrupt small town Christianity and the pain of racism after the Civil War.  Overall, this film shows a lot of potential in this team.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting of this movie is also fairly good.  This DJ Perry character is likely his best performance to date.  Shane Hagedorn starts out a bit rough at first, but his character is a slow burn and begins to refine as it goes on.  The villain cast members are fairly poor and drag down this score, and there are a few overdone emotional moments, but on the whole, this is a good acting performance that caps off a suprisingly enjoyable film.

Conclusion

We always look for improvement across films, and we are always glad when Christian film makers don’t give up and continue to try things.  Experience is hopefully going to lead to improvement, as is listening to constructive criticism.  The Perry and Hagedorn team has wandered in the film wilderness for a few years now, from Ashes of Eden to 40 Nights and Chasing the Star.  To be honest, I did not have high hopes for Wild Faith when it was first sent to me, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Whether or not this film becomes a series, it is clear that this creative team has a lot of potential in front of them, so it will be interesting to see what they produce next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

I Before Thee (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeffrey Douglas has recently lost his job as a fireman, so he decides that drinking is the best way for him to escape from his problems–both his present and his past problems.  His wife loves him, and she is pregnant with their first child, but Jeffrey can’t seem to get it together as he runs from his past.  As his life continues to spiral out of control, will he ever reach the point where he decides to rely on God?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

These days, even cheaply made films have the ability to have productions of decent quality.  Before Thee is an example of this.  Its video quality is fine, as is the audio quality and camera work.  The soundtrack leaves something to be desired, and there are some random moments of loud background sounds and obvious overdubs.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly cheap and limited, and editing is fairly poor.  However, this film is a step up from the early-2000s garbage productions that used to be dumped into the market, but that’s unfortunately not saying very much.  While this production is average, the movie doesn’t have much else going for it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

A lot of the time, it is very unclear what message I Before Thee is trying to convey.  It raises some important points and highlights some unfortunately realistic circumstances, but there is a bit too much edgy content.  There are also a handful of unusual elements that are difficult to understand.  While there are some interesting psychological concepts that keep this section from being zero, they are mostly poorly executed.  Characters have next to no development as dialogue is very half-hearted and empty.  There are barely any attempts to make the audience understand who the characters are as real people–they appear to just be pawns in the plot.  Elsewhere, the storyline is too disorienting at times, and the ending generally makes no sense at all.  There is very little redemption for the messes that are created in the plot, which gives little purpose to this plot being made.  Maybe someday somebody can use the slightly interesting portions of this film to make a better one.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

It’s not like the cast members had any good lines to work with, but this acting is fairly poor.  While there is some slight potential here, a lot of it is very forced and unnatural.  Emotions are too cardboard and uninspiring.  Line delivery is vanilla.  On the whole, this is another throwaway film you are unlikely to hear much about.

Conclusion

The Christian movie field is beyond flooded at this point, so new creators have to do whatever they can to stand out for the right reasons.  I want to emphasize “for the right reasons.”  Film making is hard and expensive, and your first film is unlikely to have a very high budget.  That’s why you can set yourself apart by having a dynamic plot and great acting coaching.  Anyone can act well with the right coaching, and a great plot is one that captures real people doing real things without pushing a message.  Unfortunately, I Before Thee fails on most of these fronts and will likely be soon forgotten.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Colors of Emily (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Kate Montgomery is a big city art dealer who travels to a quaint small town to purchase some mysterious paints from a mysterious artist whom no one in the art dealing world knows the true identity of.  However, she is also on the run from her psychologist and her dark past.  While running away, she will have to end up facing everything she’s trying to hide from in the most unlikely ways.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While there are some positive elements in this production, there are also some negative ones.  For instance, video quality and camera work are mostly fine, but there is some poor audio quality throughout.  The soundtrack is also a bit generic.  Lighting can be a problem at times, and the sets, locations, and props are somewhat limited in some areas.  For the most part, editing is fine, even though there are a few too many lagging scenes.  Thus, as a whole, this production is basically average and has some room for improvement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Colors of Emily is mostly a departure for the Rossetti group.  This story tries to delve into the psychological\suspense\mystery genre, and it contains interesting attempts at psychological elements, but there is too much wasted time before getting to the substantial mystery elements.  This wasted time mostly consists of tongue-in-cheek dialogue about predictable fish-out-of-water concepts, as well as a seemingly vague premise and loose grip on reality.  At times, the storyline seems very unfinished, and the characters come off as too understated and under-developed.  Further, the villain is fairly cheesy, especially in the ‘climax’ scene that’s full of monologuing.  In short, while there is some potential in this story idea, its final product is too vague and undeveloped.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, most of the acting in The Colors of Emily is very awkward and not well-coached.  A lot of the cast members come off as too unnatural, although Jenn Gotzon posts a more authentic performance than usual.  Moreover, there are some other strange characters in this cast, and there are too many sequences of yelling and screaming, especially in the suspense scenes.  Overall, there are too many forced lines and emotions to warrant any more than half of point here.

Conclusion

The Colors of Emily has a good idea behind it, but its effort is basically half-cocked and incomplete.  On the whole, the production needs an upgrade, as does the acting.  The storyline needs more clarification and deepening, as do the characters and dialogue.  This film appears to be an example of the importance of taking time to make quality films rather than just making another movie most people are going to forget about.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Movie Renovation: Wildflower

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

Much like other movies that need renovations, Wildflower has a very professional production.  As expected, the only issue that needs improvement here is the editing, as it is quite choppy.  However, this is related to the plot, so if this had been rectified, the production would have been nearly perfect.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

Wildflower is one of the most frustrating plots to witness.  It is billed as a unique psychological thriller, and at first, it seems like it has a lot of potential.  However, the more it goes on, the more disappointing it becomes due to narration and overly obvious elements.  The mystery factors and intended elements of surprise are crippled by the poor presentation of the story.  It tries to become too complicated and involved without properly developing the characters or even what the psychological concept behind this plot is trying to convey or model.  For example, the flashbacks\dreams of the protagonist are intriguing, but what about other elements of trauma?  In a similar vein, the antagonist of the story is too obvious, and the scope of the psychological elements are too limited.  Also, the artistic elements of this film are creative and interesting, but there are times when the plot gets lost in them.  This plot could have been greatly improved with a more well-charted psychological journey without narration, in order to preserve the element of surprise in the plot twists.  A more pertinent study of the effects of trauma and causes of dissociation would have made this movie a lot more realistic.  Of course, allowing the characters to develop naturally through substantial dialogue and flashbacks is always a must in a psychological plot.  Finally, the actions and motivations of the characters need to be better explained without so much reliance on coincidences and vague ideas.  There was tons of potential here; it just needed to be better developed.

Acting Improvements

For the most part, this cast was very professional, even with a fairly difficult script to work with.  Much like the plot affecting the editing, improving some of the dialogue would have likely improved some of the lines that the cast members didn’t have much to work with.  However, there were some underwhelming moments that could have been improved, as well as some overly dramatic sequences.

Conclusion

We absolutely need more psychological thrillers in Christian film, but they need to be well-constructed, well-thought-out, and well-researched.  Trauma and dissociation are great topics to explore, but they need to be grounded in reality and not vaguely presented.  Also, narration rarely helps a movie, and the motivations of characters need to be demonstrated through deep dialogue and engaging flashbacks.  Moreover, we believe that Nicholas DiBella has tons of potential as a film maker and will continue to improve in his career.

 

House [2008] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

On a stormy night in rural Alabama, two couples find themselves stranded at a remote and strange bed and breakfast that is run by three eccentrically creepy people.  The longer they are in the large, ominous mansion, the stranger circumstances become for the four of them.  They find themselves in a fight for their lives as they are stalked by a serial killer known as the Tin Man, who is bent on reminding each of them of their darkest secrets from their pasts.  Will they be able survive this evil night?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though House is adequately funded—more so than other Christian horror films, except for The Remaining—the production begins a bit rough.  This includes weird camera angles and moving camera work, probably for dramatic effecting.  There are also some wild cuts, as well as some odd sound effects and lighting for sensational effect.  However, video quality is fine, even if there are some cheesy special effects and zooms throughout.  Moreover, the Anberlin soundtrack is great, and the sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized.  Also, the editing is slightly effective, and other production elements improve as the film goes on.  Thus, this production ends up average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 points)

Though House is full of unnecessary sensationalism and cheesy horror elements, these concepts reflect the flaws of the original novel by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker, which is actually not the best book that could have been chosen from them to turn into a movie.  In the beginning of this film, everything comes off as too dramatic and too pronounced.  However, it does get better as it goes as the film explores the intriguing psychological elements and concepts of this novel, including effective character backstories and a great use of flashbacks.  In some ways, the movie may be better than the book, even though there is still a need for more substantial dialogue.  Nonetheless, the climax still makes no sense and leaves too many unanswered questions.  However, some audiences will enjoy this movie, if the horror elements do not bother them.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though some cast members in this small cast are trying too hard to be dark and to have strange undertones, the acting of House is mostly fine.  There is also some weird makeup work, but for the most part, emotions are effective among this cast, even though there were a lot of difficult acting moments due to the use of special effects.  This rounds out a mostly average film.

Conclusion

While the premise of this plot is very creative, it still needs a better explanation with more clarity as to what is happening.  Sometimes, Christian horror films, like Scattered, are better at focusing on character backstories and effective flashbacks than other films, which is one thing that keeps the genre alive.  Nonetheless, there are better Ted Dekker books to use for movies, even if future Christian horror flicks will be hard pressed to get this type of funding again without proving itself as effective.  Unfortunately, this is something the Christian horror genre has yet to accomplish.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

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.

Movie Renovation: Meant to Be

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

The only major production improvement that should be noted in Meant to Be is the need for more organized editing.  In this film, scenes tend to be tossed here and there in a confusing fashion.  However, the editing can only be improved as the plot content is improved.  Thus, a more organized plot would have likely led to improvement in this area.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

Meant to Be is one of the most creative and most frustrating films we have ever reviewed.  Without spoiling the major twist at the end, it should be noted that this twist is mostly unexpected, especially after sitting through the boring and purposeless first half of the plot.  This is where most of the audience will be lost, so the most effective thing that could have been done in this situation would have been to make the first half of movie a good film on its own without having to rely on the twist in the second half.  This would also cause misdirection and make the twist even more surprising and out of left field.  As it is, Meant to Be seems to be rushing to get to the twist, and character development is sacrificed in the process.  We need to know what these characters care about and what their motivations are, and this can be done through substantial dialogue.  If these characters would be able to stand on their own apart from the twist, this would have been a truly great film.

Acting Improvements

Step one: take out Dean Cain.  Further, the jury is still out on whether or not Bradley Dorsey should be acting in his own films.  Other cast members in Meant to Be were underwhelming in their performances, so more improved acting coaching might have helped this section improve.

Conclusion

Bradley Dorsey has some great ideas, but he often stunts their full impact by getting in his own way.  The best thing he can do at this point in his career is to work with a team approach.  He may need to step back from acting in his films and work collaboratively with someone to bring his creative ideas to full fruition by developing deeper characters.  In the end, while it is unclear what his next steps are, if he heeds this advice, he could soar to new heights.

Same Kind of Different As Me (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ron Hall is a successful art dealer who has it all—except for a successful marriage.  He and his wife Debbie have grown apart from each other, and he has been looking in the wrong directions for love.  His marital conflict has now come to a head, so Debbie decides to make Ron exit his safe, affluent world to come volunteer with her at the local homeless shelter.  While there, though his heart is not in the work at all, Ron forms an unlikely relationship with a violent homeless man whose story captivates Ron in a way he never expected.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a clearly well-funded and well-marketed production, Same Kind of Different As Me had a lot going for it from the get-go.  This production is obviously high quality in a lot of ways, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also very intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props are very well-constructed and utilized appropriately, especially the historical components in the flashbacks.  The only minor nitpick to note here pertains to some small editing issues, such as lagging scenes and awkward transitions.  Otherwise, this production is top-notch.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As Same Kind of Different As Me is based on a book and a true story, sometimes it seems like it’s too much like a book turned into a movie.  This is evident in unnecessary narration and obvious dialogue that tends to spoon-feed the story to the viewer.  Some of the characters tend to be portrayed too perfectly, yet this is a great true story despite these flaws.  The flashbacks are used in highly effective ways and are actually the highlights of the film because of the story they tell.  There are a lot of great messages and lessons to learn from this story, but we would have liked it if this film indulged less in drama and more in the opportunity it had to portray an epic story full of realistic, flawed, and accessible characters.  As mentioned before, there are too many lagging and choppy scenes that hurt this goal from coming to fruition.  However, there is enough good to make this at least an interesting movie to watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this movie is mostly professionally cast, there are a few issues that keep this section from being all that it could be.  For one, the lead actor and actress sometimes seem to be phoning in their performances, and at times they are too dramatic.  However, Djimon Hounsou and Jon Voight are particularly well-cast and well-acted; these two almost save this cast on their own.  Moreover, other cast members outside of Greg Kinnear and Renée Zellweger are also fine and post good performances.  In the end, this punctuates an above average film that could have gone further.

Conclusion

Same Kind of Different As Me had everything going for it, but it stopped just short of greatness.  The excellent true story and high amount of funding almost forced this film to be above-average from the beginning, but the pedestrian nature of its presentation and its over-indulgence in drama apart from character development tripped it up.  In the end, we can’t help but wonder if this was another one of those movies designed to make a quick cash grab at the theaters rather than make a real difference, which seems like the original intent of the book’s authors.  We may never know, but this is at least a fine film that most audiences will enjoy.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

The Crossing [1994] (Movie Review)

Ah, the good ole days

Plot Summary

Matt and Jason were best friends, but when Matt dies of cancer, Jason is left asking why.  Matt was a Christian, and he wanted Jason to be as well, so Matt appears to Jason in a vision and shows Jason where God keeps the sins of everybody written down, where Jesus died on the cross, and what will happen if Jason’s mother tries to save herself without God.  Jason wakes up so scared that he has to become a Christian!

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Much like other older films affiliated with the Christiano Brothers brand, The Crossing is an archaic production with a loud and outdated soundtrack.  While video quality and camera work are mostly fine, and sets, locations, and props are okay, there aren’t any other positives to note.  There are a lot of very cheesy special effects used throughout, and there are too many background noises.  Editing also suffers, including choppy cuts and a very abruptly awkward ending.  Unfortunately, while this was intended to be a youth group film (probably from the Christian Film Library of Pamela’s Prayer), youth leaders will be hard-pressed to get anyone interested in this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

On the surface, this film has a good message, but it still has the typical overtures of films associated with the Christiano brand, such as the Christian characters being perfect non-sinners and the non-Christian characters being very obvious sinners.  Thus, the characters serve as stand-ins for plot points and spout programmed dialogue that is designed to push and project a specifically forceful and fundamentalist message.  As usual, the plot is out of touch with real people and uses tactics designed to ‘scare’ people into being saved, which are highly questionable and unlikely to be successful.  Besides this, the ‘storyline’ has a quick and rushed progression and completely lacks substance.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The Crossing reveals some of the origins of the crazy, overly dramatic acting of the dynamic duo Kevin Downes and David A. R. White.  Other cast members in this film bear the resemblance of stoic Christiano cast members.  However, there are some good moments somewhere in here that keep this section from being zero.

Conclusion

All we can do with a film like this is hope it serves as a reminder of how not to make a ‘youth film.’  People that like this sort of garbage also complain about all the ‘bad movies young people watch these days.’  Well, with stuff like this being shown in church, who’s really to blame?  Until Christian entertainment is top-notch quality, we really don’t have much to say, do we?

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Running Forever (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After September 11, 2001, when he mother died, Taylor Sims is separated from her father for years.  However, she is given a chance to rebuild a relationship with him at the horse ranch he owns.  Taylor predictably finds a horse to bond with and a new boyfriend as well.  But when adversity faces the horse ranch, will Taylor and her father be able to get along and win the competition to save everything?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Though Running Forever (which was repackaged as the scam ‘Christmas’ film A Horse for Christmas) had a $5 million budget, this is one of the worst productions ever made.  Besides cheap video quality and shaky camera work throughout, audio quality is terrible as it frequently uses overdubs and a generic loud soundtrack to cover up loud background sounds that even still bleed through.  Sets, locations, and props are very cheap, and there are too many close-up shots throughout.  There are also unforced issues like obvious continuity errors and awful transitions and cuts.  Overall, despite the money sunk into this sinking ship, this production is a disaster of epic proportions.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

A Horse for Christmas Running Forever is one of those stories that is trying to make you think it is bigger than it is.  In reality, everything about this half-wit plot has been done before, from the trouble character going to a rural area to bond with a horse and fall in love with the stable hand, to losing the beloved horse, to mending an estranged family relationship.  These clichés are not even executed in a good fashion, as dialogue is extremely thin, which creates cardboard characters.  The Christian message is plastic and seems very forced.  There is barely any substantial content in this plot, and the psychological elements that are attempted are laughable.  In the end, there is nothing good to say about this movie.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Clearly no acting coaching whatsoever was employed in this film as the film’s makers largely make up a majority of the cast.  Line delivery is awful, while emotions are painful.  Everybody is unnatural and stiff in their performances, and no care was given to casting people according to the ages of the characters they are supposed to be portraying.  Like the rest of the film, it seems like it’s all done on the fly.

Conclusion

New Kingdom Pictures seems like a total scam.  Not only did they try to re-release this film as a Christmas film, they didn’t even attempt to add any Christmas elements to it.  I guess they realized this film was so bad it needed a PR boost two years later.  Regardless, Running Forever is basically a train wreck of a film that had no business being made, not only because of its highly uncreative premise, but also because so much money was mishandled in a terrible production.  Somebody needs to stop giving these people so much money to waste.

 

Final Rating: 0 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

 

The Debacle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Larry and Vaughn have been long time friends, but Vaughn has never felt like he was worth much of anything, especially after he gets laid off from his job.  Larry, on the other hand, is overconfident in himself and has many ideas of what he should be doing, such as rescuing damsels in distress.  However, neither of them could have expected to be transported back in time to a Western town in need of heroes.  If Larry and Vaughn can save the town, they will have completed their quest, but if they do not, they will be trapped in history forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, a lot of time and money was put into this production.  This is shown in the good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  Though the soundtrack is a bit silly and is sometimes too loud, the sets, locations, and props are excellently constructed and utilized for this genre.  However, there are some awkward cuts and transitions that are likely included to make the movie ‘goofy.’  However, on the whole, this is an above average production that does not fit with the rest of the film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From the beginning to the end, this appropriately-named film is trying way too hard to be funny with cringeworthy comedy moments and eye-rolling escapades.  Not only is the premise completely absurd, but it is full of cheesy Western elements and other asides that make no sense at all.  The Christian message is forced, cheesy, and empty.  This ridiculous story feels like it has been made for the sake of being made, since it has basically no purpose at all.  The characters are dumb due to the half-hearted dialogue, not to mention the fact that the villain concept is very stupid.  Essentially, there’s really nothing good to say about this plot except that it was good when it was over.

Acting Quality (1 points)

Besides the absurd self-casting and acting (Joshua Zirger from Fenced Off should have never been cast again), the cast members over-play and overdo everything.  Line delivery is drawn out, and emotions are laughable.  Though there are some okay moments, most sequences from this cast are annoying as they tend to make fools of themselves.  Unfortunately, there’s not much good to say about this film.

Conclusion

Basically, this movie is a debacle.  Whether or not they intended it to be so appropriately named is beside the point.  Making this sort of comedy that’s in your face and completely obvious is never a winning idea.  Also, the childish time travel notions and cliched Western tropes are very old and worn out.  The only advice that can be offered here is to try something totally different next time.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Saber [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cameron O’Connor joins the military as a cadet and uses his computer skills to make a name for himself.  However, he soon finds himself getting into trouble online with internet pornography that gives him an unrealistic view of women.  As he goes deeper and deeper down a destructive path, he gets kicked out of the military and puts his girlfriend in a very dangerous position.  God finally gets his attention and sends him help to turn around, but not before some serious consequences.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, The Saber is basically B-roll footage of outdoor military maneuvers with some other scenes sprinkled into it in order to try to make it some semblance of a story.  There are no good production elements to point out here.  Video quality is bad, and camera work is inconsistent.  Lighting is very odd, and there a lot of unnecessary zooming shots.  Sets, locations, and props and very cheap and limited.  Audio quality is poor, and the soundtrack is often too loud.  This production feels like a documentary, especially with the stiff way it has been edited.  Thus, there is really nothing good to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With the runtime filled with tons of training montages, this ‘story’ wanders and grasps for a purpose, but never finds one.  This aimless storyline contains extremely empty cardboard characters that have the worst possible dialogue.  There are also strange psychological elements throughout that make it hard to understand what’s going on most of the time.  While this is a very important message to portray, it is horribly presented, with a ridiculous and strawman portrayal of otherwise serious problems.  This demonstrates a lack of comprehension of reality and tends to talk down to ‘bad people.’  As events progress to extreme lengths, the film only offers quick and unrealistic fixes to problems that the writers clearly do not fully comprehend.  This is a huge disappointment.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This amateurish cast has the most awkward and forced line delivery possible, as well as the most uncomfortable and stiff emotions.  Their performances are robotic and unsure as they seem to be just reading lines.  There are also some annoying sequences of yelling, as well as some terrible makeup.  This finishes off a very cringe-worthy effort that I want to forget really hard.

Conclusion

The Saber deals with some serious stuff, but the way it handles the serious stuff is disingenuous and tone-deaf.  After watching this film, it is very hard to believe that the Cross Wind team has a grasp of the real struggles of real people, besides the fact that they have no quality standards.  This whole movie is a microcosm of what’s wrong with Christian film and what needs to be changed about it.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

Heavens to Betsy [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Betsy Simon is a struggling children’s author who wants more out of life.  After her work is rejected again, she complains to God that He never answers the prayers she wants Him to answer.  However, this complaint triggers some unforeseen and unwanted consequences as Betsy suddenly finds herself in a world where God answered every prayer she ever prayed.  While it seems good at first, Betsy soon finds that not all is as it seems and quickly looks for a way out, but finds none.  Will she be able to return to the life God has for her before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a newer production, Heavens to Betsy is an improvement over the previous effort in Angels in Our Midst.  This includes good video quality and camera work.  However, there are some cheesy sound effects, as well as a generic ‘silly’ soundtrack.  There are also some odd background sounds in some scenes, as well as randomly cutoff audio at random times.  Nonetheless, sets, locations, and props are great and appropriate.  The editing is mostly okay, but this story basically writes itself, so not much effort is needed.  On the whole, this is, for the most part, what a modern Christian production should look like.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In the beginning, Heavens to Betsy is a ridiculously forced comedy that is trying way too hard to be funny.  This is evident in the very cheesy comedy elements and the forced dialogue that causes the characters to be one-dimensional and even mindless at times.  Besides this, the premise is based on the predictable wish-comes-true-in-alternate-reality-to-remind-protaganist-they-don’t-like-that-idea-anymore storyline.  This predictable convention is coupled with a cheap Christian message in the beginning, yet it becomes more meaningful as the movie progresses and even ends with a slightly interesting lesson that is based on a partially creative idea.  Though this story gets better in the end due to some unexpected turns, it is still too little too late as the beginning of the film is likely to lose a lot of viewers before they get to this point.  However, the effort is commendable.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the plot, the acting begins as awkward, unsure, and trying way too hard to be funny.  Lines and emotions come off as overly practiced in the beginning.  However, there is improvement after the middle point of the film as there are some better, more well-acted moments.  Thus, this rounds out an almost-average film.

Conclusion

Believe it or not, Heavens to Betsy, especially the second half, is an idea that is worth remaking or redoing in some way.  While the premise has been used before, transposing unanswered prayers into it gives it more than just a ‘Christian spin,’ even though it can come off that way at times.  This is a pertinent issue that needs to be explored in a far better forum, preferably not in a comedy.  Regardless, Christian film makers need to continue to shed their ‘silly’ or ‘cute’ image, and this film doesn’t really do its part on this front.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Angels in Our Midst {Bitterblue} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Tobey Marshall lost his parents in 9/11, and now he is seen as a retarded kid at his school.  He lives with his aunt and uncle, but they don’t like him either, so Tobey decides to talk to the angels he sees, so he can be comforted.  However, one day, a girl named Suzy decides to befriend Tobey, even though no one else will.  This make the bullies pick on both of them and forces them to reply on spiritual strength to make it through each day.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

In many ways, Angels in Our Midst has a lot of trouble shaking the ‘cheap Christian film’ image.  Video quality is mostly fine, as is camera work, but there are other issues that plague it.  Audio quality is inconsistent, especially in the outside scenes.  The soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  Sets, locations, and props are fairly limited and cheap-looking.  The special effects that are used are very cheesy.  Finally, the editing is seemingly nonexistent as some scenes drag on, and there is no real semblance of flow to the film.  In the end, this production is below average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While it is great to try to portray the struggles and insight of special needs people, this is definitely not the way to do this.  The Christian message of this film is presented in such a way that it comes off as very childish and even mystical at times.  The fixation on angels is somewhat unhealthy, and this becomes more evident as the movie progresses.  Besides this, even if this was a good story to tell, it is extremely BORING.  The characters sit around without much substantial dialogue and tend to do the same things over and over again.  What little dialogue is contained here is very dry and flat.  Thus, the characters are cardboard cutouts.  There is very little content to speak of here, and the progression goes from childish to weird, ending with a bizarre climax scene that borderlines on creepy.  Therefore, there is basically no justification for this story even existing.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Like the characters they portray, the cast members are less than impressive.  Many of the performances are very underwhelming and empty.  Emotions are rarely believable.  While there are some good moments of line delivery, this section rounds out a very flat and useless film effort.

Conclusion

It is very hard to comprehend what this film was really going for, and we are not sure we want to know.  Sometimes it seems like a joke, and other times it seems like they really didn’t know what they were doing.  Either way, somebody needed to censor this film before it got released to the public because it’s mostly embarrassing.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

The UnMiracle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a group of teens, under the prompting of a college student, becomes involved in illegial drug use, the community is rocked after one of them overdoses herself into a coma.  The police are pressured to find the culprit, but the kids run and hide, except for one brave Christian boy (who was at the drug party that night for some reason) who wants to help his friends (?).  As family is being torn apart by destructive choices, only the power of God can save them from themselves.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The UnMiracle (strange title indeed) is an extremely unique film in many ways.  For starters, the beginning of this film is a different sort of experience, mostly due to some strange and dizzying special effects.  There is also some shaky camera work for drama’s sake.  Also, at first, there is some weird audio quality and odd sound effects, as well as some strange lighting in some scenes.  However, for the most part, these quirks improve throughout to make for a mostly average production.  Video quality is relatively stable throughout, and the soundtrack is at least creative in some ways.  Though the editing can be confusing at times, this production is basically fine and just needs a little tune-up.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the get go, The UnMiracle has a clear agenda that is pushed through obvious dialogue and messaging.  While there are many pertinent and realistic issues portrayed here, they are not presented very well.  The characters are very flawed, which is great, but they tend to only be one-dimensional in order to represent the issues that are being pushed here.  At first, there are some strange undertones to the film that are mostly driven by the creepy Stephen Baldwin narration.  It seems like sometimes this film is trying to tell us something deeper that it never quite conveys properly.  Yet these cryptic factors are not all bad, as they also include some intriguing psychological elements, as well as a relatively fair portrayal of mental health issues, even though it could use a little deepening.  But this does not make up for the confusing and disorienting sequences throughout, as well as the trite and simplistic approach to problems and the very easy fixing of characters’ struggles by throwing Bible verses at them.  There are also tons of characters and subplots here with very little focus.  Thus, there is too much going on that needs severe organization, yet there it still potential even in all of the confusion.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With Kevin Sorbo and Stephen Baldwin pulling Eric Roberts roles (very brief and small appearances) in this film, the remainder of the cast is hard to figure.  For one, there is a lot of strange and loud makeup throughout.  At first, a lot of the acting is unsure and amateurish and even lethargic and passive at times.  The drug acting is odd and needs work.  However, emotions are mostly realistic, and there is concerted improvement throughout, which is enough to make this an average score.

Conclusion

This film is mostly a hot mess and needs a major remake or rework.  It could potentially be a series if done properly.  But this would mean serious acting coaching (and possible re-casting), way more focus in the storyline, fewer ‘fancy’ production tricks, and some education and research on mental health and substance abuse issues.  In the end, it could be done, and this creative team has some potential, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with next.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Rust [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Former pastor James Moore, who is running from his faith and his career, returns to his hometown to discover it the grounds of a dark mystery and closely held secrets that has put one crazy man in prison for arson.  With nothing left to lose and nothing else to do, Moore decides to take it upon himself to solve the mysterious case that was too open and shut.  As he looks at all the angles of the fire and the events of that night, Moore finds himself turning to God again as he rediscovers the faith he left behind.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Corbin Bernsen and his teams have always been committed to high production quality.  Rust is the earliest example of this commitment, as it sports great video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is also intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props, for the most part, are professional.  The only issues to point out here pertain to some choppy editing and some slightly poor lighting in some parts.  But otherwise, this is a professional and model production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

From the beginning of his foray into Christian film, which was this film, until now, Corbin Bernsen’s creative motivation has always been an enigma.  What is he ever going for?  Rust adopts the mysterious and semi-dark approach that was seen later in Beyond the Heavens.  Neither film truly makes much sense or has any driving purpose behind it.  Yet the mystery portion of Rust is intriguing and somewhat engaging.  The characters, while a bit eccentric, are also interesting in their own way, sometimes due to unique and cryptic dialogue.  Movies like this one always seem to be hiding something, like a private joke or secret, but they never let us in on the puzzle.  At least the ending is slightly unexpected, even though it takes a somewhat predictable path to get there.  If there were some more clarity in this plot, it could have been interesting and more highly rated, because there was a lot of potential here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Much like the production of this film, the acting quality is professional and above average.  For the most part, actors and actresses are cast appropriately, and their line delivery is on point.  Sometimes emotions tend to be a bit forced, but they are good as a whole.  There are also some other moments of underwhelming performances, but they are not enough to keep this section from being highly rated.

Conclusion

Corbin Bernsen always has a lot of potential in his films.  He usually maintains high production and acting quality.  However, he is also committed to plots that are seemingly purposely unusual.  Rust is no exception to this trend, especially since it is his first Christian film.  One can understand why ‘secular’ film makers want to dip into the Christian market, but we have never understood Bernsen’s odd approach to movie making, despite his quality productions.  Yet perhaps we will never understand.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

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

 

Elevator to Salvation (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

On Christmas Eve night, two random guys, one of them your stereotypical evil Christmas-hating workaholic, get stuck in a weird construction elevator that constantly goes up and down infinitely and keeps trying to show them all kinds of strange things like notes falling from the ceiling and creepy hands reaching through the elevator doors.  This seemingly endless ride has no purpose or function except to waste your time with another bizarre Christmas movie.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

Faith House Pictures has had bad production in the past, but Elevator to Salvation is hands-down their worst to date.  There is nothing good about it, and it is actually quite offensive.  Video quality is bad, and camera work is terrible.  Audio is abysmal, and the soundtrack is weird.  There are no sets, locations, or props to speak of except for a poorly constructed elevator.  The special effects are medieval and annoying.  Finally, the editing is highly disorienting.  Essentially, this production joins the special ranks of those that earned negative points for being especially offensive, which makes us wonder why and how Faith House continually makes films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

But that’s not all that is annoying about this weird film.  The premise is not only trumped up and ridiculous, but it is also downright bizarre and creepy.  What’s the point of trying to force half-hearted horror elements into this?  There is really no sense of understanding what is even going on in this so-called story.  The dialogue is very wacky and absurd, thus creating off-the-wall characters, even though there are basically only two of them.  The psychological elements are poorly delivered, and the ending makes zero sense, just like the rest of the ‘plot.’  There is no question that this is the strangest and most off-putting Christmas movie ever, except for things involving Kirk Cameron and British Bible characters.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Much like the other parts of this train wreck called a movie, the acting is very forceful and annoying.  Watching these people try to act is like undergoing a painful surgical procedure.  Every line is like fingernails stretching a chalkboard due to forcefulness, mumbling, and general awkwardness.  In the end, this rounds out a very eye-rolling and face-palming experience that should never, ever be repeated.

Conclusion

Faith House has had some real doozies in the past, but Elevator to Salvation really takes the cake.  It goes beyond the typical bad movie conventions and crosses into the territory of unreasonably terrible and offensive.  So if you’re looking for a good holiday film, steer clear from this one.

 

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

 

Scattered [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a group of friends gathers at a mutual friend’s house to celebrate her graduation from law school and upcoming bar exam, none of them could have anticipated or predicted what would happen to them that night.  Some of them are frustrated that their old friend has become a Christian and refuses to get high with them, so they decide to have their own ‘party’ secretly in her house.  However, what they do not know is that supernatural forces beyond their control are at work and they will be taken for the psychological ride of their lives—whether they want to or not.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Much like The Basement, Scattered begins with very poor production quality, including too many tight, awkward camera angles and too much shaking camera work for dramatic effects.  Though video and audio quality are relatively stable throughout, there is really only one set in this film with no outside locations except for within flashbacks.  Props are mostly fine throughout, but there are some cheesy ‘horror’ special effects that really need to be eliminated.  There are also too many choppy cuts and transitions, as well as a lot of disorienting editing to try to add to the psychological effect.  However, relatively halfway through the film, a switch if flipped and it suddenly becomes a respectable production.  Thus, it ends up average in the end, but that is not all that changes throughout this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Scattered begins as annoying as The Basement was throughout, including a lot of stupid and mindless dialogue that makes non-Christian characters very bad and Christian characters too good.  It’s also hard to keep up with all the characters at first as the first half of the plot really has no coherent thought or direction.  However, it is clear that the first half is trying to kick the can down the road to get to the big twist this movie hinges upon, however, this is not done in a very good fashion.  The tone and premise of the first half is very strange and off-putting, including ridiculous horror elements.  Though this part drags on way too long due to wasted, pointless conversations and empty scenes, the middle of the story totally flips the script and suddenly becomes the best Christian horror plot written to date.  Flashbacks are used very effectively to suddenly build the characters into real people and the ‘horror’ elements become justified and actually realistic.  The plot is not afraid to take on realistic gritty issues that people endure and suddenly makes its characters more gray rather than so black and white.  Thus, the ending is interesting and actually makes one want to see more.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the other elements of the film, the acting is quite bad at first.  The makeup is a standout problem in the beginning.  A lot of the cast members are trying way too hard at first, including forceful line delivery and wooden emotions.  However, even these issues demonstrate improvement as things completely change in the middle of the film.  The difference between the two halves is so stark that one has to wonder if the creative team completely changed in the middle.

Conclusion

Scattered bears a strong resemblance to Pendragon as a rare film that changes and improves throughout and is actually sustained by a strong and unique plot idea.  Yet the question still remains: since they showed they could improve, would it really have been that hard to go back and fix the beginning?  Sure, it would have taken more time, but think of the impact this film could have had.  This is likely the only good Christian horror concept on the market right now, and it most definitely needs to be reused in some way.  After the debacle of The Basement and the first half of this film, it seemed like JCL Production was just another failed venture, but with the total turnaround in Scattered, they have demonstrated that there is more to them than meets the eye.  Thus, it will be very interesting see what they can come up with next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Basement [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

You’ve heard the story before: in one second, everything is changed on the planet when millions of people suddenly disappear in the Rapture and millions more are left behind, even those who though they were Christians.  A whole bunch of random people are confused by the recent catastrophe and struggle to survive in the dark new world that is immediately created by the Rapture.  Will they ever learn the truth about what happened?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

In yet another poorly produced Rapture film, video quality is the only positive element to mention here.  Otherwise, the camera work is very shaky and inconsistent, as well as full of wild cuts and extremely close angles.  Flashbacks are set in weird sepia tones, and there are too many flashes throughout.  There are lots of poorly lit and very dark scenes.  Audio quality is very poor as well, including a generic sountrack and those annoying background sirens from Final: The Rapture.  On that note, sets, locations, and props are cheap and limited, as usual.  Finally, the editing is typically dizzying and disorienting.  Basically, this is another slipshod production about the End Times.  What else is new?

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Like many plots that lead up to the Rapture event in the middle and then depict the aftermath in the second half of the story, The Basement has no clear direction, purpose, or focus that guide it.  It is full of too many cheesy characters that crowd out the runtime so that it’s impossible to get to know any of them or remember who they are.  The non-Christian character are portrayed ridiculously, as usual, and the Christians are too perfect, all due to laughable dialogue.  There is no way to know where the story is going or coming from as there is tons of useless content and a lot of the runtime is wasted on flashbacks to events that happened minutes before.  All of this aside, the manufactured suspense is full of typical apocalyptic tropes and contains no creativity whatsoever.  After jumping all over the place for nearly two hours, basically all the problems are solved in a vague, indiscernible ending that was likely left open for a sequel.  But hey, the market needed another cheesy Rapture movie.

Acting Quality (-.5 point)

The acting is likely the worst section of this film, as a majority of the cast members act in very juvenile fashions.  Their line delivery is painfully forced, like someone is pulling the lines out of them.  Emotions are also over the top like this.  There is too much yelling throughout and too many sequences of cast members talking over each other.  This is overall an annoying and obnoxious portion, thus warranting the negative score.

Conclusion

Note to future film makers: please do make different genres of Christian films, but please please please refrain from making anymore Rapture films.  There are so many tropes in the apocalyptic genre that are complete and laughably overused, so it’s best to steer clear of this unless you have a really, really good idea.  There are plenty of other ways to make good Christians suspense plots that don’t involve End Times opinions.  But no matter what, there’s no excuse for having production and acting this bad.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Saint John: The Apocalypse [2000] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a Roman soldier is exiled to the island of Patmos for insurrection, he does not expect to meet the infamous and fabled Theophilus, who happens to be the aging Apostle John.  A group of Christians whom the Roman solider knows also comes to the island in search of the mysterious Theophilus, all the while John is experiencing the visions from God that later became the Book of Revelation.  All of their lives intersect in a way they could not have previously believed.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

There is a lot going on this early 2000s production from Trinity Broadcasting Network and others.  Though there are plenty of attempts to create historically and culturally authentic sets, locations, and props, there are some other issues here that hamper the production.  These include some randomly poor lighting and wild zooms for dramatic effect, as well as some unnecessarily overdubbed audio.  The voice of God that echoes throughout the film is also a bit annoying.  A lot of the special effects used are very obvious and poorly done—if you are making a production about the Book of Revelation, you’d better have some well-funded special effects.  Yet on top of this, there are plenty of realistic gritty elements throughout, as well as good video quality and average editing.  Essentially, this is a very unique production and is a mixed bag at that, thus warranting the average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the plot writers decided to consult The Robe and the old Ben-Hur for how to make a first century Roman\Jewish story and cast of characters most like a soap opera.  This includes a cheesy romantic subplot and a lot of overly dramatic dialogue.  All of the characters are impossible to access due to their lofty and inhuman demeanors.  However, there is a very realistic historical context portrayed here, as well as a lot of good plot ideas that are basically wasted.  Yet these elements save the plot from being a total loss.  There is a lot of content here, and in the right hands it could have made a great two-part movie or miniseries.  They needed a better writer to be able to handle the complex content from the Book of Revelation properly.  But unfortunately, anything that involves TBN is guaranteed to be overly dramatic.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The same can be said for the casting and acting, as nearly every cast member uses a breathy line delivery reminiscent of Nicholas Cage and the actresses from the old Ben-Hur and The Robe.  Thus, line deliver is too measured and drawn out, like a Bible soap opera.  However, though the cast is not entirely culturally authentic, the costuming is at least historically accurate.  There are also some good acting moments that save this section from being a total loss.

Conclusion

One thing can be said for this film: it’s not your run-of-the-mill cute\boring Christian film.  It’s ambitious, but perhaps too ambitious for the resources the creators had at their disposal.  It’s very difficult to depict the visions of Revelation properly—this requires state-of-the-art special effects, which usually do not exist in Christian films, unfortunately.  Yet there is no excuse for having acting this bad, even though it’s not BRITISH.  This plot needed a total rewrite, but the idea definitely needs to be retained for future reworking and improvement.  Maybe one day it will be remade.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Just a Measure of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jacob refuses to let go of all of his problems and let God deal with them.  He goes around yelling at people all the time and can’t seem to shake those weird red demons that keep following him around.  He doesn’t want to surrender to God, but his life is falling apart.  Will Jacob ever be able to find his way?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

It’s painfully obvious that this film was not very well funded, so it’s very difficult to justify its creation.  From blurry video quality to shaky camera work, this production is your typical zero-pointer.  Audio quality is very poor, allowing many background sounds to cover things up.  The soundtrack is also very stock.  Sets, locations, and props are very cheap and limited.  There are also too many dizzying sequences filled with weird special effects.  Thus, the editing is awful and some scenes even cut off in the middle of a sentence.  There are too many obvious cuts and continuity errors as well.  Basically, this is a real mess.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

But it doesn’t end there.  Not only does this ‘plot’ have no focus, direction, or substance, it includes many wacky and laughable spiritual\psychological elements that temporarily turn the film into the cheapest possible ‘horror’ film.  The Christian message presented is extremely cheap and trite.  Too much time in this film is wasted on ridiculously forced and manufactured drama to the point of annoyance.  The characters are absurdly empty do to plastic dialogue.  In the end, this plot warrants negative points due to its abrasive and wildly off-the-wall nature.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As if the other elements of this film weren’t bad, the acting is among the worst.  Emotions are painfully forced and almost desperate at times.  Line delivery is excruciatingly awkward and completely unnatural.  Everything is very much over the top and unprofessional, thus rounding out a very sad and wasted effort.

Conclusion

These ‘let’s make a movie with our church’ projects rarely end well, but few of them mess up in such a memorably horrible fashion as this one does.  No matter how well they meant, there is no excuse for putting this kind of nonsense out there as a Christian film.  This entire project needed to be scrapped and started over.  Alas, this is another example of how not to make a Christian movie, part 3930942.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

 

I Was Broken [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jesse and Wayne are two brothers who have been separated by a tragedy, but they come back together so that Wayne can assist Jesse in overcoming his addictions by taking him to rehab.  On the road trip, they struggle with their faith and their relationship as they recall the past and try to find reconciliation for the future.  When they are pushed to their limit, will they be able to find their way back to where God wants them to be?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

I Was Broken is a unique and ambitious film that seems like it had the funding to have a great production.  Video quality is up to standard, yet camera work is unnecessarily shaky.  Audio quality is also overdriven for no particular reason, yet the soundtrack, though loud, is quite creative.  Sets, locations, and props, however, are probably the highlight of this production as clearly a lot of time was spent on them.  Sometimes the editing can be confusing, but most production elements show improvement throughout the runtime.  Overall, this is an artistic experience that has room for improvement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The storyline is also extremely artistic, sometimes to the point of being extremely vague and hard to comprehend.  There are a lot of good points made in this plot, and the Christian message is presented in a unique way.  However, too often, this plot is hard to follow.  There are really only two characters in this story, and while dialogue is relatively well-constructed, we still need to get to know them as people beyond too brooding, troubled men.  The ending of the plot is unexpected and utilizes some intriguing psychological elements, yet it could still be better explained so that the point is driven home better.  Essentially, this idea needs a remake.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With such a tiny cast, the entire film’s weight is squarely on their shoulders.  Though they are pretty good, the case members are sometimes too dramatic.  Other times, their lines are mumbled.  But they have enough good moments to post at least an average performance.

Conclusion

Indie films like I Was Broken are often hard to figure.  The creators are clearly trying to do something different, yet they did not do the best job communicating exactly what that was.  Their ideas, though they can be somewhat ascertained, are too vague for wide appeal.  Yet perhaps they will use this film as a launching pad for their next project.  In the future, they need to hone their artistic style to create a more accessible film, because they have plenty of potential to make waves in the industry.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Masterless (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As Kane Madison works as a successful architect and lives his seemingly perfect life with his wife, in the spiritual dimension, a battle rages for his soul.  Little does he know that while Satan and his demons want Kane to continue fighting on his own, another Master, Whom Kane does not know, wants Kane to surrender to His power so that Kane can win the battles at hand.  When tragedy suddenly strikes, where will Kane turn?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

This unique and creative film concept is difficult to pull off production-wise, but it is executed relatively well.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all up to industry standard.  The soundtrack is also excellently constructed.  Sets, locations, and props are diverse, realistic, and appropriate.  Outside of some minor editing concerns, the biggest production error to point out here is the odd use of sepia tones in the fantasy scape, but it’s not enough to keep this production from being nearly excellent.  This is a model production that should be replicated.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

A lot of spiritual\psychological plots are hard to pull off, but Masterless is based on a very creative idea that is relatively well-presented.  Though it is sometimes too simplistic, the spiritual warfare component makes this story what it is.  However, it could be improved through better explanation, because as it is, the fantasy scape is slightly isolating and vague.  Granted, this is a difficult feat to accomplish.  The characters in this story are mostly believable, but they could use some further deepening through more meaningful dialogue.  This would in turn make the plot more dynamic.  Moreover, the ending is certainly not predictable and is very thought-provoking.  The entire concept behind this film is very creative and deserves further exploration, perhaps in an improved follow-up.  In short, this is one of the better and more original plot ideas crafted in recent memory, so it’s a shame that it didn’t go all the way.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this is a semi-professional cast, they are in no ways below average.  They are actually quite good, even though they are a small cast.  At times they can be underwhelming and exhibit unnatural emotions, but with better coaching, the deeper potential could be brought out.  Even so, this is a respectable effort.

Conclusion

Masterless joins the growing list of Christian films that really deserves and needs a remake.  The idea behind this plot is enough to drive a trilogy concept, if executed properly.  There are so many directions that this story concept could take; it seems like the surface has only been scratched.  With slightly improved production and acting, along with better plot explanation and character deepening, this idea could be Hall of Fame worthy.  Thus, it will be interesting see what this creative team has planned next.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Just Let Go [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chris Williams loves his family, but when they are all either tragically killed or injured in a senseless drunk driving wreck, he struggles with why God would allow such a thing to happen to him and his family.  He and his two sons wrestle with grief, anger, and survivor’s guilt as they try to navigate the new and ugly life they have been given.  Will Chris ever be able to let go and forgive the privileged young man who took his family from him?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Unfortunately, it’s rare you see a production this high quality in the Christian realm.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are all what they should be.  The car wreck scenes are constructed excellently, even though this is likely very difficult to pull off properly.  Other sets, locations, and props are also well-created.  The soundtrack is very creative and appropriate.  The only small issue to point out here is a minor editing concern pertaining to some scenes lagging too long.  But in the end, this is a highly respectable production that other films should be modeled after.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This film is based off of a powerful true story, yet you have to make it all the way to end to make things worthwhile.  The body of the film contains too much heavy-handed narration, as well as a heavy dose of melodrama that is hard to take in.  It’s difficult for the middle of the movie to hold the attention as it is too brooding and contains too many repeated sequences.  Though there is not quite enough dialogue throughout, there are a lot of interesting artistic elements, as well as a realistic portrayal grief, trauma, and mental health.  There are also good psychological and legal elements, but we would have liked to get to know the characters a little better without so much extreme emotion.  Even though the Christian message is unnecessarily muted and vague, the ending is definitely worth waiting for and makes this film what it is.  In the end, this is a great story with a lot of great elements, yet it could have been presented a little bit better.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Much like the production of this film, this cast is quite professional and well-coached.  Though they have some brief moments of being underwhelming and one too many dramatic touches, this is a very wall-cast and well-acted film.  This caps off a respectable and commendable effort.

Conclusion

These types of movies are very frustrating because they have almost everything going for them, yet there are some small issues that keep them from being all that they could be.  There are so many good things that can be learned from a movie like this, and it is definitely something to build off of for the future.  Many audiences will still enjoy this film, and it’s definitely worth your time.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Invisible Enemies [1997] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jackson decides it’s time to tell his son about a mysterious pair of glasses he came into possession of while in college.  Jackson tells his son of how this pair of glasses reveals the spiritual realm to whomever God has allowed to see it.  Jackson recounts how his discovery of the spiritual realm made his faith real to him and helped him to save his family and friends from certain destruction.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a 1997 production, this one is unfortunately not up to par.  It’s likely that funding was limited for this ‘educational’ drama, but it makes one wonder if it was justified.  Video quality is okay, as is audio quality, yet there are a lot of weird sound effects throughout, as well as strange lighting and wild special effects.  The soundtrack is also cheesy, yet sets, locations, and props are mostly fine.  Furthermore, this relatively short movie has choppy editing that stunts its development.  However, it may have never intended to be a real movie.  But if this was the case, why is it marketed like one?

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Despite its meager origins, Invisible Enemies is actually based on an interesting idea that has potential, yet this story is neither well-constructed nor well-presented.  The characters are too one-dimensional due to stiff information-dump dialogue.  There is not enough time in this plot to do any real story work; it needs a lot of complexity and development.  This film has an overly simplistic portrayal of spirituality and it all culminates in a very cheesy climax that is hard to reconcile.  In the end, this was almost like a test idea that really wasn’t ready to be released to the public, but it’s been twenty years now, so here we are.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting is the best part of this film, as the cast members post mostly average performances.  Some lines seem overly practiced and some emotions tend to be over the top, but on the whole, this is a fine effort.  The good thing is that at least this section demonstrates work towards the semblance of a film.

Conclusion

Films like Invisible Enemies are very hard to quantify.  They are put out there like a movie, so they are reviewed like a movie.  Yet there are many lingering elements that make it an overall odd experience to watch.  I feel like more could have been done with this concept beyond a simple ‘educational’ film.  But alas, budget constraints are always going to be an issue with independent Christian movies.  So once again we have another sub-par film that could have been better.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

We Are Stronger (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Victor Raphael returns home from his final deployment, he is not the same as he was.  Though he insists nothing is wrong, his wife knows that he has been profoundly affected by the traumatic experience he had while in the service, especially the recent vehicle explosion that has left him temporarily paralyzed.  Yet their relationship is strained as Victor refuses to get help and as his wife reaches out for comfort in the wrong places.  Will they be able to reconcile before God and let Him heal them and their relationship?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a first-time production, We Are Stronger has a handful of minor errors, yet it is overall a very impressive effort, considering the limited resources.  Video quality is great, as is camera work.  There are some minor audio errors pertaining to some background noises picked up, but the soundtrack is appropriate and interesting.  Sets, locations, and props, though slightly limited, are utilized quite well and are realistic.  Finally, there are a few small editing errors pertaining to some lagging scenes and dead sequences, but otherwise, this is a very good production to begin with.  This production team definitely put a lot of work into this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Since We Are Stronger is based on the true stories of real people, it gives a very realistic and honest look at life and the struggles people go through.  Though there is some expositional dialogue, it is mostly good and serves the build believable characters that the viewers can relate with.  This story has a very strong and meaningful message—yet sometimes it is a little flat and linear.  The plot presentation is at times a bit too straightforward and simplistic, yet nonetheless, refining screenwriting always comes with time.  In the end, this creative team shows a lot of potential and hope for the future.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Though this cast consists entirely of ‘amateurs’, they all post very good performances, especially since they are each playing a character that reflects their true-life story.  Though there are some minor emotional errors, these performances are nearly flawless as each cast member plays out their real-life story on the big screen.  Casting inexperienced people is often a challenge for new independent films, but this one is a slam dunk.

Conclusion

With the constant flow of Christian films being created, one has to stand out in the market by producing quality content.  This has been done with We Are Stronger has real-life stories have been brought to the movie, along with great production quality and a nearly perfect casting job.  This film is definitely worth a watch and is a great start to a movie career.  You can never go wrong by adapting true stories along with the quality presented here.  It will be interesting see what this creative team has planned next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Pray 3D: The Storm (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

On one autumn night, when a young couple leaves their children with a teenage babysitter, they have no idea what’s in store for the teenager and her friends.  The storm outside gets worse and worse and the babysitter’s friends keep randomly showing up at the house.  Yet little do they know that a strange and sadistic stalker is hanging around again—even inside the house!  Will they be able to survive the strange storm and the stalker’s evil?

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

In the long-awaited conclusion to this horrific series, nothing really improves.  Production is still as bad as ever.  Video quality is bad and camera work is very shaky, including weird camera angles that look like they came directly from camcorder footage.  Audio is very muted and soundtrack is absurd.  Lighting is very poor throughout, and the sets and locations are severely cheap and limited.  There are also weird special effects and overlays throughout.  Finally, as can be expected, there is no editing to be found.  In the end, as this trilogy limps to a close, the end can’t come soon enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Much like the first two installments, this third go at off-the-wall yet ‘family-friendly’ horror is as pointless and aimless as ever.  This idea wears very thin after three attempts, especially since there’s no real content except for stupid and childish attempts at horror.  This so-called story is once again laughable as we are forced to watch a bunch of awkward teenagers being ‘chased’ by a figure in a cheap mask.  There is zero purpose to this and no lesson to be learned here except never, ever replicate this sort of madness ever again.  Future Christian horror writers can take notes from this display of ineptitude and learn how not to write such a film.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Much like the previous two casts, this one is just as amateurish, unsure, and awkward.  Only this time, Rusty Martin Jr. is thrown into the mix for some reason.  I guess he really will do anything.  Elsewhere, emotions are extreme and over the top and line delivery is off-kilter.  In short, we’re very glad this trilogy has come to a close.

Conclusion

Thus, this concludes the strangest Christian film trilogy to date.  We hope films like this are never again repeated.  The creators of this three-part train wreck have some serious soul-searching to do, as would anyone who achieved the rare feat of creating an entirely negatively-rated film trilogy.  The only thing this series is good for is serving as an example of how not to make a film.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

Pray 2: The Woods (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Laurie Curtis survives her harrowing night being stalked by an evil man, she writes a book about her experience and becomes an instantly popular bestseller.  She goes on talk shows and stuff, but little does she know that she is about to be captured again by her nemesis.  Meanwhile, some random youth group is having a camp retreat and they encounter the same evil she does.  Will they be able to run, hide, and pray?

 

Production Quality (-2 points)

The second installment of this deplorable series is just as bad as the first.  Production is still horrible in every way—video quality is bad and lighting is awful.  Audio quality is still a bust, including a loud, creepy soundtrack and bizarre sound effects throughout.  Camera work looks like a camcorder is mounted on someone’s head while they’re running and walking around.  Sets, locations, and props are as bad as can be expected.  Finally, there is once again no editing.  We are still very unsure what the intent of this series is, but it’s setting records for consistently horrible production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Besides this film’s rehashing and shameless plugging of Pray 1, there is little plot content in this film except for constant forced suspense, talk show sequences, and sequences of random dialogue and activities of daily living.  It’s basically in the same vein of the first installment, just with some different characters and ideas.  The villain character is still a total joke and there are no attempts at all to make the protagonists seem real or even remotely interesting.  There really isn’t even a plot to speak of here, which warrants more negative points.  If you were wondering, the ending of this film is a blatant attempt to get a third installment, which unfortunately worked.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Though this acting job is not as bad as the first, it still doesn’t have anything going for it.  The performances are either flat or over the top in attempts to be interesting.  We get to see more of the villain actor, which isn’t a good thing.  In the end, the Pray Trilogy is going down as one of the most half-cocked, nonsensical experiences in Christian film.

Conclusion

If you fail at something, try a little harder next time.  I guess they did try harder in Pray 2, but they’re still not out of the red.  If something is bad the first time, don’t make three versions of it.  Yet apparently, nobody told this team that what they are making is garbage, because we need more Christian films or something.  Actually, we need more quality Christian films, not trash like this.  Flooding the market with this yard sale fodder isn’t going to cut it.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

Pray. [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After a group of friends goes to a Christian rock concert, they return to their hotel and experience some creepy goings-on, thus they decide to abandon their trip early and return home.  However, even when she returns home, one them feels herself being stalked by an unknown entity.  Elsewhere, a new mother of a baby feels herself being watched by someone, but she can’t put her finger on it.  Will any of them be able to trust in God to overcome the evil?

 

Production Quality (-2 points)

So you want to make a Christian horror movie, huh?  How about you examine the ones already made (like this one) and do everything the opposite way of how they did it.  The production of each of these Pray movies couldn’t be worse.  From dizzying camera zooms to weird camera angles to generally shaky footage, it’s a harrowing experience for all the wrong reasons.  Video quality is mostly poor and lighting is very inconsistent.  The soundtrack is far too loud and the audio is better at picking up the background sounds than the actual dialogue.  Sets and locations are severely limited and there is no editing whatsoever to speak of.  In the end, this production is definitely among the worst.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

A ‘Dove-Approved’ ‘Horror’ film can’t actually exist, right?  This means anything ‘horror-like’ has been stripped from it, thus we are left with activities of daily living, local news sequences, television preaching sequences, and most laughable jump scares rivaled only by other films made by these people and the new Left Behind.  There is barely enough dialogue in this film, and what dialogue exists is mostly confusing crosstalk conversations.  With so many sequences of ‘regular life’, there is not enough real suspense.  Any suspense therein is bizarre and manufactured.  Finally, the ending of this film is one of the most laughable and head-scratching experiences ever.  We let asking whether or not it can get any worse than this.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

As if the rest of the movie wasn’t bad enough, let’s add an extremely amateur and awkward cast to this mess.  The performances therein are goofy and unsure.  There is far too much yelling and screaming.  It’s so sad that this many people were roped into this nonsense.

Conclusion

The Christian horror genre is among the worst of Christian film, and this should not be.  It’s inexcusable to have so many basement-dwelling films in one genre, especially when this genre offers such a great opportunity to reach outside the walls of the church.  Yet it’s a very difficult genre to pull off, so it would be better to not even attempt it unless you absolutely know what you’re doing.  But wait…there’s two MORE of these films?!?

 

Final Rating: -4 out of 10 points

 

In God’s Time (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Everyone’s lives are intertwined in some way, and everyone lives according to the timing God has given us.  We have no idea what God’s plan is, but our job is to trust Him no matter what.  This film follows the interconnected lives of a desperate doctor and his cancer-ridden wife, a belligerent homeless man with a past he wants to forget, a struggling military vet trying to move on with his life, and a pregnant girl who feels like she has no one to turn to.  As their lives converge together, they discover that God’s timing really is perfect.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a first-time production effort, this film isn’t half bad.  Video quality is good, even though the camera work is randomly shaky at times.  Sometimes audio quality isn’t what it should be, but it’s mostly fine.  The soundtrack is very creative and intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props are all well-constructed and appropriate.  Yet the editing is not very well thought out as a lot of the subplots seemed to be tossed together like a salad, as we will discuss further in a moment.  But overall, it’s clear that effort was put into this film, and with some small improvements, this team will go a long way.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Storylines that depict intertwining yet seemingly unrelated subplots are hard to execute properly.  Much like Do You Believe?, In God’s Time is sometimes too much of a tangled web that comes off as disjointed rather than smooth.  However, it is interesting and realistic to show how people’s lives are connected to one another, yet this story needs more organization to be effective.  Nonetheless, realistic issues are explored throughout this plot in the context of believable and accessible characters.  Dialogue is good, but it could be a little deeper.  There are also a lot of confusing psychological elements throughout the movie that seem interesting but need more explanation and exploration in order to be understood fully.  Due to these confusions, it’s sometimes hard to know what’s going on, even though there is a meaningful message presented here.  The ‘magical’ plot device utilized throughout this story is a bit cheesy and tends to fix problems too easily, but at least audiences can make realistic connections to the people presented here.  In the end, this plot shows a lot of creative potential that needs organization and clarity to make it great.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is semi-amateurish, they post some professional performances.  They are mostly believable in assuming the roles of their characters, yet there are some overdone emotions throughout.  Some performances tend to be underwhelming, but on the whole, this is an above-average section.

Conclusion

In a field crowded out by tons of small groups making movies designed to dip into the inspirational market, writing a good plot that contains realistic characters is the key to success in standing out.  This creative team has a lot of the tools and talents they need for success—now they just need some refinement and organization skills.  They would do well to consult some seasoned film makers in how they can go about this, because they are on the precipice of greatness.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Angels Love Donuts (Movie Review)

The whiniest man alive

Plot Summary

John Money is a successful businessman, but he’s the whiniest man alive and doesn’t like anybody, even though he has a family that loves him, at least somewhat.  He only cares about the bottom line, so when he’s visited by a donut-loving angel of death who tells John that his days are numbered, John throws himself into finding a solution to his eternal problems.  He seeks out the answer to eternity in heaven, but he looks in all the wrong places.  Will he be able to discover what truly matters most?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though this film has a moderate budget, there are still a lot of unforced errors.  Video quality is somewhat blurry throughout, especially since there is a lot of weird soft lighting throughout the film.  Camera work is fine, however, as is audio quality.  However, the soundtrack is loud and annoying.  Sets and locations are mostly okay, but there are some cheesy props.  There is also not really any editing as this film is just a collection of very long scenes and montages.  In the end, this is a underwhelming production to say the least.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Can you seriously not come up with a different title besides Angels Love Donuts?  The cheesy comedy idea surrounding this title is just too much.  There are way too many attempts in this film to be funny, and a lot of comedy is dry and\or falls flat.  Thus, the dialogue and the characters are very cheesy and sometimes downright childish or annoying.  The driving purpose behind the film is too juvenile to be taken seriously; this film almost fits better in a children’s genre than in this format.  The story follows a predictable progression, thus there is no real creativity here.  It’s really hard to believe that movies like this are made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The lead actor is definitely one of the most annoying we have seen.  He speaks in a constant monotone whine.  Other cast members appear to be making fun of this film, and rightly so.  Some performances are overly practiced.  Emotions are hardly ever believable.  Unfortunately, there’s really nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

Movies like this will likely be forgotten as time goes on, yet they can be remembered right now due to its absurd nature.  The last thing we need is more Christian movies that demonstrate this level of nonsense.  From start to finish, this is just a total waste of time and ranks on the level of yard sale movies.  Hopefully in the future, we will begin to see less and less of these sorts of messes.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

90 Minutes in Heaven (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Don Piper was driving home from a church conference one rainy day, he was blindsided by a rogue eighteen-wheeler semi-truck, which crushed his car and killed him on the spot.  When he passed into the afterlife, he entered Heaven and saw people who has gone before him.  However, due to the prayers of a man at the crash site, Don was pulled back to earth, full of injuries.  For months, he was confined to a hospital bed and his wife and children went through many trials due to Don’s uncertain medical condition.  However, through it all, God showed Himself to be faithful.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

90 Minutes in Heaven is one of those mainstream films about Christian concepts that puts many Christian films to shame due to its commitment to a high production quality.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what it should be.  The soundtrack is very creative and engaging.  Sets, locations, and props are highly authentic and realistic, especially for the time frame.  Finally, the editing is relatively good considering the large amount of content that is taken on in this film.  In the end, this is the standard production quality we should see with each movie that comes out.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though this is a very interesting and realistic true story that definitely warrants a movie of its own, it’s hard to think that it was handled very well in this particular film.  For one, unnecessary and heavy-handed narration forces the plot along and explains things that should be allowed to develop on their own.  The narration stunts character development and subverts the use of effective flashbacks.  There are plenty of characters in this film, but it’s hard to get to know any of them very well due to the constant voiceover.  Besides this, the presentation of this otherwise good story is very slow and boring, perhaps in attempts to be overly dramatic.  Nonetheless, it doesn’t come off right as there are too many stop and start scenes and dead sequences before all of the important information is shoved at the end.  In the end, this movie carries an important message that is not handled very well.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This movie clearly has a professional cast with plenty of recognizable names, yet sometimes the cast members appear to be overconfident in their abilities.  There’s no question that they have talent, but they underwhelm in their performances, like they are just phoning it in.  But for the most part, this section does reflect a professional effort.

Conclusion

Movies like this one, that are made by ‘Hollywood’ for Christians are usually a mixed bag.  Professional production and casting is rarely shirked on, but there always seem to be those lingering problems that drag it down.  The story behind 90 Minutes in Heaven is worthy of the Hall of Fame, yet this film is not due to a handful of small issues that hold it back.  Yet regardless, many will find this film to be enjoyable and it’s certainly worth your time.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Unwanted Presence (Movie Review)

Deliver us from stupid Christian horror films

Plot Summary

When Lindsay Parker moves to a new area for a new job, she looks forward to living in her newly-purchased home.  However, the longer she lives there, the more she realizes that evil is afoot in her home.  Things are moved on their own and she encounters strange noises and presences.  There is an ancient evil there she has no idea how to handle, so she turns to so-called paranormal ‘experts’ for help.  However, little does she know that only faith in God can save her now.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

So you set out to make a Christian horror film and you make sure to use the worst production quality possible.  Like many other independent Christian horror flicks, Unwanted Presence is an unwanted production.  Video quality is blurry and camera work is randomly shaky.  Lighting is also quite inconsistent.  Audio quality is terrible as it’s sometimes too loud but other times too quiet.  The soundtrack is also very cheesy and there are some screeching noises and ‘sound effects’ throughout.  Other special effects relating to the horror genre are also very stupid and juvenile.  Sets and locations are limited to basically one or two houses and the props are pedestrian.  Finally, there is no editing here as all possible content is included.  Basically, there’s  just nothing good to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Is there such a thing as a good Christian horror film?  They are always either extremely cheesy and obvious or too vague.  The portrayal of spiritual elements and ‘quirky’ characters in this movie is so laughable that one has to wonder if this is another one of those parody films.  But in all seriousness, the spiritual circumstances portrayed in this story are downright unrealistic and actually suggest some dangerous practices.  Besides this, there is barely enough plot content to sustain a full-length film and the subplots are completely disjointed.  There are too many sequences depicting activities of daily living or some zany character’s antics.  None of the characters are believable or accessible.  Whether or not this film is to be taken seriously, it’s still awful.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast oscillates from being very robotic, practiced, and overly enunciated to downright mumbling their lines.  Facial expressions are not an issue dealt with very often, but the ones used by this cast are extreme and atrocious.  Emotions are flat and empty.  Need we say anything else about this mess?

Conclusion

Spiritual activity in a house is not something to play around with.  If this were actually happening to someone (it’s not likely to happen in the fashion this movie suggests), then I would advise them to move out because a haunted location is not something you can just pray away, unless for some reason God has given you special authority over an area.  For this movie to suggest this is childish and dangerous.  Regardless, Christian horror is a lost and confused genre that should probably be put on hiatus until someone can come up with a real story that is actually funded.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Last Days in the Desert (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jesus was in the desert for forty days and forty nights, he supposedly helped out a random family who lived there.  He was also tempted by the devil in various ways to see if He would fall before beginning His earthly ministry.  Though the battle was difficult, He prevailed and was ultimately prepared to do His Father’s work on earth.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s very clear that this film was mainstream produced, as its high production quality unfortunately sets it apart from most independent Christian films, especially other Biblical films.  This production is virtually flawless—it boasts professional video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also creative and intriguing.  Sets and locations are highly realistic and appropriate for the story.  Props are also historically authentic.  The only nitpick to raise here is some slightly odd editing, but it’s not enough to keep this production from being great.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Despite its high amount of funding, this story is a total wash.  The first half of the movie is extremely empty and boring, with hardly any dialogue to speak of.  Hardly anything happens except for the introduction of bizarre spiritual elements and the development of a very unusual take on the Biblical account of Jesus’ tempting in the desert.  There is little justification for altering the historical account in this way, as the alterations seem utterly pointless and just for the sake of altering it.  As what little conversations there are meander on and on, they never go anyway and thus serve little purpose.  But without dialogue, what is a plot?  From start the finish, this story is useless and serves no purpose whatsoever, except to further muddy the waters of Biblical films.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though the costuming is very authentic and well-constructed, there is little else good to point out here.  Though this is a professional cast, and though they certainly have their good moments, they are all overly dramatic and too serious.  Also, it goes without saying that it’s ridiculous to cast Jesus and Satan with the same actor, regardless of who the actor is, just saying.  There are also shades of British accents among this cast, but what do you expect at this point?

Conclusion

Hollywood certainly knows how to fund a production, unlike a lot of independent and struggling Christian film makers, but their plots are just as bad or worse as independent plots.  Biblical films like this are so stupid because they alter historical accounts for fun, it seems like.  What if someone altered another historical account?  There would be an outcry.  Nonetheless, until Christians start making better Biblical films, there’s really not much else to say.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Dialtone [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a disillusioned Christian lawyer receives a very unusual visit from a man that claims to have access to a special phone that allows the caller to call people in the past who have died in the present, he is very skeptical at first.  However, he finds himself intrigued enough to try to call his recently deceased wife in the past.  But the deeper he goes, the more he discovers that he needs to get right with God before he is ready to truly make a difference.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a very low-key film, attempts were made to make the production worthwhile.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all good, including a creative and intriguing soundtrack.  However, there is some unnecessarily poor lighting and a lot of the sets and locations are quite limited, probably due to budget limitations.  Also, the editing of this film is not really what it should be, especially considering how short it is.  Nonetheless, this is a good effort for a low-budget production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Dialtone is based on a very unique idea, but it is still a time travel plot, and like other time travel plots, it has a lot of continuity and logic problems.  Sci-fi is one thing, but a logic-defying story is hard to justify, even though the effort to be creative is commendable.  Since this idea is so short and underdeveloped, it’s hard to see the justification for it except to beta-test movie-making.  It’s great to have a creative idea, but it needs to be expounded upon.  The characters are also pretty well-developed, but we need to know more about them since there are so few of them.  In the end, creativity should be rewarded, but time travel plots should mostly be avoided.  An idea isn’t enough to carry a film—you need characters to do that for you.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this is a small cast, they post good performances that lack glaring errors.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is on point.  The only drawback is that they can be underwhelming at times, but they really showed effort to make this portion good.

Conclusion

Movies like Dialtone are hard to figure.  It seems like the creative team behind these sorts of films really has potential to do something great, but they just don’t go quite all the way.  It could be that films like this one were started projects, but there isn’t any follow-up, which is unfortunate.  But perhaps one day they will pick it back up again and improve on what they already have.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Visitation [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a stranger comes to a small town begins performing miracles, he gains an immediate following.  However, a Baptist pastor and his friends are skeptical of the man, especially as his work grows more and more sinister.  As the town descends into spiritual chaos and demons take over people’s minds, will the Christians be able to stand against the growing evil that threatens the very soul of their town—or they be sucked into evil themselves?

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

As an early 2000s Fox Faith production, this team had the resources to make this film at least somewhat professional.  However, the production is neither respectable nor presentable.  It’s an absolute wreck full of cheesy special effects, constant jumps, and epilepsy-inducing flashes.  Camera work is extremely shaky and video quality is very blurry.  The lighting is very inconsistent and the sets, locations, and props are very cheap-looking.  Finally, as previously mentioned, the editing is atrocious, which makes for an unpleasant experience.  In short, there is nothing good whatsoever to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Frank Peretti was known in his time as a ground-breaking author who wasn’t afraid to breach different genres, but that doesn’t mean he always wrote good stories.  The Visitation is extremely thin on plot and character development in general.  It is beyond cheesy and includes tons of ridiculous horror elements that make for an extremely confusing and dizzying experience.  It’s really unfair to make someone watch this train wreck of a movie, as it jumps from one thing to the next, leaving the audience in a dazed wake.  It doesn’t even seem like this plot is trying to present a real story but is instead checking the box of having a Christian horror film for the sake of having it.  Needless to say, it doesn’t work—not in the least bit.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It’s probably safe to say that any cast that involves Randy Travis already has something wrong with it.  Otherwise, this cast is extremely dramatic, with lots of yelling and extreme emotions.  If they were going for a C-grade horror movie, they reached their goal on every single level.

Conclusion

It’s one thing to breach a new genre in Christian film, and it’s entirely another to butcher a film so badly that it creates a laughingstock.  Non-Christians might watch this film because it’s a horror flick, but they will find a total disaster with the name ‘Christian’ stamped on it.  To date, Christian horror is a genre that greatly suffers, but perhaps someone will turn it around one day…soon…

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

 

The Genius Club (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a madman takes the White House hostage with a complex nuclear bomb he has built, he demands that the Secret Service assemble the world’s highest IQ achievers to solve the world’s problems in the President’s bunker before the time runs out on the bomb.  The madman poses a series of philosophical dilemmas and questions for them to solve so they can gain enough points for him to turn off the bomb.  Will they be able to play the game to win before time runs out?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Unlike later productions from Timothy Chey, The Genius Club actually has average production quality rather than negative production quality.  Video quality is good and camera work is good, but there is some randomly poor lighting.  However, audio quality is unprofessional, although the soundtrack is interesting.  Sets, locations, and props are also somewhat interesting and creative.  However, the editing leaves something to be desired with some confusing cuts and transitions.  Overall, this is a middle-of-the-road production that is better than negative but is not what it should be.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though The Genius Club has some shades of Timothy Chey wackiness, it also includes some thought-provoking philosophical concepts.  It has an interesting suspense storyline but it lacks flow and tends to jump all over the place in attempts to cover a lot of ground and information, even if it does so in an isolating way.  There are some typical philosophical regurgitations, but there are also some interesting and surprisingly well-thought-out points raised.  However, the characters, even though there are some interesting backstories, and the dialogue are not good enough to sustain a full-scale story as the conversations only seem to be used to fill time.  Finally, as with many suspense ideas, this story has a paint-yourself-into-a-corner ending that is hard to reconcile properly or creatively without being predictable.  But at least this was a reasonable attempt.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting is very inconsistent, especially with the over-the-top villain constantly manically tirading.  Stephen Baldwin is always a lazy actor, but his role somewhat fits him.  Other cast members post over-the-top performances, but others are realistic and meaningful.  Overall, like other parts of the film, this is a mixed bag.

Conclusion

Timothy Chey remains to be an enigma.  He is extremely hard to figure, except for the fact that he clearly hates lawsuits, noises, war, and oil companies, as these are constant themes throughout his films.  Yet despite his zaniness, there are some interesting thought-provokers throughout The Genius Club that actually make you think.  However, they are not enough to overcome the inevitable unprofessional elements that are almost always found in his films.  But this one is at least worth a watch.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Bells of Innocence (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When their small plane crashes in a weird little town that appears to be controlled by a Satanic cult, three men try everything they can think of to escape the madness as their townspeople, especially their creepy children.  But they find themselves taken captive by them and saved only by a mysterious man who appears to have power over the evil in the town.  He tells them that he has brought them to the town for a purpose—to drive out the evil and save the children.  Will the men be able to dig deep and find faith in the midst of evil?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As some production elements are fine while others are definitely not, Bells of Innocence is mostly an average production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are fine, even though there are some overused and cheesy sound effects.  The soundtrack is average.  Sets, locations, and props are pedestrian.  There are too many montages and choppy sequences designed to waste time, but by far the worst production element is the use of very stupid and cheap-looking special effects that are supposed to be ‘horror-themed’.  They put a huge drag on the movie and make it seem like a joke.  In short, it feels like this film was just slapped together for the sake of having a horror plot featuring Chuck Norris.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As we have mentioned before, horror is extremely difficult to pull off properly.  It must be done with the right motives and must never be taken lightly.  Bells of Innocence appears to be taking the issue lightly with this very bizarre idea that has a fixation on creepy children.  The premise is extremely juvenile and eye-roll-inducing.  As the writers try very hard to make this a ‘scary’ horror plot, it only comes off as desperate, wacky, and outright ridiculous.  The characters are completely empty and the villains are beyond cheesy.  Dialogue only serves the purpose of dumping information on the audience.  There are too many leaps in logic and time jumps for there to be any shred of sense or understanding of what is happening.  If you were wondering, this is another failed horror effort.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Who knew that there was a movie cast that included David A. R. White, Carey Scott, and Chuck Norris all in one package?  This collection of jokers is simply too much, considering the already absurd horror elements present.  Everything they do is overly dramatic and cardboard, like usual.  There are some other cast members too, but they are mostly irrelevant, like this movie is now.

Conclusion

The White\Scott\Norris collaboration has collectively and independently tried a little bit of everything to sell Christian movies just for the sake of being called Christian.  They dabbled into all kinds of different genres to cover the Christian entertainment market with their products.  It matters little at this point what their actual return was, because the legacy they left in their profit-seeking wake was a laughingstock and a blight on Christian film.  Hopefully, as new film makers are succeeding in the market, we can move past this unfortunate era of movies that produced garbage like Bells of Innocence.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 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 Veritas Project: Hangman’s Curse (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Veritas Project consists of the Springfield family—their job is to work with local law enforcement undercover in order to discover the origins of unusual happenings in small towns.  Their next job is to go undercover at a high school that seems to be haunted by the curse of a teen who hung himself inside the school one night.  Seemingly random deaths keep happening that are tied back to the hanging and to dark happenings at the school.  Will they be able to get to the bottom of it before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Like many early 2000s productions distributed by Fox Faith, Hangman’s Curse has its high points and its issues that keep it from being all it could be.  For example, the video quality is unnecessarily grainy and there is poor lighting throughout.  However, the sets, locations, and props are realistic and appropriate.  Audio quality is fine except for the cheesy soundtrack and the cheap sound effects that are dubbed on top of the normal audio.  There are also a lot of very juvenile horror-related special effects that are actually quite annoying.  Finally, the editing is fairly choppy as scenes end abruptly, off-screen content is referred to often, and transitions do not flow well.  In the end, it’s possible that this production team’s budget was not ready to handle a sci-fi\horror film, so they might should have rethought this effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though Frank Peretti knows how to craft an interesting enough Christian horror\sci-fi plot, Hangman’s Curse crams too much content into a short amount of time.  This stunts character develop and forces dialogue to be rushed and packed with information.  Sometimes the premise of this ‘horror’ concept is hard to believe and is even a little silly at times.  We are supposed to treat the issue as serious, but it is difficult to do so because it all seems too shallow.  There are too many very cheesy half-attempts at horror that are more annoying than effective.  Like too many sci-fi plots, this one relies too heavily on the ‘twist’ and the concept revealed near the end rather than actual character development.  It’s hard to care about what’s going on when it all rushes by so fast all in the name of solving the mystery in under two hours.  In the end, some will find this story interesting, but it does not appeal to every audience.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The casting and acting of this film are definitely its strong suit.  Though there is nothing truly dynamic about the cast members’ performances, they are also not detracting or negative.  Their emotions are mostly believable and their line delivery is professional.  This should be the baseline for acting in Christian film.

Conclusion

Frank Peretti has always been a genre pioneer in Christian entertainment.  He went where other Christians were afraid to go and opened up a whole new world for both writing and movies.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with his work, this particular film does not capture it well, and this could be due to the early days of Christian productions.  Perhaps if this film were made today, it would be better.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

The Lamp [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After a tragedy takes their son from them, Stanley and Lisa’s marriage is on the rocks and they seemingly have no purpose in life.  As they try to sort through what’s left of their son’s possessions, Lisa is given a mysterious lamp by one of her neighbors, who tells her that it has special powers.  Though Stanley is skeptical and angry, Lisa chooses to believe that the lamp can help them.  Little do they know what is coming to them next.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, The Lamp has good funding behind it that produces a decently above average production.  All the typical elements are good, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also intriguing.  The editing is also fine as the story is presented well.  However, the sets and locations are fairly limited to a handful of neighborhood areas, houses, and a baseball field.  Also, the biggest nagging issue here is the use of odd special effects to ‘enhance’ the experience—yet they only end up coming off as cheesy.  Overall, this is a good enough production, but the cheesy special effects tend to put a damper on things.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Based on a novel by Jim Stovall, The Lamp is a very unique Christian storyline that, while it has an interesting point and purpose, it also has a slightly silly premise.  The plot is somewhat slow to develop, but the dialogue improves as it goes and helps to build the characters.  There is a good use of flashbacks, but they are sometimes too disorienting.  As previously mentioned, though there is a good point here, there are also too many goofy magical elements that are introduced and only downplayed later.  This makes for a confusing viewing experience.  Also, in the end, things are fixed too easily, although there is an interesting twist that many will find interesting.  Overall, many will enjoy the uniqueness of The Lamp and there’s certainly nothing wrong with it—we just feel it could have been better.

Acting Quality (2 points)

At first, the acting of this film is atrocious.  Emotions are very extreme at first and there is far too much yelling in the first half hour.  However, the acting does get better as it goes as the cast members settle into their roles better and deliver their lines more smoothly.  In the end, it becomes an above average performance.

Conclusion

The Lamp is a textbook average film—with good production backing, it looks good on the surface.  It’s based on a book by a popular author, so that also works in its favor.  It also has recognizable cast members.  While average is awesome in the Christian entertainment market, we want movies to take that next step into greatness.  It’s definitely difficult to do, but in the end, it’s so worth it.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

The Reconciler (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

According to local authorities and media figures, a mysterious man who has become known as The Reconciler has been mysteriously choosing random people to force to stay together in an enclosed area until they reconcile the differences they have with one another.  No one knows how or why he does what he does, or why he chooses the people he does, but multiple people have been positively affected by The Reconciler’s work.  Will his identity ever be discovered or will it always he shrouded in mystery?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

With a somewhat limited budget, it’s clear that this production team did the best they could do with what they had.  Camera work is fine, as it video quality.  Audio quality is mostly on par, but there are some lapses.  The soundtrack also needs a boost.  Sets, locations, and props are presented fairly well, even if they are slightly limited.  The biggest issue to point out here is the extremely choppy editing that creates a lot of confusion for the audience.  This is likely due to the large amount of content that is forced into this runtime.  Overall, the production of The Reconciler is average, and it’s likely it could have been better with more substantial funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The idea behind The Reconciler is very interesting and creative, but it also leaves the audience somewhat scratching their heads.  As previously mentioned, there is a lot of information crammed into less than two hours, and thus, the use of information dump dialogue is employed to fill in the viewer.  There are also a lot of interesting flashbacks that would be better if the characters therein were developed better.  However, due to the sheer amount of content here, there simply is not enough time, especially when some sequences are just wasted.  There are so many subplots that need further exploring here that The Reconciler would have been far better served as a miniseries.  The series format would have allowed the characters to develop better, would have given more credence to the idea behind this story, and would have allowed for more complexity and creativity.  But as it is, The Reconciler makes the mistake of biting off more than it can chew—by including everything, it spreads it all too thin.  For this reason, it’s difficult to appreciate what’s going on here.  In the end, though there is a huge amount of potential here, and the creativity of the writers should definitely be commended, this is unfortunately not the way to present this type of idea.

Acting Quality (1 point)

As a little-known cast, these cast members show amateurishness too much.  Some lines are forced and half-yelled, while others are perfectly normal.  Emotions are all over the place and are too often overplayed.  This cast would have definitely benefitted from better coaching.

Conclusion

This film receives half of an x-factor point for creativity.  We absolutely need different and unique films like The Reconciler, but they need to be well-developed.  Creative and complex plots are awesome when they are executed properly.  The Reconciler would have made an amazing series if done properly.  But once again, creativity is limited by funding.  We long for the day when useless movies are no longer wasting funding opportunities and damaging the reputation of Christian film so that creativity seen in movies like The Reconciler can fully thrive and flourish to be all that they need to be.  Christian film makers have the potential to change the world, but will they be given the opportunity?

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Deceived [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a secret space observatory in Nevada picks up a mysterious and erratic signal from outer space, a powerful billionaire who owns the observatory forms a team made up of his spiritual guide, two investigative reporters, and his company’s computer technician to fly out to the observatory to find out what happened.  Some of them believe they have been contacted by intelligent beings from outer space, while others believe something more sinister is going on.  The signal also draws the attention of a specialized squadron of troops, some of whom have questionable abilities.  As they all meet up at the observatory, who will prevail?  Will they ever discover the truth of what is really out there?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As an early 2000s Cloud Ten production, Deceived is mostly average in its production quality.  the biggest detractors are the grainy video quality and poor lighting in most scenes.  There are also too many cheesy special effects that are used in an attempt to be different and sci-fi.  However, the sets, locations, and props seem realistic enough.  Audio quality is also fine and the soundtrack is intriguing.  Finally, the editing job is decent and overall rounds out an average production.  It certainly could have been better, but it could have also been worse.  However, there is not much we can say for the plot.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With a cheesy sci-fi premise that’s full of technological mumbo-jumbo and empty dialogue, Deceived tries to be creative and different, yet misses the mark badly.  There is far too much time wasted on petty conflicts and not enough time spent on character development.  While some of the characters could be interesting, we barely get to know them in the midst information dump dialogue and monologuing.  The Christian characters are too perfect while the non-Christian characters are too flawed.  There are also too many spiritual elements that come off as a bizarre in an attempt to bridge the horror genre.  The ending is quite confusing and seems like the writers just ran out of ideas.  In the end, this is a very disappointing story that could have been interesting.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With a cast made up of semi-professionals, these cast members have their good moments, but unfortunately, the bad moments outweigh the good.  There are too many overly dramatic and theatrical performances.  Emotions are hard to connect with.  In the end, they do not live up to their full potential.

Conclusion

The early 2000s era of Christian film had some noble attempts to bridge different genres Christian film had never bridged before, and John Patus and Cloud Ten Pictures were on the forefront of this attempt.  However, for the most part, these attempts did not fulfill their fullest potential and settled for half-measures, probably because the market was so thin then.  Much has happened since these films came out, but they can certainly serve as an example of how and how not to expand Christian film into unique genres.  Yesterday’s disappointments can certainly be remedied in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Between the Walls [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Peter King’s parents die, he is tasked with going through their possessions before the house is foreclosed on.  However, in the midst of sorting through things that remind him of his strained relationship with his father, Peter stumbles upon a secret room he was never allowed to enter as a child.  Inside he finds a myriad of audio recordings his father secretly recorded in this childhood.  As Peter wrestles with anger and bitterness towards his father, he will have to come to grips with the faith he was always taught.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, this production begins very rough, with a dizzying opening sequence and shaky camera work.  There are also some odd camera angles and poor lighting at first.  Audio quality also has a tough start, with loud sound effects and a very random soundtrack that is sometimes good and sometimes not.  There is basically only one set, but it is used to its fullest potential.  Yet despite this raw beginning, the production overall improves as the movie goes on, as if the first part was just a demo reel they forgot to fix in post.  The improvement begs the question why they couldn’t go back over the first part, but there is improvement nonetheless in all production areas.  In the end, it would have been nice to see the entire movie look like the second half, but the production becomes average when all is said and done.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Despite the odd comments and asides and typical remembrance dialogue that is something wooden and empty, the story of Between the Walls highlights some interesting and unfortunately not too unrealistic family issues unfortunately too many can relate to.  Though there are a lot of nothing scenes and unnecessary attempts to be creepy, there are some interesting plot twists that make this story worthwhile.  Since there are few characters, we would have liked to see them developed a little bit deeper, but they are adequate as they are due to the unique and creative use of flashbacks and psychological elements.  Sometimes the messaging can be a bit heavy-handed, but the plot overall carries an effective Christian message that is actually meaningful and accessible.  This is an above average plot, but imagine how much better it could have been with better funding.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this ‘amateur’ cast is sometimes overly practiced and robotic, their performances improve as the movie goes on.  Emotions tend to be immature at first but improve throughout the runtime.  They are a small cast, but demonstrate a lot of potential.  They executed the multi-level flashbacks where some casts would have failed.  In the end, this is another average section.

Conclusion

We can’t help but feel that Between the Walls left a lot of untapped potential on the proverbial field, even though there were plenty of intriguing elements included.  We really wish it could have been Hall of Fame, yet it needed better funding and plot refining in order to achieve this.  Nonetheless, this film is an example of what a raw, underfunded Christian project should look like: demonstrable creativity that makes the most of what is available.  We hope that the Staron brothers have plans in the future to continue their film making careers, because they definitely have something to offer.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points