The Man Who Went to Heaven (Movie Review)

Watch The Man Who Went To Heaven | Prime Video

Plot Summary

When David Burrows is fatally shot in the line of duty as a security guard, he is rushed to the hospital but medically dies. However, David comes back from the other side with a wild story to tell. Will anyone believe his experiences in the afterlife?

Production Quality (1 point)

This film contains another sub-pair production due to shaky camera work and inconsistent audio quality that includes loud sound effects and background sounds as well as a stupid free soundtrack. There are also some very tight shots and terrible special effects. Nonetheless, this section is kept from being worse by fine video quality and acceptable sets, props, and locations. Thus, a meager score is awarded here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In a generally off-the-wall storytelling style, this narrative is full of mindless sequences that don’t accomplish anything. The writers managed to squeeze content out of nothing and filled the runtime with total nonsense as the plot jumps all over the place. Thus, it’s very difficult to keep up with the timelines. Dialogue is ridiculous obvious, and the overt message-pushing produces blank characters. There are also too many characters in general. There is no focus or purpose in this story, and there is a bizarre tone that overshadows everything. In the end, with no notable potential, zero points is the appropriate rating for this aspect of the film.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting of The Man Who Went to Heaven is not horrible. However, this doesn’t mean that the performances are any more than generic and average. Line delivery and emotions are okay but not dynamic. Therefore, an average scored is awarded here.

Conclusion

At this point, it’s painfully clear that the JC Films team will continue to pump out random screenplays however they can. It’s commendable to base movies on source material, but the JC Films model just isn’t the way. Thus, there’s nothing further to say here as constructive criticism has no effect on this team’s choices.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Coronavirus: Perfect Storm (Movie Review)

Coronavirus: Perfect Storm (2020) - IMDb

Plot Summary

When a seeming miracles happens during a tornado in West Virginia, a New York reporter is compelled to brave the COVID-19 pandemic to get the scoop. However, what he finds there isn’t what he expected. The reporter will have to come face-to-face with what he truly believes about the afterlife.

Production Quality (0 points)

Between awful special effects and terrible audio quality, this production is a drag on the viewing experience. Loud background sounds, echoes, and annoying special effects are also problematic. Shaky camera work and tight shots are disorienting, and the lighting and video quality are inconsistent. Further, choppy editing ruins things, so all of these factors contribute to a score of zero for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This nonsensical narrative is very trippy and confusing to the audience. The subplots are pointless and empty due to mindless dialogue and meandering conversations. Cardboard-cutout characters are impossible to connect with, and these characters are tossed along in a bizarre story-within-a-story twist that is very mind-bending and generally weird. Wacky afterlife theology is also laced throughout this strange tale. In general, this section contains a lot of outlandish content that contains no potential and thus yields no points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

To top everything else off, the acting in Coronavirus: Perfect Storm is uninspiring. However, the performances are not all bad as they are more vanilla than terrible. There is nothing majorly positive nor negative in this section whether it relates to emotions or line delivery. Thus, with just one point, this aspect of the film is the highest rated.

Conclusion

The JC Films team has also proven that they are willing to make a screenplay about anything in an attempt to harvest quick cash with little upfront investment. This movie is no exception to this tendency. Thus, with no end in sight to this nonsense, there’s little else to say here.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Gimme Shelter [2013] (Movie Review)

Gimme Shelter,' movie review - New York Daily News

Plot Summary

Agnes Bailey, who goes by Apple, was raised in a terrible environment. Thus, after Apple finds out that she’s pregnant, she decides to make a run for it away from her drug-addicted mother. Apple tries to find her long-lost father, who lives in an affluent area. However, Apple will have to wrestle with the demons of her past before she can find true rest.

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, this production is a mixed bag. There is some shaky camera work and inconsistent lighting. However, video quality is fine, and the audio is mostly acceptable. The soundtrack is intriguing even if there are background sounds at times. As a while, sets, locations, and props are realistic, and editing is acceptable. All production elements do improve with time, so this section does enough to receive an above-average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Gimme Shelter is an authentic look at real struggles that is sometimes a bit too raw. There are one too many instances of course language and edgy content, and the first half of the narrative meanders before finding a footing. It’s good that the writers refrained from an overly preachy Christian message, but more redemptive themes would have been preferred. Nonetheless, the characters and dialogue are still very believable even if some sequences are wasted and unnecessarily drawn-out. More meaningful flashbacks could have fleshed out the plot and helped it avoid so much telling. As it is, the stream-of-consciousness storytelling style sometimes works and sometimes does not. The narrative needs a more central focus and stronger themes, but the realistic look at life is refreshing. Thus, an average score is warranted for this section.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Despite previous shortcomings, the acting is the strongest point of Gimme Shelter. The performances therein are very solid with no discernable errors. Emotions and line delivery are on point. This rounds out an overall above-average film.

Conclusion

At the time, Gimme Shelter stood apart from other quasi-Christian screenplays that were being released in the 2010s. This movie was almost too authentic and shocking, and there are quite a few rough edges in Gimme Shelter. Nonetheless, perhaps the most significant element that held this film back from being all that it could have been was its lack of plot focus and organization. The writers relied too heavily on the gritty aspects and forgot the keep the audience engaged with the characters. Thus, this creation serves as a warning for future projects of this caliber.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

To the Ends of the Earth [2018] (Movie Review)

Watch To The Ends of the Earth | Prime Video

Plot Summary

When the Apostle Paul went to Philippi, this was the first time that the gospel of Jesus Christ had reached the continent of Europe. However, Paul faced much opposition and many trials in his mission to follow the Lord’s calling. Nonetheless, his obedience changed countless generations to come.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although video quality is fine and the soundtrack is culturally sensitive, dizzying camera work and confusing special effects hold the production back from being what it could have been. Sets, locations, and props are great, but sound effects are poor. Further, editing is inconsistent, which goes with the overall theme of this production being a mixed bag. Thus, an average scored is granted here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While it’s commendable that the writers of this narrative focused on one short aspect of Paul’s ministry, the apostle himself is too perfect of a character, which means that it’s hard to relate to him as a person. Also, demonic elements are too sensational as too much time is spent on dark spirituality. Elsewhere, the story presentation is confusing since it makes the progression of events very unclear. Most of the characters are inaccessible and hard to connect with due to procedural dialogue. Unfortunately, although this plot could have been interesting, it doesn’t offer any potential because attention is given to all the wrong things.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though the casting is sometimes culturally authentic, this is not always the case. Nonetheless, the actors and actresses make some good attempts at accents. Sometimes, the acting is believable while other times, the performances are too theatrical and stoic. Emotions and line delivery can be a bit uneven at times. Unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good in this section, which leads to a sub-par score.

Conclusion

Period pieces about well-known Bible characters are very difficult to effectively execute. There are many moving parts and small details that are easy to get wrong. As a whole, it seems like that the creators of To the Ends of the Earth had the right motives but not always the correct philosophy. Unfortunately, there are just too many pitfalls in this screenplay that kept it in the basement of Christian entertainment.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Don’t Give Up [2021] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Amy Samuel is drowning in depression due to everything that’s happened to her in life. She just wants to give up and leave her life behind. However, a set of circumstances prevents her from ending it all. As a result, Amy is forced to face her past in order to pick up the pieces and move on.

Production Quality (1 point)

Despite this production having fine video quality and okay camera work, there are a number of concerns to contend with. For instance, the audio is quite bad, including background echoes and a loud soundtrack. Special effects are very cheap. Also, sets, locations, and props are a bit limited. Further, editing is quite choppy. Thus, these missteps all lead to another below-average production for JC Films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Although the narrative is based on a true story, Don’t Give Up is a train-wreck of a film. Voiceover bridges time gaps and guides the viewer through the plot in a very heavy-handed manner. Sensationalism crowds out interesting psychological elements that provide the story with a small amount of potential. Some content is unnecessarily edgy, and expository dialogue short-circuits the sliver of potential that the characters had. Implied off-screen content makes for a confusing watch, and too many elements are unexplained as it seems like that the writers expected the audience to read a lot into various things. The time jumps create vacuums of information and a general atmosphere of random ideas being strung together with no clear focus or purpose. The flashbacks are slightly interesting since they make attempts to establish character motives, but the protagonist is fixed way too easily. It’s implied that getting saved will automatically fix clinical depression, and the story has a generally rushed conclusion. Therefore, though there is some potential in this section, only a small score can be awarded.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the acting in this screenplay is average despite the fact that the performances are just average. Some cast members are way too dramatic in their acting, but they are balanced out by other cast members who are more even-keeled. Line deliver is mostly okay throughout the movie although some emotions are forced. While better coaching was definitely in order here, the performances overall improve with time. However, this section’s rating isn’t enough to save the movie from itself.

Conclusion

It’s commendable that Jason Campbell and his team continue to make films that are based on true stories. However, their flooding-the-market approach is still a detriment to Christian entertainment. Other production companies have tried this method in the past but have ultimately failed. At this rate, it’s hard to see how JC Films doesn’t end up with the same fate.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

The Furance [2019] (Movie Review)

Coming Soon: Darrell Roodt's Award Nominated Film, 'The Furnace' (2019) -  PopHorror

Plot Summary

Mary and Matt are recently married, and for their honeymoon, they want to complete The Furnace together, which is the most treacherous race in Africa. However, Matt’s untimely death delays these plans and sends Mary into a tailspin. Injured from the car accident that took her husband’s life, Mary feels like giving up until she meets a man who inspires her to fight. Then, Mary finds her second wind and decides to compete in The Furnace to prove that she can move on.

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the production of The Furnace is acceptable, including good video quality and an intriguing soundtrack. Other audio elements are also fine, but the visual special effects are quite poor. There are also some instances of shaky camera work for dramatic effect that become disorienting. However, sets, locations, and props are very professional. To round things out, the editing is fairly choppy, but some of this could be due to narrative presentation problems. Therefore, taking all this into account, this production section receives an above-average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The plot of The Furnace is all over the map and is mostly disorienting to the audience. The writers were clearly trying very hard to be mysterious and artistic in their story presentation, but this approach causes many scenes to go way over the viewers’ heads. Very abstract and ethereal at times, the narrative is difficult to follow as it jumps all over the place, full of coincidences and convenient turns that suit the creators’ means. Certain portions are rushed through with montages and time jumps, thus short-circuiting character development. It’s impossible to relate to the people in this plot due to the breakneck speed of the film. Expository dialogue fills in that gaps that are left by the time jumps, and many conversations are unsubstantial. Some parts feels like a dream sequence and carry a very odd tone that’s impossible to quantify. Despite some very interesting concepts that are not fully explored, there are realism errors in this screenplay, such as medical problems that are solved too easily and other lapses in logic. There’s actually a very good theme at the end of the movie, but not many audience members will make it that car. The writers tried to create big, pivotal moments, but these fall flat due to empty characters and lack of proper setup. Thus, only a meager rating can be offered here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, all throughout The Furnace, there are many instances of over-acting. Emotions are often too dramatic and overdriven to the point of being offensive. However, line delivery is mostly acceptable, and all performances improve as the film goes on. Some cast members are better than others. Hence, an average score is awarded for this section.

Conclusion

Many screenwriters mean well but lack proper execution in their offerings. However, in the case of The Furnace, it’s very unclear what the creators actually wanted to convey. The production, story, and acting are all over the map, making for a confusing viewing experience. In the end, this screenplay is an example of why proper planning is vital to the success of a movie.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Cries of the Unborn (Movie Review)

Watch Cries of the Unborn | Prime Video

Plot Summary

In a sequel to The Life Zone, which nobody cared to remember, much less watch a sequel about, the horrific nonsense of the first installment is rehashed as a completely new cast of characters decides the fate of the perpetrators from the first film. These new characters form a jury who’s tasked with determining the innocence or guilt of the alleged criminals. In order for this movie to have a “plot,” one juror inexplicably thinks that the evil corporation that imprisoned three pregnant women is somehow innocent of all transgressions. She spends the entire screenplay trying to convince others, including the audience, of this fact. What ensues is a slow descent into madness that will leave you wondering how this garbage gets made.

Production Quality (-3 points)

Much like this film’s awful predecessor, Cries of the Unborn has an extremely cheap production that’s negatively impacted by other elements. Lighting and audio are quite poor, and the soundtrack is creepy. Sets, locations, and props are extremely limited. There really isn’t any editing present, and any aspects of the production that aren’t bad are washed away by all the other problems that are in this screenplay.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)

How is it even possible that there was enough money to make two of these terrible movies? To self-indulge in their first creation, the writers use Cries of the Unborn to provide a bizarre commentary on The Life Zone. Doing this requires the narrative to lead the audience in one direction, only to pull out a double fake twist at the end. As a result, the plot is completely mind-bending and out-of-this-world insane, essentially presenting a demented defense of the events that took place in The Life Zone. There are so many rehashed scenes from the first film that Cries of the Unborn feels like a sick director’s commentary on The Life Zone where the creators are speaking through the characters to lecture you on why you shouldn’t hate their utter madness. Contrived dialogue and trumped-up situations force propaganda down the viewers’ throats, including a very twisted obsession with eternal punishment for certain sins that the writers deem ‘worse’ than others. In the end, the awful nature of this section drags the entire creation down to the lowest level.

Acting Quality (-3 points)

On the whole, the acting in Cries of the Unborn is uninspiring. However, this section is overwhelmed by the sheer nonsense that overtakes the entire screenplay. When a central idea is this bad, it infects every section of the movie, causing an overall negative rating.

Conclusion

Additionally, this film receives a negative x-factor point for being offensive and for pushing toxic propaganda on the audience. It’s rare that film creators fail so hard that they produce two screenplays that each receive the lowest score possible from our ratings system. This is a feat that has never been previously recorded in our experience with the field of Christian entertainment. It goes without saying that both The Life Zone and Cries of the Unborn are among the worst movies ever created, and the views espoused by these films have no place among Christianity. If the pro-life movement is to ever be effective, it must dispense with poison like these two creations and actually care about every person like Jesus does.

Final Rating: -10 out of 10 points

The Life Zone (Movie Review)

The Life Zone' Review | From the Mind of Victor Lovecraft Anderson

Plot Summary

Three pregnant women, who each intended to have abortions, are kidnapped by a powerful and creepy corporation that’s bent on forcing its pro-life agenda onto people. This unethical company intends to hold the three women captive until they deliver their unborn children. While they wait, the women are forced to explore their pasts and understand what led them to their choices. With a premise as bad as this, you can’t even imagine how strange things get.

Production Quality (-3 points)

The Life Zone is truly a creation to behold for all the wrong reasons, starting with its extremely cheap production. Poor lighting and bad audio quality make for an obnoxious experience. The soundtrack is creepy, and the sets, locations, and props are cheap and limited. Editing is choppy, and while some small aspects of the production are slightly acceptable, this section is overall negatively impacted by other elements of the film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)

Words can hardly explain how awful this screenplay is. It’s hard to believe that this plot is so honest about the radical extremist wing of the pro-life movement. The Life Zone could be a dark parody if it weren’t so propaganda-heavy and full of bizarre sequences. Tossing all conventional movie procedures aside, such as meaningful dialogue and developed characters, The Life Zone elects to take a very demented turn down some of the less-traveled alleyways of Christian culture that many don’t dare to discuss. Instead of beating around the bush, this story fully embraces a warped view of the life issue to the point that the writers are unashamedly pro-baby and anti-mother rather than being an advocate for all life, born and unborn. Dominated with extraneous documentary content that attempts to brainwash the audience, this narrative is basically a slow descent into madness. Once The Life Zone reaches its climax, which is a very sick twist ending, it becomes clear what the creators’ agenda was: demonize everyone who’s ever had an abortion. Supporting the kidnapping of pregnant women so that they can be forced to deliver their babies is a very demented idea that has absolutely no place in Christian entertainment, which is why the negative ratings fill up this review.

Acting Quality (-3 points)

Much like the other aspects of this film, the acting is quite bad. Emotions are very strained while lines are forced and unnatural. Many cast members over-act and try way too hard to be convincing. Similar to the production, this section is negatively effected by the other horrible elements of the screenplay, which gives another negative score here.

Conclusion

Additionally, The Life Zone receives a negative x-factor point for being offensive propaganda that pushes a toxic agenda. There is literally zero justification for making a movie like this. If the pro-life movement is to defend the philosophies of this film, these activists are further gone than expected. This screenplay is the epitome of why the pro-life movement in America has not been fully successful over the past few decades. All that can be learned here is how not to do it, but such a movie can also prompt us to examine the purpose of our activism to see if we actually care about all people or just some.

Final Rating: -10 out of 10 points

Timbertown (Movie Review)

Timbertown (2019) | Trailer | Eleanor Brown | Cory Kays | Adam Dufour -  YouTube

Plot Summary

There’s a murder mystery among the people of Timbertown, but most are too busy to care. However, when a logger accidentally discovers the body, an ambitious Natural Resources officer takes it upon himself to solve the case. Doing such leads him to unexpected places, and each character must determine how they will find purpose in a life that is sometimes meaningless.

Production Quality (2 points)

Timbertown has an acceptable production as a whole since it lacks glaring errors. Despite some inconsistent camera work, video quality and audio quality are on par with industry standards. The soundtrack is intriguing, and sets, props, and locations are authentic. Lighting is good, but there’s some lagging editing due to the nature of the story. Thus, in the end, an above-average rating is awarded to this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

In the beginning, Timbertown is quite boring and doesn’t accomplish very much, especially since a lot of the complicated dialogue doesn’t effectively build characters. In the first half of the plot, it’s hard to understand the point as it’s based on a vague idea that isn’t fully fleshed out. After wasting some time, the narrative suddenly changes into an anthology as if it’s a series. This element of the film is interesting because it lets the audience see the same scenes from other characters’ perspectives, thus fleshing them out and bringing more clarity to the situations. However, despite this creative aspect, the story is still a partial idea that lacks deep enough characters to carry the plot when the viewer is confused. In the final third of the movie, there’s actually a really good montage that lets the audience know the entire purpose of the screenplay, even if it’s a little too late. Working backwards to get to this point was commendable, but it left the viewer uninterested in the stakes, which begs the need for a better hook. The characters have tons of potential to be gray rather than black-and-white, so they just needed more development to fully achieve the goals that the writers had. Thus, with a good amount of prospect that wasn’t completely fleshed out, this aspect of the film receives one point.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the acting in Timbertown is either average or slightly better. Some cast members are better and worse than others. As a while, line delivery and emotions are believable and on-point. The positive aspects, combined with the fact that some elements could be better, leads to a slightly above-average score for this section.

Conclusion

The core concept of this film would have worked much better as a series that involved more content and collaboration. Nonetheless, the creative team behind this movie has massive potential for the future as they could expand the long-neglected genre of suspense mystery in Christian entertainment. We need more faith-based mysterious that are actually engaging and unpredictable. Perhaps these creators can do this in the future.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

The Wager [2020] (Movie Review)

The Wager (2020) | Trailer | Cameron Arnett | Jim Gloyd | Bishop Stevens |  Ty Sheldon | John Wells - YouTube

Plot Summary

When Brucie loses some kind of supernatural wager with a spiritual being, Brucie is allowed to retrace the steps of his life to see how it happened and how things could have been different. Through mind-bending and reality-defying methods, Brucie criss-crosses through time to see his life in hindsight. Will be able to make the right choice before it’s too late?

Production Quality (2 points)

As a whole, The Wager has a fairly good production despite a lot of loud background sounds. Even still, the soundtrack is very interesting and seems too advanced for this film. Lighting is a bit inconsistent, but video quality is stable throughout. Sets, locations, and props are on par, and editing is acceptable. Thus, this rounds out an above-average section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Despite interesting character backstories, very generic dialogue consistently overstates the obvious in this narrative, thus causing the characters to be too cardboard and generic. Very expository conversations leave nothing to chance, spoon-feeding the viewer with a very pushy Christian message. Random and disconnected scenes cause the plot to lack concrete themes or purposes; silly coincidences and convenient turns also make for a frustrating experience. Large time jumps confuse the audience, as do trippy psychological sequences that lack sense and only waste time. Although this movie is full of hit-and-miss story presentations due to a meandering, stream-of-consciousness narrative, there is actually a grain of potential somewhere in this screenplay. Aside from all the clutter, several key concepts that are explored in The Wager have the ability to be great. However, the film continually gets in its own way, so only a small score can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Although there are some good performances among this cast, many of the scenes come off as very scripted and overly practiced. Emotions and lines are a bit forced and stilted at times. However, Cameron Arnette is always a standout actor, and as a whole, all the cast members improve with time. Thus, this is enough to warrant an average rating in this section.

Conclusion

In the end, The Wager is full of wasted ideas that need restructuring and repackaging. It’s clear that this creative team wanted to go in a certain direction, but they forgot to let the viewers in on where the movie was actually headed. Mind-bending psychological trips don’t exactly engage the audience or help the watcher connect with the characters. Therefore, this screenplay is an opportunity for the creators to reflect on what they want to convey in the context of film and apply these findings to future projects.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Worm [2007] (Movie Review)

Worm | Pure Flix

Plot Summary

Adam was one of the cool kids in high school who didn’t want anything to do with Christianity. However, he’s forced to examine the faith when people around him begin following Jesus. Nonetheless, Adam still wants nothing to do with Christ until it’s too late for him.

Production Quality (1 point)

Even though this production has okay video quality and camera work, the audio quality is quite weird, including loud sound effects, obvious overdubs, and a distorted soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props are average, but lighting is inconsistent. Editing is also passable, but there are too many concerns to award this section more than one point.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

It seems like that the entire purpose of this plot is to try to scare people into becoming Christians, which is a ridiculous tactic. The message-pushing is extremely obvious and doesn’t allow the audience to decide anything for themselves. The narrative is full of expository conversations and manufactured dialogue that make for cheesy characters, including absurd strawmen non-Christians and overly perfect Christians. There’s also quite a bit of talk about off-screen happenings as well as mindless sequences that accomplish nothing. The story concludes in a very dark way, and due to the propaganda nature of this film, this section has to receive a negative point.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, this section doesn’t yield any positive results either as most of the performances seem overly staged. Line delivery is unnatural and overly practiced, and it makes matters worse that the cast members frequently talk over the top of one another. Further, emotions are mechanical, rounding out a zero-potential effort.

Conclusion

We’ve said it before and will say it again: propaganda screenplays always fail. There’s just no potential in them. Setting off to push an agenda on the audience is always the wrong motive, and it will be inevitably exposed. There’s simply no sense in contributing this sort of garbage to the market.

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

Lucy Shimmers and the Prince of Peace (Movie Review)

Lucy Shimmers and the Prince of Peace | 2020 | Scarlett Diamond, Vincent  Vargas, Adam Hightower - YouTube

Plot Summary

Lucy Shimmers is dying of a terminal illness, and her parents are at a loss. Nonetheless, Lucy doesn’t view death as the end and wants to do everything she can do to make the most of her short time left. Thus, she decides to follow the dreams that she believes God has given her and reach out to other patients at the hospital, even those no one else cares about.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

This film’s strongest area is its professional production, which is demonstrated by great video quality, camera work, and use of sets, locations, and props. The audio quality is acceptable despite a generic soundtrack and some loud background sounds. Similarly, the editing is good although there are a few minor continuity errors. In the end, however, these concerns are small and don’t prevent a high score from being awarded here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The plot Lucy Shimmers is actually based on some fairly authentic characters who are built via intriguing dialogue and conversations, but this area could still be deeper than it is. One detracting aspects is the unusual magical elements of communicating with dead people, which the narrative relies on when it needs to. Also, the story seems to kick the proverbial can down the road trying to get to a certain point by spending time on wasteful montages rather than developing the characters further. This inefficient use of scenes is only compounded by some unrealistic HIPAA violations and ‘bad’ characters who seem too vindictive for no reason. Other implausible occurrences happen just because the writers want them to, and some character actions need better justification besides the desire to reach predetermined conclusion. As a whole, the plot seems to become more unrealistic as it goes, leading to a rushed finish that’s almost interesting because it’s different. Nonetheless, it leaves too many unanswered questions and wastes the potential that this movie had to present an out-of-the-box idea using mostly accessible characters and their struggles. Therefore, with some small positive that’s short-circuited by a lot of unforced errors, only a small score is warranted here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As a whole, the acting in Lucy Shimmers is above average. Despite slightly muted emotions, the line delivery is believable. Some performances seem overly practiced, but others are spot-on. The acting tends to improve with time, allowing the positive to outweigh the negative and warrant a good rating for this section.

Conclusion

Screenplays like this one clearly mean well and want to offer an authentic message. However, with the market being saturated with these types of films, it’s hard for new ones to make an impact. Because of this overcrowded genre, movies like Lucy Shimmers have to go above and beyond to set themselves apart, which can be done through deep character development. Only then will they be able to truly make a difference.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

The Greatest Gift Ever Given (Movie Review)

The Greatest Gift Ever Given (2020) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Paul Hanson just wants to close a business deal before Christmas so that he can make the money that his family needs. However, one thing after another begins to go wrong on his business trip, and Paul becomes more and more angry at God. He’ll have to rediscover the true meaning of Christmas in order to move forward with his life.

Production Quality (1 point)

Like we’ve said many times in the past, poor production quality is no longer acceptable in 2020. However, The Greatest Gift Ever Given has this same problem. Though camera work and video quality are fine, audio quality is consistent. One example of this is the never-ending cheap soundtrack that rarely fits the situation. Elsewhere, sets and props don’t adequately represent what they’re supposed to portray, and locations are generally cheap and limited. Further, there’s basically no editing, which rounds out an overall underwhelming effort in this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Despite being a relatively short movie, many of the narrative’s conversations repeat over and over again like the writers just wanted to fill time with copied statements. Generic boring sequences waste time, and riveting activities of daily living bore the audience. Due to bland and unoriginal dialogue, characters lack substance or depth, swept along in a plot that makes things unnaturally happen because the creators want them to. However, despite these problems that make the story’s first half seem useless and cause the viewers to lose interest, some interesting concepts introduced in the second half, which is too late. This creates wasted potential because there was something good here that could have been further explored if done the right way. The plot’s writers obviously meant well but needed a lot of guidance on follow-through and presentation. Thus, despite some slight positive, the negative drags down this section too much to warrant any points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

As a whole, the acting in this film is vanilla. Sometimes, the cast members try too hard, but they are otherwise very regular and standard in their performances. Line delivery and emotions are a bit uneven and unsure at times, and some scenes feel very staged, but it’s not all bad. There are a handful of positive moments that keep this section above water.

Conclusion

It’s evident that this movie’s creators really meant well and had a pretty good message to offer. However, this is never enough. It’s easier to write than to make a full screenplay that’s quality. Perhaps a short film would have been a better option for The Greatest Gift Ever Given since this would have reduced the budget and provided better focus for the main ideas.

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

The God Cafe (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: the God café: Steve Brown, Joe Herrera, Jorge Diaz, Clint  Patterson

Plot Summary

When a worship pastor is facing a crisis in his marriage and his career, he feels like he’s at the end of his rope. The minister wonders if his faith is even real, which is why he’s suddenly visited by mysterious men who claim to be from history. They show the pastor what the true meaning of Christmas is, but the minister will have to decide for himself.

Production Quality (.5 point)

Starting off with odd lighting and tinted filtering, the production quality of The God Cafe is quite low. Cheap special effects and overlays clutter the viewing experience despite acceptable video quality. Sub-par audio is accompanied by a generic soundtrack. Limited sets, locations, and props are supplemented by embarrassing fake backgrounds, and some odd camera angles further contribute to this section’s problems. Additionally, the editing is marred by sudden and abrupt flashes and transitions, which disorients the audience. In the end, only a very meager score can be awarded here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Despite the fact that this plot is centered around the inherent problems with celebrity worship pastors (a pertinent discussion that needs to be had), it’s unclear why certain apostles from church history have to visit the protagonist to clear things up. What’s more, the story is frequently interrupted with random, out-of-context songs just because it’s a Christmas musical, I guess. Dialogue is basically a general regurgitation of Bible reading, making the story a long informational diatribe. As such, character development is thrown out the window in favor of a constant stream of facts and references to offscreen content. In the end, besides being a an alternate redux of The Perfect Gift, The God Cafe accomplishes next to nothing, which is the reasoning for zero points in this section.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Between forceful line delivery and manufactured emotions, this section is overall subpar. It seems the cast members are trying to be too interesting, which just comes off as annoying. As a whole, the performances are too theatrical, but there are some bright spots that keep the acting from being a total loss. The amount of positive is enough to warrant a point in this area.

Conclusion

Films like The God Cafe don’t even begin with a sound plot structure, just a vague idea that could be interesting. This isn’t sufficient for a Christian movie, so it’s long past time for collaboration to be the norm in the field. No one can make a movie on their own, and everyone has different talents to bring to the table. If God wants you to make a screenplay, He’ll supply the team and the resources that you need, so you don’t have to try to force more films to happen that will likely fail.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Our Father’s Keeper (Movie Review)

Our Father's Keeper (2020) - IMDb

Plot Summary

When David Roberts is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, the entire family is forced to adjust. Two of his sons are at odds with each other due to the fact that one of them has a checkered past. David’s wife is forced to take a job to make ends meet. Thus, the already-strained family is pushed to the limit when David suddenly goes missing just before Thanksgiving. This forces the family to work together in order to find David before it’s too late.

Production Quality (2 points)

In keeping with the recent trends of Christian entertainment, Our Father’s Keeper has a professional production quality. This is shown by good video quality and camera work. The soundtrack is a bit generic, however, and the audio has some moments that could be better. Nonetheless, sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized. Perhaps this section’s biggest downfall is its choppy editing, which includes premature cutoffs and abrupt transitions. Moreover, despite the negatives, this production does enough to warrant an above-average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This film presents a very very intriguing story of the mental decline that can come about due to Alzheimer’s disease. It contains fairly realistic and accessible characters who are based on average or better dialogue. Many of them have, at minimum, partially developed personalities and motivations. However, at times, the narrative gets side-tracked on useless tangents, such as one too many side characters. Despite its creative undertones, the plot needs more fleshing out for tighter story telling. Elsewhere, there’s good subtle Christian messaging that restrains itself from being either heavy-handed or vague, but the main themes, which are very thought-provoking, come up a bit late in the game. At times, things occur that are too convenient for where the writers are trying to steer the story, and some scenes tend to fill time instead of doing something useful. This leads to a slightly rushed ending that tries to fix problems without good explanations, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that there’s plenty of potential in this screenplay.

Acting Quality (2 points)

One of this movie’s highlights is an excellent portrayal of tragic mental decline through the mode of acting. This is very difficult to pull off without being cheesy, but Craig Lindquist does well with this. While some cast members try too hard to force lines and emotions, most of them are either average or good in their performances. Despite inconsistent makeup work, there are many bright spots in this section that garner an above-average score.

Conclusion

Our Father’s Keeper is another film that needs a remake because of its high bar of potential that wasn’t adequately met. The raw creativity of this narrative was enough to set it apart from the run-of-the-mill noise with Christian entertainment, but a handful of errors kept it from being all that it could have been. Hopefully, in the coming days, this type of movie will be the worst that the Christian market has to offer. We look forward to seeing what this production team has planned next.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Denounced: Rise of the Horsemen (Movie Review)

Watch Denounced: Rise of the Horsemen | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Paul loved his family, but they were Christians while he wasn’t. Thus, when they were taken in the rapture, he was left behind to face an ever-darkening world. Becoming a violent hater of God, Paul joins the ruthless government agency known as the Horsemen, who stamp out any traces of Christianity left on the earth. However, when they turn on Paul, he’s forced to face the reality he’s been trying to avoid.

Production Quality (0 points)

From the get-go, Denounced exhibits very disorienting and off-putting audio quality that’s sometimes overdriven, and although the soundtrack can be interesting at times, it’s often too loud. Camera work is very inconsistent, and despite clear video quality, the lighting is all over the place. The same can be said for the cheap sets, locations, and props as they don’t adequately represent what they’re supposed to portray. Special effects and sound effects are annoying, and weird zooms and camera angles confuse the audience. The editing is a disaster, sometimes wasting time on nature footage that accomplishes nothing and others times letting scenes drag on for no reason at all. Needless to say, there’s too much negative in this section to warrant any points.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In keeping with most apocalyptic films, as soon as the rapture happens in Denounced, everything in the world starts falling apart and melting down for no reason. How are supposed to be believe so many instant natural disaster occur in succession? Besides this, it’s hard to follow the movie’s storyline since it jumps from one thing to the next, vaguely constructing the world with cryptic dialogue. Despite okay attempts at flashbacks, they’re too heavy-handed and narrated, and other conversations don’t do enough to build characters. Long boring sequences go by wherein nothing really happens and no one talks. Then, these give way to scenes of unnecessarily extreme and sometimes gross violence even though they’re accompanied by some slightly interesting plot turns that give better understanding to what the writers wanted to do. Nonetheless, it’s just too little too late as some potential as wasted that could have been better presented in a short film. This concept simply demands too much funding and planning than was put into this screenplay, but it’s a shame that the imperfect character outlines weren’t fully fleshed out and were instead replaced with excessive torture scenes. Also, to make things even more complicated, the ending of Denounced is very confusing as it seems to negate everything that happened in the narrative. Due to all these concerns, zero points are also awarded here.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The acting performances of this movie are less than inspiring, including a lot of yelling and screaming. As such, most emotions are quite forced. Lines are also mumbled, and there’s generally not any positive here to offset the negative, which rounds out a zero-point effort.

Conclusion

Did we really need another apocalyptic film? This rapture-succeeded-by-worldwide-dystopia song and dance has been done time and again, and it basically never works. Then, as if the premise didn’t already short-circuit potential, all other movie elements are very low quality. Denounced is a classic example of biting off more than you can chew and pushing forward to make something without proper planning. We’re long past the era where any random piece of Christian entertainment is going to be embraced.

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

Heavenquest: A Pilgrim’s Progress (Movie Review)

4 Things to Know about Heavenquest: A Pilgrim's Progress

Plot Summary

Vangel was a judge in the Kingdom of the South, but when he was wrongly accused of treason against the king he worked for, Vangel is sent for punishment. However, he escapes this fate and meets up with another fugitive; together, they run into a mysterious man named Elder who tells them that they can be set free if they make it to the Kingdom of the North. Through many perilous circumstances, they battle their way to freedom at all costs. Will they be able to cross the border before it’s too late?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, fantasy productions in Christian entertainment almost never fare well, and cheesy special effects combined with obvious CGI elements are usually the leading culprits. Heavenquest isn’t an exception to this tendency as its sets, locations, and props don’t adequately portray what they’re supposed to portray. Camera work is often shaky, especially in action scenes, and the film is replete with very trippy and dizzying sequences that confuse and overwhelm the viewer. Video quality is clear, but lighting is inconsistent. Despite an interesting soundtrack, it’s sometimes too loud. There are many quick cuts and transitions throughout, but there is actually some production improvement throughout, which is enough to grant an average score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

After completely dropping the audience in the middle of narrative nowhere, Heavenquest consistently introduces concepts that fly over the head of the viewer. These elements seem designed with purposeful vagueness even though they include intriguing psychological aspects and artistic perspectives. It seems like the writers were trying to tell something profound but never got around to explaining it. Nonetheless, it’s hard to follow the plot’s progression as random things happen. Some sequences are total wastes of time and accomplish nothing, only wasting valuable opportunities to develop accessible characters and help audiences understand what’s actually going on. As they are, the characters are difficult to connect with due to detached and cryptic dialogue although they have some potential. The villains are very cheesy and mainly serve to include unnecessary language and edgy content. Often, things in the story happen because they need to rather than naturally developing. Besides the disorienting nature of the movie, its allegory seems a bit off at times and not completely congruent with the faith. It seems to adopt unusual theological stances, and its flat ending leaves everyone empty-handed. Thus, no points can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Some acting in Heavenquest is acceptable, but for the most part, the villain cast members post over-the-top performances. A portion of the acting seems unsure or awkward while other parts demonstrate overly practiced emotional and line delivery. Further, makeup isn’t all that it could be, which rounds out an overall average section.

Conclusion

This film joins other similar ones (such as The Adventures of Chris Fable and Heaven’s War) in presenting poorly constructed CGI fantasies. Relying too much on visual effects and allowing the storyline to fall by the wayside, Heavenquest‘s creators either never figured out why they wanted to make this movie or never properly communicated this. After all the hype surrounding the movie, Christian audiences were left with another disappointment that will contribute to the growing discontent with the field. Hopefully, however, future offerings won’t commit the same errors.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Adam’s Testament (Movie Review)

Adam's Testament (2017)

Plot Summary

Joseph Gable is a police detective with a troubled past, but he never gives up trying to bring his son Adam back to the faith they once both had. However, a creepy businessman has come to city and seems to have some kind of magical hold over Adam, along with others in the area. Thankfully, there’s some ninja angels in the neighborhood who can help Joseph fight the forces of evil and take back his son!

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Despite acceptable video quality and camera work except for some randomly shaky moments, there are a lot of dark scenes throughout this production. The soundtrack is interesting, but audio quality is inconsistent. Special effects are very cheesy, and there are several awkward fadeouts. Further, the editing is mostly average; there are also some improvements with various elements as the movie goes on, which is enough to warrant an average score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Besides the typically absurd spiritual horror premise, the dialogue of Adam’s Testament is very obvious and message-pushing, making the characters feel like mere representations of issues rather than actual people. Despite a few interesting psychological elements, the spiritual warfare aspects are not handled well at all as they are too heavy-handed, leaving nothing to chance. Flashbacks are present but fail to properly build character personality and motive. What’s more, the audience can easily become isolated by the world built in this narrative since it’s hard to know where or what is happening as too many concepts are thrown at the viewers. At times, the writers become lost in their own philosophizing and their obsession with portraying Satan as a cheesy figure with more power than he actually possesses. Further, legalism and the unusual elevation of angels pollute the storyline, and it all concludes on a very bizarre note that only muddies the already murky waters. In the end, there’s just too much negative here to warrant any points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Between forced emotions and line delivery, it’s clear that this cast was coached to as dramatic and serious as possible. Overall, the performances are trying too hard, and things only get worse as they go. Though some of acting is somewhat acceptable, it tends to get worse as it proceeds. Thus, one point is all that can be warranted here, which rounds out an overall absurd film.

Conclusion

Pretty much every spiritual horror screenplay in Christian entertainment history is a total bust. Adam’s Testament just falls into the already long line of awful offerings in this so-called genre. It seems like all these types of movies want to do is create a lot of sensationalism, using faith-based elements as props to reach a certain audience, whoever it may be. Thus, the next time a creator thinks about making one of these, they might should think twice and see if that’s what they’re actually supposed to do.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Switched [2020] (Movie Review)

New Movie Alert: Switched (Christian version of Freaky Friday):  ohnotheydidnt — LiveJournal

Plot Summary

Cassandra Evans is tired of being bullied by Katie Sharp, a popular social media figure in her school. One day, after a particularly bad episode of mistreatment, Cassandra prays that Katie will know what it’s like to walk in her shoes. Surprisingly, the next day, the two girls wake up having switched bodies with one another. The only way they’ll ever be able to get back to normal is to work together and learn how they need to change their old ways.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a 2020 film, Switched does what it has to do in the production category. Professionalism is showcased with great video quality, camera work, and audio quality. Despite a somewhat generic soundtrack, the sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-used. There are no negatives to point out in this section save for some slight editing concerns. Nonetheless, this isn’t enough to prevent a high score from being awarded.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In addition to the really worn-out concept of body switching, the heavy-handed and obvious dialogue does nothing to help matters. If you must use a derivative of this premise, the characters have to be good enough to showcase noticeable changes, but in Switched, this doesn’t happen. Although they aren’t the worst characters and actually have some potential, more time was needed prior to body switch to actually develop them as believable people. Some improvements are made to dialogue as the film goes on, and realistic high school issues are explored, albeit in slightly over-the-top ways, such as the cheesy portrayal of “bad kids.” It’s hard to see past the issues the characters are supposed to represent and relate to them as people. Also, the Christian messaging feels a bit forced and shoe-horned at times. Besides these problems, there’s an entire sub-category of errors that are created by the body switching elements, such as characters obviously acting inconsistent with their true selves without drawing suspicion from others. Some scenes defy logic when characters brush off the odd behavior of the central figures, and too many coincidences occur to make things happen that the plot wants to take place. Themes tend to get lost throughout the narrative, and a vague passage of time confuses the audience. Unfortunately, a good point made by the conclusion and a demonstration of how the two protagonists organically changed is washed over with mistakes and a convoluted story presentation. Hence, a small score is warranted here, but not much more.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

In a body switching screenplay, if it must exist, the reverse acting has to be really good. However, in Switched, this isn’t the case as everyone seems generic and carbon-copy in the movie’s first half. Nonetheless, the acting does tend to get better, at least in the areas of emotional and line delivery. For the most part, with a few exceptions, the cast members do the best they can with what they have, which earns this section an average score.

Conclusion

Mustard Seed Entertainment is usually so close to doing something good. Switched had a lot of potential within it, but it failed to attain all that it could have. Body switching aside, there are worthwhile messages in this film that deserve a platform: the one that isn’t too confusing or cheesy. For future success, this creative team might consider bringing in more talented screenwriters so that their resources can be used on more worthwhile stories.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

No Place in This World (Movie Review)

No Place in This World Movie Trailer | FlixHouse.com - YouTube

Plot Summary

Two girls are stuck in a bad home situation, and bullies at school only make matters worse. However, tragedy strikes when school officials and those close to the girls fail to act in time. Will the community be able to come together and prevent future crises?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although this production has fine video quality, the audio leaves much to be desired. Background sounds and cheap sound special effects are annoying, and the soundtrack sometimes overpowers other sounds. Camera work is okay at times, but there are also some tight shots and odd camera angles. Sets, locations, and props are not quite up to par. Further, the editing contains a lot of quick cuts and transitions. Nonetheless, there is some slight improvement throughout the film’s sequence, which is enough to warrant an average rating for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Despite a choppy introduction sequence and initial dialogue that pushes issues rather than developing characters, there’s a surprising amount of potential in this plot. At first, many of the characters seem to only represent social concerns rather than people even though most of the highlighted problems are definitely realistic and worthwhile to look at in movie form. However, the conversations between characters do improve as the narrative proceeds, and the family issues that are presented are unfortunately believable and could exist anywhere. Connecting these negative elements to school struggles was a very good aspect of this storyline despite the fact that it’s a very sobering exploration of everyday pain that many experience. It’s also a hard look at the problem of evil and the church’s response to this concept. In the end, the plot has a very meaningful conclusion even if it’s quite sad. In conjunction with the first half being improved, it would have been better for this narrative to end on a better note of hope and redemption. As it is, many audiences will be isolated by the ending, and this blunts any impact the story would have otherwise had.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite a bit too much screaming, most of the cast members are okay in this screenplay. Child acting is not bad, and emotions outside of the yelling are acceptable. Some line delivery is a bit quick while other parts are fine. Overall, these factors contribute to an average score for this section, which rounds out a respectable effort.

Conclusion

No Place in This World is another film in need of a remake or adaptation. It’s an example of all we ask entertainment creators to do: put your best foot forward and see what God does. Though there were some definite areas in need to improvement, it’s clear that the team behind this movie were really trying to make something quality, so it will be interesting to see what they do next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Bible Collection: Genesis (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: Watch The Bible Collection: Genesis | Prime Video

Plot Summary

In the beginning, God created humans in His image, but they sinned against Him. After most of the world went against His purposes, He sent the Flood to judge them. Then, after the Deluge, humanity sought to rebuild, and they passed on the stories of the times before them by sharing the narratives with each other.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Surprisingly, Genesis boasts a respectable production. This is likely due to good funding even though it does contain a lot of stock footage. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all great, however. The soundtrack is very interesting, and the sets, locations, and props are well-used. The only minor concern is the editing, but it’s not enough to keep this section’s score from being quite high. Unfortunately, these good elements seem to go to waste.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

It’s hard to understand why Genesis isn’t some type of docu-drama or narrated Bible project as it’s almost entirely based on narration and voiceover. This experience is extremely artistic and even ethereal at times, which necessitates reading a lot into what’s being seen. There are basically no instances of dialogue or conversations, and many of the scenes are quite vague, barely representing what the narrator is talking about. Long sequences sometimes pass without any talking at all, so while it’s fine to be subtle, it’s also possible to be so discrete that there’s no point in viewing it. Such is the case in this “narrative.” Elsewhere, there are some odd inclusions of biblical accounts that hadn’t been yet written. Although it was an interesting idea to frame the first part of the Genesis story in the context of Noah, which is one of the main things keeping this section from being zero, this movie definitely does not cover the whole book. Further, this plot ends in a strangely abrupt way like they just ran out of ideas and cut it off. In the end, this is a unique yet mostly extraneous viewing experience.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Genesis strengthens its case by casting actors and actresses that are mostly culturally authentic. However, they hardly have any chance to exhibit their potential skills due to lack of opportunities to deliver actual lines. The small amount therein is passable albeit somewhat dramatic and theatrical. Overall, this section rounds out a rather mediocre effort.

Conclusion

It’s quite unclear what this “screenplay” was actually going for. If it was part of a larger plan, this is totally lost to the audience. Despite having some interesting possibilities at their fingertips, this film’s creators squandered an opportunity to do something creatively different. Unfortunately, Genesis just falls in line with lots of other un-engaging and ultimately forgettable Bible entertainment.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Diary of a Lunatic: Trew’s Calling (Movie Review)

Diary of a Lunatic (2017) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Trew doesn’t really like her life, but she lives with it anyway. She’s not interested in God, but when she wakes up one day to find that He wants her to do something for Him, she just wants Him to go away. However, He keeps pursuing her because He has something she wants to learn if she’ll ever listen. What Trew ultimately discovers is beyond her wildest dreams.

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, Trew’s Calling has a pretty good production. This is shown by good video quality and fine camera work. Sets, locations, and props are also professional. However, there are some annoying comedic zooms. Also, audio can be over-driven at times even if the soundtrack is acceptable. Further, editing tends to be choppy due to poor story structure. However, this is basically a standard production effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

It’s apparent that the plot of Diary of a Lunatic is meant to be purposely quirky and eccentric, which means it’s sometimes truly funny yet other times is either head-scratchingly bizarre or slightly sacrilegious. Some content seems a bit inappropriate and even somewhat blasphemous. A few aspects of the comedy and a handful of the themes are actually quite relatable and interesting, such as problems within the established church. However, there are still sequences that are extremely eyebrow-raising and appear to have no purpose or point whatsoever except to be purposely wacky and off-the-wall. The portrayal of God is odd at times but not all bad; some sequences are beyond explanation and seem totally out of place. The writers’ theology and beliefs seems to be very unusual and even borderline on new age philosophies. As a whole, the narrative is a giant mixed bag of potential combined with complete nonsense. Sometimes, the storyline pretends like it’s hiding a great secret that it never gets to. Its silly rushed conclusion and ending sequence are forced and basically fix everything without providing legitimate explanations for the stranger elements of the screenplay. In the end, if anything is to be salvaged from these ideas, they need a total rewrite in order to preserve the surprisingly worthwhile elements.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, the acting of this film is actually pretty good at times. However, it tends to be a bit over the top in some scenes despite some comedic elements. Emotions are forced at times yet other times are not. Line delivery is mostly even at times. As such, this section does enough to get above the average line.

Conclusion

With some worthwhile elements pulling Trew’s Calling in one direction and really bizarre aspects pulling it in the other direction, the movie’s score falls right in the middle of the scale. It’s very unclear what the screenwriters were going for except that they wanted to make a point about how organized Christianity often turns people away. However, this idea was packaged in such a wacky way because it feels like they just kept sticking random scenes together over time until they had a burgeoning screenplay. Also, it’s not like they just filled with vanilla content; many of the sequences are completely beyond explanation. As a whole, it feels like this movie had something going for it, but it gets completely lost in the shuffle of whatever vendetta this creative team had at the time.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

The Crossroads of Hunter Wilde (Movie Review)

The Crossroads Of Hunter Wilde - Full Movie | Mike Norris, Abel ...

Plot Summary

In the aftermath of a world war that left mutants and ISIS rebels roaming the earth in search of their next victims, Hunter Wilde fights to survive and protect those close to him. However, when a new threat emerges that he has no idea how to fight, Hunter does what he typically does: run away. Will he be able to rekindle his faith before it’s too late?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Despite seemingly having adequate funding, this production fails to meet quality standards. This includes background noise that sometimes conflicts with spoken audio as well as a loud and generic soundtrack. The sets, locations, and props don’t effectively portray what they’re supposed to portray. Also, the camera work is wild, including poor shots in action sequences. The video quality is mostly stable throughout, however, and the editing is average. Despite some less-than-inspiring special effects, some elements of the production do improve as it goes on. Nonetheless, it’s only enough to earn a middle-of-the-road score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Besides the fact that this film is based on a ridiculous premise and bizarre plot elements, it also contains a really bad and slightly incorrect portrayal of the spiritual dimension. The writers seemed to be obsessed with sensationalism, shock, and awe as well as fixated on pro-prepper messaging that seems to want the world to descend into chaos so that they can do whatever they want. Despite being a large-scale idea, the story is based on clunky narration and stock footage. It’s also full of forced drama and purposely creepy supernatural elements. In the character department, the so-called protagonist almost always saves the day via unrealistic action sequences. Other characters are built on forced cardboard dialogue and awkward conversations that make everything drag out. The villains are extremely cheesy, and the narrative decides what happens to the characters and what random things they’ll do without good reasons for doing them. Things only get more ridiculous as they go, mostly due to the fact that the movie confuses itself with wacky inter-dimensional subplots and terminology. The concepts of other realms are extremely difficult to grasp, and the screenplay’s questionable view of spirituality tends to play fast and loose with reality. In the end, this is a pointless storyline full of madness and nonsense.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Between overly theatrical emotions and forced line delivery, the cast was seemingly coached to be very serious for no good reason. Too often, tones and feelings don’t seem to appropriately fit the situations. Makeup is also an obvious problem, and the villain acting is laughably ridiculous. In the end, despite some okay moments that keep this section from being zero, the acting tends to worsen as it goes forward, which rounds out an overall absurd creation.

Conclusion

It’s difficult to understand what the makes of this film were really going for. Mixing a dystopian premise with muted political overtures, much like The Reliant, is basically a losing formula from the get-go. Combing this with poor production and acting aspects sends this movie down to the basement of Christian entertainment. However, the market is thankfully changing for the better, which will no longer allow screenplays like this to exist.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

12 Days With God (Movie Review)

12 Days With God - Home | Facebook

Plot Summary

When Devin Sherman undergoes surgery for cancer around his eye, he’s given a chance to reflect on all he’s recently done. This includes his mistakes and failures, which he still regrets yet cannot make up for. During the procedure and recovery, he looks back on where he’s been and where he is now. These reflections will determine what the future trajectory of his life will be.

Production Quality (2 points)

On the whole, the production of 12 Days With God is above average as it contains good video quality and an acceptable soundtrack, despite the fact that there are some noticeable background sounds and obvious overdubs. Though lighting can be inconsistent, the sets, locations, and props are professional. Also, some of the problem areas get better as the movie progresses, and the editing is at least above the halfway mark. Thus, this section earns a good enough score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

While it’s a little boring at first, the concept behind 12 Days With God is interesting and intriguing. Although there is unnecessary narration throughout, the effective use of psychological elements and flashbacks create a non-linear plot style and establish strong character motives. Despite the somewhat slow pace, the interconnections of characters is good, even if the meandering storyline can be a bit hard to follow sometimes. Also, character arcs come off as too steep at times, and the narrative’s timeline is difficult to comprehend in some instances as the presentation is often muted and confusing. Elsewhere, many of the comedy asides seem out of place and unnecessary, and there are annoying title cards between the days that transpire during the plot. Further, some scenes are fairly wasted as they’re not used like they could have been. Nonetheless, the epilogue stands out though the lead-up isn’t that great, which blunts the otherwise good message’s full impact. In the end, this section does enough to earn an average score but still could have been better.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While there are some situations of robotic line delivery, emotions are mostly okay despite some circumstances of over-acting. Many of the cast members come off as overly practiced while some are better than others. The good thing is that the acting overall improves as the movie goes on, which raised this section’s rating higher than it would have been.

Conclusion

Since the creative team behind 12 Days With God is committed to using real stories in their films, they already have great potential for the future. Once they’re able to work out the pesky concerns with production and acting, like many new film makers, they need to dedicate resources to people who know how to effectively write screenplays. This is perhaps the most pervasive issue of modern Christian entertainment, but once it’s rectified, the field will look completely different.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

The Big Fix [2018] (Movie Review)

The Big Fix (2018) - IMDb

Plot Summary

The Reynolds family members all have many commitments and obligations, yet none of them want to see anything from the others’ perspectives. However, after asking God to change each other, they get the surprise of their lives when they suddenly switch bodies with each other. This gives each of them a chance to see what it’s like to walk in the others’ shoes, and what they find out is unexpected.

Production Quality (2 points)

Overall, the production of The Big Fix is good without many errors. This includes a great soundtrack and professional audio quality. Camera work and video quality are also up to standards. Sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized. The only drawbacks in this section are some cheesy special effects and some choppy editing. In the end, however, this production is enough to be above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

At times, The Big Fix offers some good dialogue and realistic looks at problems with families and businesses in American culture, but other times, the film is a bit in-your-face with obvious messaging and sermonizing. This aside, the movie’s entire basis is a bit off, to say the least, as it comes with all the expected logical problems and inconsistencies that usually accompany body-switching plots. Despite these obvious concerns, not much actual content actually transpires in this narrative apart from forced comedy, unearned silliness, wasted time, and useless montages, which all pertain to the questionable premise. Along with these errors comes inevitably unusual content and insinuations that make for awkward stop-and-start scenes and meandering sequences that lead to nowhere. In order to effectively pull off any type of character-switching idea, you have to actually have good characters to begin with rather than basic stereotypes. This storyline’s poor character development also gives rise to cheesy views of young people. In the end, the conclusion is forced and cheesy as it basically fixed everything very rapidly, and the last scene is quite bizarre in general. Therefore, not many points can be awarded to this section.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the acting in The Big Fix is okay even though it can be too forceful at times. Other times, however, the emotional and line deliveries seem more natural. The biggest issue here is that, in order to properly execute a character switching plot, you need high-level acting. Unfortunately, these performances are just a bit above average. Nonetheless, while the acting is a bit stop-and-start at first, it tends to improve with time, which rounds out a run-of-the-mill effort.

Conclusion

This creative team is usually almost there (see Fat Chance), but a collection of things always holds them back from reaching the next level. They would greatly benefit from improved screenwriting so that they can focus their talents in other areas, like beefing up production and acting. With a more substantial plot and stronger characters, The Big Fix could have really been something. Nevertheless, perhaps we’ll see better things from this group in the coming days.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Little Notes to Heaven (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Kyle and Amelia met in a seemingly chance encounter and quickly became friends despite the less-than-desirable circumstances around them. The more time they spent together, the more they fell in love. However, the closer they grew, the more complicated things became as they discovered that there was more holding them back than they previously realized. When it all finally comes to a head, they discover valuable lessons that will stay with them forever.

Production Quality (2 points)

Despite an under-funded production, Little Notes to Heaven does enough to get past the middle mark, such as having clear video and artistic camera angles even though the camera work is sometimes shaky. Audio quality is on point except for a few obvious overdubs, and the original soundtrack is excellent as it flows with the scenes and mixes were creatively edited overlays. Though the sets, locations, and props are slightly cheap, they are overall okay, and the same can be said for the editing save for a few lagging scenes. In the end, however, this is a great first-time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Surprisingly, the plot is the strongest element of Little Notes to Heaven. Combining artistic tone and voice-over with a creative non-linear storyline, the writers use great conversations and flashbacks to establish the narrative’s philosophy and the characters’ motives. As such, the characters are extremely accessible and realistic via their believable personality and backstories. Psychological elements are also a plus since the creators demonstrate a profound understanding of what some people experience and secretly endure, such as complex family systems concerns and emotional struggles. It all reaches a slightly unexpected conclusion that carries a lot of weight and drives home awesome messaging. The only factors keeping this section from being perfect are the fact that some characters appear to have vague existences at times and the tendency for some events to happen because the story needs to reach a certain conclusion. Otherwise, from start to finish, this film demonstrates an excellent integration of concepts throughout its progression and serves as a great example for how to write a plot that’s driven by relatable characters.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though the acting of Little Notes to Heaven is a bit awkward at first, for the most part, the cast members do well with assuming the roles of the characters. Emotions can be a bit extreme at time, but as a whole, line delivery is professional. By the movie’s end, the acting is nearly perfect, which is enough to make up for the earlier shortcomings. Thus, this caps off a very encouraging freshman offering.

Conclusion

It’s very clear that the creative team behind this screenplay did the best they could with what they had, which is really all we can ask as reviewers. However, it’s a shame that Little Notes to Heaven couldn’t take that final step onto the Hall of Fame due to a handful of rookie mistakes. Nonetheless, many audiences will enjoy this film, which is a great way to begin and shows that its creators have a lot of potential for the future. With better funding and collaboration, they could easily make a bigger impact and find their place in the Christian entertainment field.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Scion [2018] (Movie Review)

Kingdom Sight

Plot Summary

Kendra Williams is tired of the way things are. She never gets to have any fun because her parents won’t let her go to dangerous all-night parties with her “friends.” One of these said nights, Kendra meets a mysterious man who promises to grant her secret wish of living however she wants. Kendra accepts his offer but suddenly wakes up in a world where she was never born. Will she be able to escape the nightmare before it’s too late???

Production Quality (1 point)

For the most part, Scion offers a very cheap production experience, including shaky camera work, tight shots, and bizarre camera angles designed to be “cool.” Audio quality is also uneven as backgrounds sounds are too prevalent and invasive sound effects annoy the viewer even though the soundtrack is somewhat interesting. The video is also sometimes blurry, and lighting is inconsistent throughout. Sets, locations, and props are mostly average if not slightly limited, and cheesy special effects plague the audience with dizzying sequences. Further, though there is some slight improvement throughout, continuity errors and various editing concerns keep this section on the low end of the spectrum, but it’s not even the worst of it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Scion starts off with the completely wrong premise by portraying a tone-deaf view of young people being wayward and throwing in with strawman villains. Also, the psychological fantasy world created for this plot is very difficult for viewers to understanding since its rules seem very subjective. For instance, things in the alternate universe randomly happen for no particular reason, and obstacles are arbitrarily applied to the characters just for the sake of expanding the narrative and illogically getting them where the writers wanted them to go. Similarly, the story’s progression makes little sense as unnecessary time jumps disorient the audience and endless meandering sequences waste time just so that the characters can run all over the place and fill the runtime. Very convenient dialogue also forces the plot to go where screenwriters wanted it to go, and forced suspense scenes crowd out any shred of potential there was for character development. In the end, this screenplay is just a bad version of the typical It’s a Wonderful Life style of psychological narrative.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though it’s a bit average and sometimes even awkward, the acting is the best aspect of Scion. However, emotions still aren’t very believable throughout, and line delivery is pedestrian. Nonetheless, it’s unclear how the cast members could have done much better with how poorly written this movie was. Thus, this rounds out a severely underwhelming effort that should have never gotten past the initial planning stages.

Conclusion

Kingdom Sight Studios has demonstrated some slight potential in the past, such as in 2nd Greatest, but more recent projects, like Scion and A High School Story, have not instilled any confidence in their commitment to quality. Often, being a lone ranger studio rarely pays off, but the least they could do is overcome their low production quality with deeper storylines that would make bigger companies take notice. However, this isn’t the case as they further contribute to the already low image of Christian entertainment.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Eyes to See (Movie Review)

Eyes to See (2010) - IMDb

Plot Summary

What Ray cares about most in the world is being a successful camera operator for a traveling national media crew. However, this demanding profession frequently keeps him away from his wife and daughter, who desperately want to be close to him. Nonetheless, Ray pushes forward for career success until a Haitian earthquake traps him underneath rubble and forces him to reexamine everything he holds dear.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

From start to finish, Eyes to See is a very professional production, which is evidenced by good camera work and video quality. The authentic sets, locations, and props are well-utilized and make for a very gritty, realistic setting. Audio quality and soundtrack are also great, and it should be noted that it was very ambitious to take on a difficult natural-disaster-style production idea like this one. As such, the earthquake sequences are mostly accurate. The only minor concerns to point out in this section pertain to some unnecessarily soft lighting within some of the flashbacks and some slightly choppy editing in the film’s second half. However, there’s plenty of positive in this production, which earns it a high score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Eyes to See sports a very strong message about the stark contrast between actually helping people in need during a natural disaster and just looking for media entertainment. This is accomplished through believable characters, which are built with accessible dialogue that establishes character personality as well as a very effective use of flashbacks that reveals character motive. Through these excellent narrative tools, recurring themes and thought-provoking conversations are presented to the audience that offer a brave and honest look at how Americans can easily mistreat those struggling in developing countries. Although it was great to efficiently use time and money with a short film rather than a long one, this is a rare instance where we wish a movie was longer than it was, especially since hearing more from the Haitian characters in this narrative would be have been good to balance out the American characters that tend to dominate the screen time. Also, the plot’s ending is a bit rushed, which leads this section to the rating that it gets, but it’s still an enjoyable experience.

Acting Quality (3 points)

This screenplay’s strongest aspect is its highly professional acting performances, which sport realistic emotions and on-point line delivery. Costuming and disaster makeup are also positive points to note. Further, the culturally accurate casting is very refreshing and essential. In this, this section rounds out an effort that does just enough to achieve Hall of Fame status.

Conclusion

Normally, we would like to see many films that are over ninety minutes long to be shorter, but Eyes to See is an outlier instance since we would have rather seen more than half an hour of content. As previously mentioned, extending the runtime could have been done by giving more focus to the experiences of the local characters instead of focusing so heavily on the Americans, but as it is, this brief narrative is enough to warrant a position on the Hall of Fame. It’s a prime example of how good a small creation can be as well as something adequate can be even better. Hopefully, future entertainment makers can take cues from this example, and perhaps, we’ll see even better things from this creative team in the future.

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

The Cabin [2019] (Movie Review)

The Cabin (2019)

Plot Summary

Roy, a former pastor, has decided to go out to a secluded cabin in the woods to determine whether or not the spiritual realm exists. He’s determined to lock himself in until something spiritual manifests, which attracts the undue attention of various supernatural forces, both good and evil. In the end, Roy will have to battle for his soul, using homemade armor, against poorly animated demons!

Production Quality (.5 point)

Although the video quality of The Cabin is fine, this is the only positive production element. The camera work is very shaky, including some really wacky camera angles, and the audio leaves something to be desired due to its background sounds, constant generic soundtrack, and weird sound effects. Also, the sets, props, and locations are quite cheap, and it goes without saying that the special effects are terrible. Elsewhere, the flashbacks are unnecessarily black and white, and editing is sub-par. Essentially, this is an unacceptably bad production, but it’s not even the worst of what this awful film has to offer.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)

Although The Cabin‘s plot begins with boring sequences of activities of daily living and vanilla dialogue that produces cardboard characters, things quickly become much more outrageous. Through a combination of stupid jump scares, blank scenes where basically nothing happens, cheesy found footage sequences, and drug trip montages that are nearly impossible to quantify, this film successfully finds its way all the way down to the bottom of the barrel. Besides the forced drama that has no logical lead-up, the narrative is so vague that it’s barely even a story and completely lacks purpose. However, this doesn’t even though the fact that many of the plot points lack realistic support and that the spiritual elements of the story are either portrayed in juvenile ways or through very bizarre methods that cause the viewer to question whether or not the screenwriters actually comprehended the serious subject matter they wrote about. Basically, the movie’s second half is utter nonsense and full of over-the-top sensationalism such that it makes a laughingstock of otherwise important spiritual topics. It’s incredibly difficult to include all of the complete madness that’s contained within this one screenplay without asking the audience to see for themselves, but that would be a total waste of their time.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite other glaring problems in The Cabin, the acting is actually quite average, considering the fact that there’s not much for the cast members to work with. Not many lines are demanded of them due to the abysmal writing, but many of the performances contain forced emotions. Nonetheless, this section isn’t all bad, but it’s not enough to salve the utter disaster that is this film.

Conclusion

The Cabin puts the proverbial icing on the bad cake that JC Films made in 2019. Flooding the market with tons of sub-par movies is never the way to go, as we’ve previously stated. Doing such will inevitably lead to horrific disasters like this one that further tarnish the reputation of Christian entertainment. All that can really be learned from train wrecks like this are how not to do it and how important it is to continually produce more quality creations in the future.

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

Jack Jonah (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Each family member of Jack Jonah dealt in different ways with the teenager’s untimely death to opioid overdose. Kirk Jonah, his father, launched himself into a non-profit designed to provide anti-drug education to whomever will listen. Both of Jack’s parents believe they can still communicate with the dead boy, and this drives them in their efforts to save other lives from deadly overdoses. However, all of those close to Jack must ultimately come to the point where they trust that good can come out of tragedy.

Production Quality (.5 point)

While the video quality of Jack Jonah is acceptable, the camera work is often quite shaky, and the audio quality is quite poor, including loud background sounds, painfully obvious overdubs, some bouts of over driven audio, and a cheesy never-ending soundtrack that tries to cover up these problems. Additionally, lighting is inconsistent in both the outdoor locations and the indoor sets. Further, the special effects that are used are quite bad, and the editing is marred by abrupt cuts and transitions, which tops off an unacceptable level of production quality that should never be approved in the current entertainment field.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2.5 points)

There are a myriad of problems with this film’s plot, beginning with its heavy-handed message pushing, which is joined by endless, meandering conversations that are full of forced information-dump dialogue. This causes the characters to be cardboard cutouts who represent issues rather than real people. Also, the choppy story presentation makes the passage of time seem unclear to the viewer, especially since there are many random characters and spider-webbing subplots that only have loose connections with each other. Besides the fact that many of the scenes are blankly vague and hard to understand, the plot becomes more and more bizarre as it progresses due to its weird exploration of other dimensions wherein people who have passed away can come back and talk to those who are still alive. What begins as a typically vanilla story quickly becomes a wacky drug trip into the strange, and it’s laced with an unusual air of mystery that’s not well-explained. Then, the narrative suddenly ends with little to no purpose or clear message to offer to the audience. For all of these reasons, this section receives a negative score, which drags the overall movie below water.

Acting Quality (1 point)

To cap off the other issues in Jack Jonah, its acting leaves much to be desired since most of it is robotic and stilted. Emotions are difficult to believe, and line delivery is mostly vanilla. While some cast members are somewhat average in their performances, others are simply too poor to warrant any higher score than this.

Conclusion

In their race to make as many films as possible in 2019, the JC Films team produced indefensible projects like this one. This is unfortunately yet another example of why quantity over quality is never the way to go in Christian entertainment. Additionally, this may be the only lesson future creators can learn from Jack Jonah: how not to go about it.

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

The Islands [2019] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

John Thornton felt called to be a missionary on the remote island of Hawaii in the early 1800s, so he took his wife, Mary, and went with their friend Hiram to the unknown place. Once there, the missionaries met Chiefess Kapiolani and those her were in her tribe. Although the chiefess was familiar with the English language and American customs, many of her people were suspicious of the Caucasian visitors and preferred to practice human sacrifice to their pagan gods. However, one fateful day, as the island’s volcano raged, they all came face to face with what it truly meant to believe in a god.

Production Quality (2 points)

Overall, it’s clear that this production was well-funded with money that was mostly responsibly spent. All the standard elements are up to par, including video quality, audio quality, sets, props, and locations. However, there are a few pesky issues that hold this section back from being perfect, such as some cheesy sound effects that were obviously added on top of the normal audio and a generic soundtrack that never stops playing. Further, the editing leaves something to be desired as there are some abrupt cuts and transitions that cause some scenes to end without natural conclusions. Nonetheless, this production does enough to stay above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the get-go, The Islands‘ plot is nearly crippled by immediate narration that continues throughout the narrative and is sometimes substituted with information dump dialogue, which seems to serve as some type of history lesson. To make matters worse, there are far too many characters for the viewer to keep up with much less for them to have time to be properly developed. Time jumps also complicate matters and make the story seem like just a collection of random scenes strung together as the film goes from one high point to the next and even seems to repeat itself on several occasions. Several interactions between characters feel like they’re on repeat and are simply designed to waste time until the climax. A lot of the conversations and situations seem very contrived just for the sake of the plot-line, and there are no clear or consistent themes that underlay the idea and give it true purpose. Nonetheless, all of these problems aside, Timothy Chey and his team did stumble upon a very intriguing true account that still shines through despite the poor storytelling. This fact is most evident in the famed final sequence that actually demonstrates some potential, which is why this section isn’t zero points. However, it’s too little too late and makes for a disappointing experience.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

One of The Islands‘ strongest points is its encouraging commitment to assembling a diverse and culturally accurate cast, even if the costuming is a bit cheesy at times. However, this main strength is slightly weakened by the fact that much of the acting is fairly robotic at times, and emotions are sometimes difficult to believe. While it’s good to see the proper foreign language being applied in this setting, there is a lot of fight-acting throughout the film that is poorly executed and coached. Moreover, in the end, there is enough positive in this section to keep in at the average mark.

Conclusion

The historical narrative behind The Islands appears to be a very interesting and potentially powerful story that could and should have received better treatment. It’s one thing to have a good idea, but it’s another to successfully execute it, and it’s definitely a difficult feat to accomplish. Nonetheless, the experience Chey and his team bring to the table is enough to ask more of them, and the amount of potential for engaging concepts and overarching themes that was left on the table in this film was simply unacceptable. However, Chey is still on an upward trend in his career when compared to his earlier days, so perhaps his true success is just around the corner.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Translated [2018] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Through an unusual turn of events, the Apostle Paul is transported through time to the present day, where he finds the modern church looking very different than the one he knew in his day. Paul is found by Tim, who takes him in and helps the Apostle acclimate to the new world. Then, Paul shares the old messages he was given by God in new ways for the future church.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a seemingly basic and essentially modern production, it’s unclear why Translated scored only average, but this rating is due to a handful of avoidable concerns. One of these is some moments of shaky camera work while other relates to invasive background sounds that are present inside of indoor sets. While the outdoor shots are better, the audio quality overall needs some balancing work, and the soundtrack is mostly average. Nonetheless, video quality is very good, and the prop usage is effective. There are some minor special effects issues, such as low quality black-and-white flashbacks, but editing is mostly in line with standards. In the end, the mixed bag quality of the production causes it to be run-of-the-mill, which is actually unacceptable given the uncomplicated nature of what was being created.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From the get-go, the entire premise of this plot seems off. Not only does time travel almost always present major logic problems for narratives, but it’s unclear why the Apostle Paul would either need to come to the present day or even would be sent to it. Attempting to alter such a cornerstone Bible story causes many issues that are not easily resolved, and besides this, even if this weren’t a problem, it’s still very difficult to discern the actual purpose of this plotline. Nothing much happens as the film meanders around and touches on some typical fish-out-of-water concepts, such as introducing the ‘different’ character to various ideas that are foreign to them. There is no driving focus to the storyline, and the dialogue is mainly used to spoon-feed the audience with obvious messaging. As such, the characters are poorly developed and are swept along in disconnected subplots that lack meaningful purpose. Essentially, once one random thing happens after another, the story suddenly concludes in an abrupt fashion and doesn’t leave the viewer with much to work with. In the end, there’s little to no potential in this idea, which is why it really never should have been made.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For a small cast, there really isn’t much dynamic in this movie’s performances. While there’s nothing obviously bad, there are also no positive standouts. Emotions and line delivery are both just pedestrian, which ultimately leads to an average rating.

Conclusion

Starting off with such a bizarre premise likely doomed Translated from the start. There’s just nothing that can be done with a story that inexplicably transports a historical character to the present day for no particular reason. There are just so many other things that could be made that would be far more worthwhile than this. We need more Christian films that present transformative meaning rather than more run-of-the-mill throwaways that will be automatically lost in the shuffle.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Life With Dog (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Joe Bigler wants to shut the world out after his wife died a tragic death. However, his daughter won’t leave him alone, the bank wants him to pay his mortgage, and a big company is threatening to turn his neighborhood into a housing development, which prompts them to constantly offer to buy his house. Nonetheless, when a stray dog takes up residence with Joe, his life begins to take a different trajectory. Will he finally be able to make peace with his past and move on with his life?

Production Quality (2 points)

As is the typical custom of Corbin Bernsen and his team, Life With Dog sports a respectable production, including good video and audio qualities along with professional usage of sets, locations, and props. There are really no concerns to note save for the randomly poor lighting and the inconsistent application of editing. Also, the soundtrack is a bit off since it sometimes doesn’t fit the moods of scenes, but as can be seen in the remainder of the film, much of the oddness seems purposeful.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Life With Dog is a capstone of Corbin Bernsen’s erratic and unusual Christian entertainment career because it’s the ultimate encapsulation of everything he’s ever done. Not only does this film boast the typically odd elements he inserts into movies, but it carries an inexplicably unusual tone that can’t be easily quantified. Some example of this intangible bizzareness are evidenced by some actually interesting scenes that appear to make fun of cliched film tropes, some subtle asides that range from eyebrow-raising to borderline inappropriate, and a tendency for the dialogue to frustratingly meander among some actually pertinent topics that need to be discussed, some complex philosophical concepts that are difficult to grasp, and a constant itching feeling that the narrative is hiding some deep secret that’s never to be revealed. Besides this, there are logical inconsistencies in the writing, such as the fact that the main character is seemingly able to do whatever he wants with little to no consequences for his sometimes questionable actions and the fact that there are too many coincidences that allow the plot to exist. Though there are many half-hearted attempts (we suppose) to do something meaningful in the story, like provide an accessible character exploration, nothing specifically significant materializes and is instead left as an unfinished, off-the-wall idea. The climax scene is probably the best example of the entire film in a nutshell because it pretends to keep building to something real but never gets there and only leaves the viewer with something that’s both vaguely significant and head-scratchingly odd, as if the storyline was purposely written to dangle hidden things in front of the audience without actually revealing their true natures. In the end, though there is some potential in this chaos, it’s not enough to keep this movie above water.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Much like other Home Theater films, the acting of Life With Dog is fine without many noticeable errors. Though there are some overdone emotions are certain moments, the cast members’ line deliveries are consistently on point. Also, each individual appears to assume their roles well. Thus, this rounds out a slightly below average effort.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, Bernsen’s career is marked with wasted potential (Christian Mingle, In-Lawfully Yours, 25 Hill, to name a few), and it’s unclear whether or not he ever intends to change. It seems like he’s always striving to make the next great iconic Christian film but consistently falls short due to intangible oddness. The worst part is that he clearly has the connections and the resources to do better than he is, yet he usually comes up short as he settles for second best. Perhaps, in future projects, he will finally unleash his full skill set and collaborate with others who can make up for his shortcomings.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Mountain Top [2017] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Mike Andrews retired from his law career to follow what he thought was God’s call to be a pastor. However, that all changed when Muriel Miller came to his office to ask her to represent her eccentric husband who has gotten himself in trouble with the law due to his self-proclaimed spiritual gift of prophecy wherein he has visions of the future. Through a set of unusual circumstances, Mike agrees to represent Sam Miller pro bono, which sends the lawyer-pastor on a wild ride that he never expected to experience and that will forever change his life.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Gary Wheeler and his team are well-known for their professional productions, and Mountain Top is no exception. There are virtually no concerns to note in this instance, which entails the use of effective camera work, high video and audio qualities, and well-utilized sets, locations, and props. The only minor nitpicks to note are the somewhat generic soundtrack and the minuscule editing issues that are mostly due to the expansive plot. However, this is an overall nearly perfect effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Level Path creative team has always had the right idea of adapting Christian novels into films, and Robert Whitlow has wisely sought dramatizations of his books. However, it’s unclear whether or not Mountain Top was the best choice of source material. While the psychological elements that make up the core basis of the plot are interesting, they are also a bit over the top and far-fetched since one of the main characters claims to have many supernatural visions covering a wide range of topics and issues. There’s never been historical precedent for any Christian being able to receive so many special revelations in their lifetime. Besides this, the character receiving the dreams is basically perfect and inaccessible as a person. Additionally, the sheer number of characters in this storyline is overwhelming for the audience and makes for a choppy presentation. They crowd each other out and cause dialogue to be inadequate at developing who they are. The many interlocking subplots are difficult to effectively follow and are better suited for a series if this idea must be portrayed in entertainment. However, there are simply too many convenient turns and coincidences that push the narrative along as the writers seek to cover as much ground as possible while at the same time including wastefully slow sequences. Due to Whitlow’s legal expertise, this aspect of the plot is mostly realistic, and it’s commendable to explore the existence of miracles in the modern world, but Mountain Top treats God’s power like a magic charm, which causes its premise to be simply too unbelievable. There was some potential here, but it was squandered in pursuit of sensationalism.

Acting Quality (2 points)

It seems like Mountain Top endeavored to include nearly every recognizable Christian cast member in one film, and it’s not a bad thing to have experienced cast members. There are actually only a few acting concerns here and there, such as some bland moments, but the sheer number of actors and actresses may mask potential weaknesses. In the end, emotional and line deliveries are at least average, if not better, with only a handful of small issues. In the end, this rounds out a basically average offering.

Conclusion

Wheeler and his team have always been so close to the Hall of Fame, and they do many things the right way. Adapting Christian novels and being committed to professional productions and experienced casts are a winning model on paper. However, many of their films still lack meaningful connections with their audiences and require deeper and more meaningful purposes in order to be truly successful. Perhaps, in the coming days, the Level Path team will finally make a breakthrough.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

MBF: Man's Best Friend (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Paul Landings retired from the military after a disability prevented his further service, so now he works at a dog shelter and takes in dogs who have no homes. However, his practices draw ire from locals, and several troublemakers set fire to his house with the dogs still in it. Affected by PTSD, Landings commits a crime in revenge for his dogs and finds himself embroiled in a lawsuit charged with local politics. Will he be able to be set free from the bondage both in his head and in his life?

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the production of Man’s Best Friend is respectable, including good video, camera, and audio qualities. While the sets, locations, and props are mostly well-chosen, there is some inconsistent lighting in the indoor sets. However, the outside locations are better, and these issues overall improve as the film progresses. Elsewhere, the soundtrack is acceptable, and the editing is a bit odd at types although it is mostly fine. In the end, this is an above average production that could have been a little better due to the year it was made.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The opening sequences of MBF are a bit of a drag for the viewer since they are drawn out and full of stock footage and vague voiceover that both isolates the audience and wastes valuable time. However, once it gets to the substantial parts of the plot, there are actually some good explorations of how warfare effects people after the military and how one’s life can be greatly altered by the service. Nonetheless, there are a number of problems in this narrative’s character department, beginning with the fact that most of the ‘bad’ characters are total strawmen who hate the main character for no particular reason, are unrealistically anti-military, and are generally annoying. At the same time, the military characters are painted in perfect lights as they create a very odd dichotomy that tries to force the viewer to choose between the importance of a paralyzed character’s life and the lives of dogs that died in a fire. There are either perfect victim characters (though it’s not clear how some of them are actually victims) or highly corrupt small town characters, which is likely realistic in many contexts but is too over the top for this situation. Moreover, the storyline provides both a realistic look at post-war trauma and a hard examination of corruption in small towns, but many audiences may find the premise to be a bit dark and without significant hope or redemption. Elsewhere, the judge seems unnecessarily biased toward the protagonist, and some of the characters attempt to nearly justify the paralysis-inducing crime that is on trial. Dialogue is inconsistently used for information dumps, and a lot of the characters feel unfinished as they tend to crowd each other out for screen time. Also, there is some inappropriate language throughout the plot, and the ending is a bit hard to follow. Overall, much like this creative team’s previous efforts at crafting complex suspense situations (Wild Faith), MBF tries to interest the viewer in legal intrigue mixed with military drama, but there are just too many issues with this concept to justify any points for this section.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While many of the cast members of MBF tend to force their lines and their emotional deliveries in the beginning, the performances as a whole improve as the film progress. The most significantly positive aspect is the fact that DJ Perry posts an extremely memorable and groundbreaking performance as he becomes a character unlike any other he’s previously played and transforms himself for a very difficult role. This element is very impressive and is one of the main bright spots in this otherwise flawed project. Thus, this rounds out an overall above average acting effort that could have been slightly better.

Conclusion

Man’s Best Friend, like many of this creative team’s past projects, had a lot going for it, but it didn’t quite make it past the finish line. Perry, Hagedorn, Teaster, Hornus, and the rest had a lot of momentum following Wild Faith and The Christ Slayer, but MBF tends to blunt this success with its confusing messaging and dark focus. However, Perry’s breakout performance is a key bright spot that gives renewed hope for the future, so it will be interesting to see what this collective produces next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The 3 [2019] (Movie Review)

Cylk Cozart, Tina Wesson, Chip Rossetti, Jessica Bell, Kate Kilcoyne, Jeff Armstrong, and Jonathan Plowman in The 3 (2019)

Plot Summary

After his daughter’s tragic death in a school shooting, Jimmy Collins retreats to his cabin in the woods to sulk and drink alcohol. He wants to be left alone in his misery, but he keeps being visited by mysterious characters, some of which he’s all too familiar with from the past. Nonetheless, each visitor keeps trying to steer him away from self-destruction and to the love of God that he’s forsaken. Will Jimmy turn around before it’s too late??

Production Quality (.5 point)

It’s unclear why Chip Rossetti and his team continually put out very low quality productions even in the new era of Christian entertainment. The 3 exhibits poor audio quality via annoying sound effects that punctuate actions, a stock soundtrack, background echoes, and obvious overdubs. While the video quality is passable, this is really the only acceptable production element. Sets, locations, and props are also quite cheap and limited, and there’s virtually no editing throughout the film. In the end, this level of production problems is simply unacceptable in our current market.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Essentially, The 3 is just a collection of very boring and brooding sequences that consistent either drawn-out scenes that lack dialogue or drab and meandering conversations that lack purpose or direction. Although the story explores some interesting psychological concepts centering around confronting family patterns, they are poorly executed and encased in horribly wooden and improperly constructed bouts of dialogue. When a narrative like this is so heavily character-based, conversations are all-important in crafting deep characters with strong motivations, but The 3 greatly drops the ball in this category. While there are some flashbacks throughout, they are improperly applied, and some darker issues, like suicide, are given too much screentime without being balanced by lighter concepts. As the storyline progresses, however, the psychological world that’s created by the plot becomes more and more confusion and ends up getting lost in its own head, much like that of Turbulent. Therefore, this is an effort that lacks any potential or purpose.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Throughout The 3, the cast members exhibit extremely forced emotions and pushy line delivery that overall come off as very robotic and stilted. Other acting is simply bland and vanilla although some of the supporting cast members are slightly better than the principle cast members. However, it’s simply not enough to register any life for this basically unnecessary film.

Conclusion

The era of Christian entertainment that once tolerated sub-par efforts like this movie is long over. Standards are higher now, so spitting out more low quality films that crowd the Christian market is unacceptable. Christian movie makers are being held to higher standards and can no longer simply make things just for the sake of making Christian creations. It’s high time for us to offer better things for all audiences.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Assassin 33 AD (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Ram Goldstein and several other genius scientists are working on a top secret project for a multimillionaire named Ahmed. At first, they’re completely cool with being locked in a room with armed guards patrolling the halls, but when they use their super hacking skills to discover that Ahmed is coordinating with government leaders from Muslim-controlled nations to create time travel, they begin to grow concerned. Ahmed intends to use the mystical power of time travel to return to the past and kill Jesus before He’s resurrected so that Christianity will cease to exist! However, time travel is a bit tricky, and when multiple timelines are created due to the tampering, many different versions of the same characters are apparently created. Also, if they don’t erase the extra timelines before it’s too late, they will all converge into an APOCALYPSE! Can Ram and his friends stop this wicked plot before it’s too late?!?!?

Production Quality (-3 points)

Even though it seems like there was a substantial budget spent on Assassin 33 AD, the funding didn’t pay off as it was wasted on extremely cheap CGI and ridiculous special effects that overtake and overpower all other production elements. They have direct connections to the sets, locations, and props and make it clear that this team had no idea what they were doing when they slapped this project together. While there are some notable positives in this production, they are covered up by the myriad concerns created by the CGI and special effects blunders. Also, the editing has a handful of issues, but this could easily be chalked up to having to deal with one of the worst plots in the history of Christian entertainment. Overall, the glaringly obvious negatives throughout this film overshadow any slightly good elements that could be noted.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)

Where to begin? Assassin 33 AD has achieved the unthinkable feat of being as incoherent and offensive as Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas. This is not a title to be lightly delivered, but there plenty of ways Assassin goes further than even Timothy Chey has gone (yet). First of all, the entire premise behind Assassin is totally off-base from the get-go. Messing around with time travel and how it relates to Jesus is an absolute no-no when it comes to story-boarding, so there’s no reason to even broach the subject. Then, to take this a step further and actually make a purportedly Christian film about modern day soldiers being able to shoot Jesus with a pistol in the Garden of Gethsemane is borderline insanity. As if this isn’t enough, to create multiple timelines that both alter Scripture and try to twist biblical history into including the movie’s characters in the actual canon is just the end. I literally cannot comprehend the inanity of this proposition, which by no indication is being done in jest. Besides these glowing red flag problems that are part of the story’s very fabric, there are so many other movie faux pas committed in Assassin that space will likely not permit a full exploration. Nonetheless, here is a very quick rundown: characters are poorly developed via expository dialogue and unnatural lines that are designed to force the plot forward, key plot points are supported by unexplained “science” and convenient technical devices that lack basis in reality or logic, the villains basically stepped out of a conservative fever dream about Muslims taking over the world, wild time jumps are only supplanted by the maddening nature of the multiple timelines created by time travel, basically every character has a minimum of two different versions of themselves (“past” and “present”), some of these copy characters end up having conversations with each other, the protagonists can seemingly do whatever they want in a supposedly high-security facility with armed guards all around them, the Jesus character seems just as confused about what’s going on as the viewers are, etc., etc., etc. Did I mention that the writers took a crazily arrogant creative license to replace Biblical characters (like the thieves on the crosses beside Jesus and the man who fled the Garden of Gethsemane with no clothes on) with modern-day characters from the “future” timelines? This notion is only made complete by the scene where two copy characters (the same cast member) are discussing how the modern-day Bible is changing right before their eyes due to the timelines being altered in the past. Further, as if all of this wasn’t an epic trainwreck, the film’s epilogue completely turns everything on its ear by negating the “past” timeline that set the movie’s events into notion in the first place. Therefore, taking all of this evidence into account, this section is awarded the maximum negative score, and this also affects other aspects of the film.

Acting Quality (-3 points)

The horrid nature of the plot bleeds over into acting and causes this section to suffer even though it may not have been as bad if it were paired with a different narrative. Much of the line delivery is robotic and not earnest, and emotions are hard to believe. Some cast members, especially those who are portraying villains, overplay their roles while others seem bored or confused, which may have been justified. In the end, the major negatives at the core of the project drag the entire thing down into the depths of Christian entertainment.

Conclusion

Assassin 33 AD also receives to honor of scoring a negative x-factor point to round out an effort that joins Saving Christmas as one of the worst films of all time. Whenever a creator sets out to make a movie about how biblical accounts and Jesus’ life on earth in general could be altered via time travel as well as how the Bible could be rewritten based on the changing of previous timelines, they are already way off the road and should entirely ditch the project. Going through with such a travesty raises some serious questions about the true motivation behind its creation. There’s literally no way to redeem this awful concept, so the best thing that can be done is to encourage audiences to stay away from it and to help future film makers avoid these types of monumental blunders.

Final Rating: -10 out of 10 points

Let Go and Let God (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

After Wendy lost her husband in the line of duty, she felt like things couldn’t get worse. However, they did get worse when her son suddenly went missing. A local pastor has lost his faith, but is he being given a chance to look at his worldview from a new angle after Wendy, one of his members, is in a time of need? Will they all be able to see that letting go and giving anxieties to God is the best way to live?

Production Quality (.5 point)

From start to finish, the production of Let Go and Let God is underwhelming for 2019. The camera work is very shaky, even though the video quality is fine, and the audio is quite unbalanced as some scenes are overdubbed and have unnecessarily high volumes while others have distracting background sounds. Also, the soundtrack is quite loud at times, and there are many very tight and strangely close-up camera shots, along with some blurry angles. Lighting is overall poor in the cheap sets and locations, and there are too many cheesy special effects and overlays, including random split screens. In the end, the editing is also an issue, as evidenced by very abrupt cuts and transitions, and this production as a whole just has too many problems to warrant any more than half a point.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

In the beginning of Let Go and Let God, there’s no clear way to understand what the writers are trying to convey through the unsubstantial dialogue that creates very dry and bland characters. The conversations don’t properly move the plot forward or develop character motives and personalities, and overall, nothing significant happens throughout this story. There are a lot of vague psychological sequences that only waste time and isolate the audience; it’s very hard to relate to the struggles of the disconnected characters, some of which have zero purpose, and there’s an unexplained air of mystery surrounding the narrative that the viewer can’t put their finger on. As the film progress, it becomes more and more consumed with ethereal artistic sequences that have no meaning for the audience and just make for a slow and boring experience. However, by the final third of the movie, the story begins to take an even more incoherent turn into disorganization before culminating with an incredibly abrupt ending that leaves the viewer with an extremely head-scratching message. Thus, due to the abstract oddness of this plot, it warrants a surprising negative score due to unforced errors and general strangeness.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting of Let Go and Let God is actually its strongest point, even if it’s generically average. There’s nothing horrible nor dynamic about the cast members’ performances although some of them seem bored and disinterested with the experience. However, they can hardly be blamed due to the nature of the narrative. Elsewhere, some line are a bit over-practiced, and emotions can be flat at times, but this section rounds out a mostly unnecessary film.

Conclusion

It’s extremely difficult to understand why this movie was even made. If the screenwriters knew what message they were trying to communicate, it’s completely lost to the audience. When this happens, the film has already failed. Combine this with poor production and mediocre acting and the project is a total non-starter. Hopefully, as Christian entertainment moves forward, movies like Let Go and Let God will become more irrelevant and and less prevalent.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Laughing at the Moon (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Natalie McClay is a selfish businesswoman who wants what she wants when she wants it. However, when her high-dollar lifestyle demands that she get a roommate to share her rent, she has no idea what to expect. When Iris walks into her apartment, Natalie’s whole world is turned upside down. Natalie tries to do everything she can to discredit the eccentric new optimist in her life, the harder she tries, the more her friends like Iris. However, when Natalie goes too far with her mistreatment of her quirky roommate, there are far-reaching consequences, more than Natalie could have imagined.

Production Quality (2 points)

It’s clear that Laughing at the Moon had an adequate budget since the production is quite good, including great video quality and professional camera work with an artistic touch. Similarly, the audio quality and soundtrack are fine, and sets, locations, and props are well-used and well-constructed. At times, the editing is passable, but other times, it’s a bit choppy as some scenes cut off without warning, which suggests that there was a lot more content than they had space for. Also, there are some slight continuity errors between some scene, which seems like an unforced error. However, in the end, this is an above-average production that lays a good foundation for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Laughing at the Moon makes some good attempts at comedy that’s actually funny at times, but sometimes, it’s awkwardly forced, and there tends to be a bit too much quirkiness in some scenes. One of the best thing about this plot is its focus on the human tendency to convince oneself of one’s own superiority over others, especially those who do not fit into societal molds, and this is definitely a story that needs to be told, even if this version is a little (purposely) offbeat at times. The characters are pretty good, but they are hampered by mentions of off-screen content, which lends further credence to the possibility of a quick editing job that chopped out important scenes due to too much original content. Even still, the use of flashbacks throughout the narrative is very effective to establish one of the main characters’ traumatic memories, yet sometimes, it feels like a lot of the scenes are randomly strung together and loosely connected with musical montages that tend to waste time. However, the dialogue in the middle of the plot is pretty good at establishing some believable characters, and there are some very timely themes explored, such as being fake vs being authentic. None of the characters are perfect and each has their own unique flaws. One other weakness of the storyline is the somewhat steep character arcs that occur due to the slightly rushed ending, but there’s a very good point at the end that is worth watching. In the end, Laughing at the Moon is a mixed bag that is pretty good in and of itself; it also shows great potential for future projects.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the cast members of Laughing at the Moon naturally and easily assume their respective roles. While emotions can be a bit overstated at times, they are mostly fine, and line delivery as a whole is on point. As a side note, this is one of Erin Bethea’s best roles to date. In summary, this is an above-average acting job that rounds out an above-average film.

Conclusion

This movie boasts a very good idea that’s presented in a fresh way, and the main thing holding it back from the Hall of Fame is its choppy presentation. Thus, Laughing at the Moon deserves some level of remake whether it be a new film about similar concepts or a series format for the original film because this creative team may be better at making Christian series. Either way, it should be interesting to see what this team produces next.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

The Two Thieves {Once We Were Slaves} (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

On the day of Jesus’ death, two thieves were crucified with Him–one on His left and one on his right. They were paying for their earthly crimes while Christ was atoning for the sins of all humanity. However, each of them had one last chance to accept redemption from the very Savior Who wanted to save them from their sin.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It’s clear that the budget of The Two Thieves was quite limited, which is evidenced by some shaky camera work and some limited sets, props, and locations. However, the props therein are very culturally authentic and demonstrate good attention to historical detail. Elsewhere, video quality, audio quality, lighting, and the soundtrack are all good and are enough to keep this section average. Though editing is a bit limited as well, this production shows a good start to even greater things in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

As The Two Thieves is basically the conceptual predecessor to The Chosen, it showcases the God-given talents of Dallas Jenkins, Tyler Thompson, and the rest of their creative team. This is evidenced by this storyline’s good adherence to Jewish cultural traditions and historical accuracy, which is seamlessly interwoven with deep characters who are developed through motive-revealing flashbacks and well-constructed conversations. The continuity between scenes is also great, and this is all done with a limited time frame. Elsewhere, the story feels very authentic and gritty as the writers are not afraid to be realistic about the hard times of first century Judea. Further, the non-linear plot style is a nice touch. In the end, this storyline is good enough to be nearly perfect, and the only thing holding it back is the time constraint.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Due to restricted funding, The Two Thieves was unable to assemble a fully authentic cast, but thankfully, the accents of the characters are realistic and well-done. Moreover, the lack of complete cultural realism is really the only main concern with this cast as they consistently portray believable emotions and mostly deliver their lines in professional manners. There are a few tiny concerns with line delivery, but in the end, this section demonstrates another reason why God called this creative team to make The Chosen.

Conclusion

As a whole, The Two Thieves proves that, when things are in order, a movie maker and their team can craft a deep story using a small budget. This offering is a perfect example of how short films can be used as a springboard to future greatness. Although this one didn’t quite make it all the way, it still provides a template for future creative teams to replicate.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

The Job [2020] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

At one time, Lance Foster was a successful boxer who could have whatever he wanted, but when he accidentally killed a man in the ring, his life changed forever. He decided to dedicate his life to Christ, but the consequences that were set in motion prior to his conversion continued to haunt him. About to be evicted from his house and divorced by his wife, Lance suddenly finds himself at gunpoint being held up by a desperate man in search of valuables to fix his own mess. However, the two of then form an unlikely bond that leads them both to unexpected results.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a low-budget production, the creators of The Job did mostly well in making the most out of what they had. For instance, video quality is clear, and the soundtrack is quite good. There is some slightly shaky camera work, however, that needs more stability and consistency. For the most part, the sets, props, and locations are fine and are well-utilized despite their limitations. Moreover, there are some instances where the audio quality could be better, and the editing is simply passable. In the end, this is an average production that is a good start for this creative team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In a limited plot like this one, deep character development is essential, especially when the characters are confined to just a few sets. This can be done via non-narrated flashbacks and character-building conversations that show their motivations and personalities. However, this is not always done in The Job. for one, the main character is often portrayed as perfect and without flaws; he tends to lecture other characters on how to act without the audience understanding his struggles. While it’s good to explore hard topics and tough life circumstances, we need to see these issues through the eyes of more accessible characters rather than ones we cannot easily relate to. This can be accomplished through more showing than telling and through more personal dialogue and emotional connection than apologetics and witnessing talking points. Although the plot seems to get more interesting in the middle of it, the concept of holding a character hostage in order to witness to them is very difficult to portray in the right way. Some slight character motivations also surface near the end of the film, along with some interesting explorations of family systems, but the quick pace of storyline’s first half, as well as the wasted time near the beginning, reduce their impact. In the end, problems are too easily fixed, including some unrealistic notions about addictions; even though it seems like the writers meant well with this screenplay, there are still a few kinks to work out.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As a whole, the acting is likely the strongest section of the film. Though there are few cast members, they do the best they can with what they’ve been given and improve as the movie progresses. Despite being too earnest at times, they overall portray emotions as adequately as can be expected in the situations they’ve been put in. In the end, this rounds out a mostly middle-of-the-road effort.

Conclusion

Due to being a first-time production with a limited budget, The Job puts its best foot forward and is mostly acceptable. However, a more engaging plot made up of more accessible characters would have taken it to the next level. The key is to portray people in a way that demonstrates a familiarity with human tendencies; only then will the Christian message have its fullest impact. This is definitely something to note for future projects.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Life Changes Everything: Discover Zac Ryan (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Dr. Zac Ryan is a clinical research oncologist searching for a cancer cure when he discovers that his trial patient is his biological father. This is significant because Zac’s mother had him at a young age, and Zac never knew who his father was other than the man who wanted to abort him. Will they be able to reconcile and find a cure for cancer before it’s too late?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the production of Life Changes Everything is average. Audio quality is inconsistent, and the soundtrack is generic. Lighting is mostly fine with some odd moments. Video quality and camera work are respectable, and sets, locations, and props are passage. However, the editing is quite choppy and a bit disorienting at times. Another dominant quality of this production is its extreme generic-ness. There’s really nothing special about it, and it’s hard to differentiate from a lot of run-of-the-mill Christian films. Thus, it receive a middle-of-the-road score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Moreover, the story is a bit convoluted at times. Narration cripples any chance of deeper development, and a lot of the happenings are squarely based on childish coincidences and unexplained happenings that have little basis in reality. However, there is a good use of flashbacks that saves this plot from being null though both the present and past storylines are very slow, boring, and empty. It’s hard to know who these characters actually are beyond being stand-ins for social issues. While some of the pro-life concepts are slightly intriguing, the core concept (trying to find a cure for cancer) is almost laughable since the writers had a very difficult time explaining how it actually works or answering legitimate questions some of their own characters ask other characters. It’s not clear whether or not they actually thought about how the medical breakthrough would look since they were so focused on engineering another pro-life gotcha moment. When dealing with such a huge topic, sound research and expertise is extremely necessary. In the end, however, the confusing concepts, combined with the drab nature of the storytelling, just aren’t enough to make this film worthwhile.

Acting Quality (.5 points)

To top things off, the acting of Life Changes Everything is unfortunately quite blank and vanilla, especially the lead actor. The performances don’t have anything substantial to offer since there is almost no emotion exhibited by the cast members. Line delivery is average, and there aren’t any glaring errors, which keep this section from being zero, but it’s not enough to save this movie from itself.

Conclusion

Some of the pro-life concepts put forth by this screenplay are worth seeing in some type of remake, but the idea of a person not being able to change the world if they are aborted is a bit of a red herring. Even still, the central components of the plot would be passable if the production was improved, the acting was upgraded, and the cancer cure was better explained. These alterations would have at least made it an average film, which could have been a good starting point. However, as it is, we’re left wondering what could have been.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Dawn [2018] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Carrie Saunders just wants to live her normal life as a businesswoman, but her recurring nightmares about a missing girl continue to haunt her night after night. Her visions cloud her judgment and cause her to begin to suspect her husband of wrongdoing. Police refuse to believe her tales, so she decides to investigate the matter on her own. Little does she know that the wild ride she’s about to experience will change her life forever.

Production Quality (2 points)

At first, the production of Dawn begins in a rocky manner as evidenced by inconsistent camera work and lighting and some slight background sounds. However, the video quality is stable throughout, and the sets, locations, and props are mostly fine. The camera work does seem to improve as the film proceeds, and it becomes quite professional in the end. Another inconsistent area is the soundtrack since it’s generic in some parts yet quite good in others. Further, one other drawback is somewhat dizzying and repetitive nature of some of the psychological sequences, but this is also sometimes an asset. In the end, the editing is good, and the production is a mixed bag that’s overall above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Dawn dares to try something extremely different in Christian film as it takes on a very unique plot that’s often hard to quantify yet intriguing at the same time. The attempts at extreme creativity are well-noted, even if they can get a bit head-scratching at times. Although some may not like it, it’s good that the Christian elements of Dawn aren’t too in-your-face as it tries to primarily rely on good mystery plot content. However, the storyline does have a few flaws in that the characters could be a bit more developed than they are, which means the time could have been better spent on this venture rather than on repetition of key elements the audience is shown over and over again. Still, the characters are fairly good as they are, even if the villain characters are slight strawmen. The psychological elements of the plot are interesting, but they could use a bit more explanation as to why they are occurring. However, the ending isn’t quite expected, and Dawn is an overall very creative attempt at a complex mystery plot culminating with an actually effective climax that’s built throughout the entirety of the film. This is finally a real suspense plot worth watching, but it would be even better as a remake or a similar replication.

Acting Quality (2 points)

On the whole, the acting of Dawn is fine with only a few minor errors to contend with. There were definitely some opportunities for improved emotional delivery and more dynamic line delivery. However, the cast does enough to make this an above average performance, which rounds out an overall above average film that’s worth your time.

Conclusion

The potential that this creative team showed is very encouraging because it could be the start of something great for them. It’s highly possible that streaming series are in their future if they are allowed to collaborate with larger budgets and tighter writing. What we need is more psychological suspense and mystery stories, and seeing these in the context of Christian series would be awesome, so we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

To Save a Life (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Jake Taylor is one of the most popular kids in school: he’s a basketball star on track for a big scholarship, and he has the girlfriend everyone wanted. He seems to have friends everywhere, but he’s chosen to ignore the only friend he had in middle school because it’s not cool to hang around him anymore. However, this appears to lead to his old friend becoming suicidal and bringing a gun to school one day in an apparent last-ditch attempt for help. In the fallout of the tragedy, Jake and his friends try to get back to normal, but they seem to sink deeper into their vices as a response to the trauma. What is the true purpose of life, and is it possible for high school to have meaning?

Production Quality (2 points)

As an early 2000s production, To Save a Life is good despite some minor missteps. For one, the flashback sequences, while great to include, sometimes come off as a bit disorienting and invasive as they tend to jump back and forth too much and use disruptive flashing effects. In a similar vein, some montages are a bit confusing and protracted in length, especially since they take up time that could have been used on other things. However, there are plenty of positives to note about this production, For one, the soundtrack is fairly good, and the camera work is professionally artistic even if there is some wild zooming and cutting during suspenseful scenes. Nonetheless, much of the production elements improve as time goes on, and video quality, sets, locations, and props are all great in each part of the film. As a whole, the editing is good enough considering how much content is in the story and how many characters there are, so overall, this is an above average production that’s mostly on the mark and improves with runtime.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Even in the beginning, Brian Baugh was always a master of capturing the real human experience, especially of Millennial coming of age years, as he weaves complex storytelling via raw, realistic topics, effective flashbacks, and accessible characters. To Save a Life is a real and honest look at authentic problems facing teenagers both in high school and in the church. It’s a hard but necessary look at the factors leading to teen suicide and teen substance abuse, among other vices; in doing so, the plot unfolds fairly well without dumping too much information onto the audience in the beginning as plot points are developed gradually. The relationships among the characters are very easy to believe as they feel like real people who do real things with real motivations. The psychological material therein is used in very great ways, and the hard look at problems within the church is refreshing. To Save a Life has a very complex cast of characters that makes it feel more like a series than a movie; because of this, some of the characters arcs are a bit too steep due to lack of adequate development time. Even still, the dialogue is well-constructed as the subplots weave together, but the number of storylines is also the slight undoing of the film as we’d like to see some more backstories and more explorations of the issues rather than trying to cover too much in one film. Because of how many ideas are in one movie, the epilogue and the lead-up to it tend to fix things too quickly and easily without many tangible character consequences. The climax scene is also slightly contrived just to have one and only leads to expository dialogue designed to finish things off. In the end, To Save a Life is a massive mixed bag of content that is both rewarding and disappointing, yet Brian Baugh’s talents are still undeniable in his first movie attempt.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

At first, the acting can come off as a bit awkward, but this also tends to work in the film’s favor. This is really the only nitpick to point out since the cast is overall really good despite its large size. There are quite a few standout roles…even Randy Wayne posts a good one. Due to the sheer number and diversity of cast members, they would have done so well in a series, but alas, this film occurred before the era of Christian streaming. Nevertheless, perhaps something similar to To Save a Life will be crafted in the future.

Conclusion

We would definitely love to see Brian Baugh make a series either like this movie or about something else because some creators are just too big for the big screen. Some creators (see Dallas Jenkins) are better the small screen because series provide much better forums to explore complex characters and subplots. No matter what, Baugh is consistently showing today that he has a profound understanding of people, and with two Hall of Fame entries after To Save a Life (I’m Not Ashamed and The World We Make), the sky is the limit for his creative potential.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

The Shack (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Mackenzie Phillips never really trusted God after the abuse he underwent at the hands of his father, but he really felt abandoned by Jesus when his youngest daughter was kidnapped, raped, and left for dead by a twisted man. Floundering in his faith, Mack receives a mysterious note signed by God telling him to return to the place where his daughter was found dead: a shack in the mountainous woods. Mack decides to return, thinking he can avenge his daughter’s death, but instead, he experiences an encounter with God beyond his wildest dreams.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a mainstream production, The Shack hits all the right notes en route to a nearly perfect score. This is due to great camera work, video quality, and audio quality. The sets, locations, and props are effectively utilized and authentic. Also, the soundtrack is very poignant and accessible. One minor nitpick to point out with this production pertains to the editing concerns, but this is mainly a plot issue that inadvertently affects this section. Overall, this is almost as good as it gets for a production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Based on William Paul Young’s slightly controversial novel, the film is actually a step above the book as it takes time to explain more about the characters and their motivations. Even still, there are still some issues that hold The Shack back from being all that it could be. For one, the narration right out of the gate from Tim McGraw’s mysteriously omniscient character is completely unnecessary and calls into question why his subplot even exists. This brief, irrelevant storyline, in conjunction with some rushed and confusing scenes revolving around law enforcement, waste precious time at the beginning of the film and make the movie feel like it’s two different ones put together. This squandered time at the beginning hurts this section and likely keeps it from the Hall of Fame, but once the middle of the film arrives, it’s definitely worth a watch. At this point in the movie, The Shack isn’t afraid to tackle very realistic and raw issues we rarely see discussed in Christian film, including child abuse in the name of Christianity and incorrect views of God as well as the connections between these two concepts. Sometimes, flashbacks are used in very effective ways to present the plot and the character motivations, but it would have been better if all narration and early plot points were replaced with flashbacks to make it more of a non-linear style. However, despite a slightly incomplete view of God, The Shack does an excellent job with showing how God will relate to people on a very personal level via good philosophical discussions about life and power emotional experiences. Although it could have gone just a bit further with theological grounding (but not too much), this is a good place for a lot of people to start if they have a warped view of God. Basically, from the halfway point until the part before the end, The Shack is a nearly perfect film. The beginning and the epilogue that fixes things too easily detract from this section and keep it from being all that it could be. Nonetheless, this movie is definitely worth your time and can be a great tool to use to introduce people to God if they are closed to Him for one reason or another.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Another major detractor that keeps The Shack from being Hall of Fame is Sam Worthington’s accent-suppressing. If you’re going to cast a British-Australian actor for an American role, either train him with a better accent or just make the character British or Australian. As it is, the way he delivers his line is very distracting and comes off as breathy and insincere because of the accent clashing. This really puts a damper on things as it makes his emotions seem otherworldly and causes unsure line delivery, which is difficult to watch since he takes up so much screentime. However, other cast members, most notably Octavia Spencer, work overtime to make up for Worthington’s shortfalls and overall post very professional and noteworthy performances. In the end, this section is above average and rounds out a very commendable effort.

Conclusion

Though many theologically astute individuals like to “debunk” The Shack for its inaccuracies (there are a few small ones), the film as a whole demonstrates just how out of touch many Christian thought leaders are with everyday people. The movie does a much better job of relating to everyone on a personal level than any theological debate ever will, and it shows that God really wants with people: a relationship. While it could have use just a hair more theological grounding, The Shack is a great place for many people to start who have been hurt by Christianity or who may have invalid views of God. It’s unfortunate that it just misses the mark of being Hall of Fame, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a watch. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll see more films that walk the delicate balance of being personal-emotional and grounded at the same time. Once Christian entertainment as a whole learns how to relate to everyone personally, the industry will be unstoppable.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Heavens to Betsy 2 (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

After Betsy had a unique experience in which God allowed her to live in an alternate version of her life due to her pleadings, she was able to return to her normal life and chronicle her journey under the guise of a fictional work. Her novel made her moderately famous overnight and even attracted unexpected attention from publishers and media outlets. However, this new popularity will come at a price as Betsy will have to decide if she’s going to come clean about the true origins of her story.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although it’s a 2019 production and should be higher quality than this, Heavens to Betsy 2 is a mostly average one. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine and standard, but the soundtrack is generic and cheesy. The sets, locations, and props are fairly limited and come off as cheap. The editing is very basic as it presents the content at face value without any complex techniques. As a whole, it’s a very pedestrian offering that is neither good nor bad, yet it really doesn’t have a place in the current entertainment field. To top things off, silly magical elements really put the nail in the coffin for this plot that was really doomed from the start.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

After a long rehashing of the previous film many people don’t know about, this unnecessary sequel launches into expectedly cringeworthy comedic sequences very similar to the ones we saw in the first one. Much of the dialogue is trying way too hard to be funny, and many of the scenes are downright pointless. As if it doesn’t have anything better to do, this installment decides to go down a localized media persecution rabbit hole in order to keep the story on life support. However, this idea comes off all wrong as the ‘villain’ character is actually remotely funny for the right reasons. It’s commendable for a Christian creator to want to create a universe of characters, but are these the ones people really want to know better? There are too many coincidences in this story-world as everyone knows about the main character’s book, and lot of the conversations feel dragged out and inflated for runtime purposes. The storyline is overall aimless and lacks substantial themes as it just presents a random collection of scenes that don’t seem fully rooted in reality. In a somewhat bizarre concluding sequence, the screenwriters appear to address the logical problems of the first film, but the explanations only create more questions and inconsistencies.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the production, the acting of Heavens to Betsy 2 is very run-of-the-mill and expected. Some cast members tend to overdo their roles and overplay their emotions while others appear unsure of what they’re doing. In the end, with no dynamic performances or standout roles either good or bad, this section also gets an average rating.

Conclusion

One big question we have to ask about this film is why it was even made. Rarely is a sequel justified, especially when the original film was so low-key. Sequels should be about exploring new horizons with characters who are already well-developed and deserve further screentime. Unfortunately, films like Heavens to Betsy 1 and 2 don’t rally have much to offer and will easily be forgotten as time goes on. If screenwriters are interested in trying to develop characters over time, a series would likely be a better forum for this venture.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Turbulent [2018] (Movie Review)

Oooohh scary

Plot Summary

When a man and his wife have a sudden plane accident in the middle of nowhere, they have to do whatever they can do to fight for survival. However, the strained relationship between them becomes a detriment to their quest as she believes in God while he resists her faith because of the tragedies they’ve endured in their marriage. Will they be able to overcome both the elements and the distance between them in order to survive another day?

Production Quality (-1 point)

With a production this bad in 2018, we don’t even know where to begin. It’s literally terrible in every way you can conceive: weird outdoor lighting, horrible audio quality with loud background sounds, and basically no soundtrack on top of this. Sets, locations, and props are extremely cheap and don’t line up with what they’re supposed to portray. There are also weird special effects and oddly chosen sound effects that contribute to the annoyingly bad quality of this production. Since you almost have to try to make a production this bad, it warrants a negative point. It goes without saying that the editing is very choppy, but that’s just white noise in the bigger picture because there are so many problems here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 point)

In this storyline, there are no breaks in negativity or balanced scenes as everything is dour and dramatic in infantile ways. It has a very juvenile outlook on life as characters do things that have no grounding in reality and as the plot contains unrealistic survival elements. The majority of the film is painfully long and drawn out scenes that are like pulling teeth to watch. It’s obvious that the main agenda of the film is to scare the viewers into being saved (as if any non-believers would ever think about watching this garbage), yet there are a lot of fantastically weird magical concepts that don’t seem to line up with typical fundamentalist ideologies. These elements are connected to a really bizarre twist at the end of the movie that comes off in a very strange and off-putting way. In the end, there’s so much wrong here with so little to deal with, which is why this is a rare feat deserving of negative points.

Acting Quality (-1 point)

With such a small cast, everything stands out, and the acting therein is annoyingly horrible. Emotions are excruciating to watch as if the cast members are being tortured to say them…it’s like fingernails in the chalkboard to watch it unfold. Every little drama is extremely forced to the point of straining, and because of these issues, there’s no way to properly connect with the character struggles. It’s not like the cast members had good lines to work with in the first place, but they make matters worse with their agonizing delivery. Thus, in summary, if you’re looking for the exact opposite of how to make a Christian film, watch Turbulent.

Conclusion

Negative films are absolutely unacceptable in the modern era of Christian entertainment, and survival plots as a whole are worn out and should be used sparingly unless somebody actually has a good idea to share. Basically, from Turbulent, we can learn the same old lessons we’ve seen before: if you don’t have the money for your film, don’t even think about making it because the higher production standards in the field today demand better delivery. Also, even if you have the money for a decent production, please make sure you actually have a worthwhile plot to share and can properly coach your cast to be believable. The time for poor quality Christian films to go away is long overdue.

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

Blackbear {Submission} [2019] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Blackbear was a covert military operative tasked with secretly taking out terrorists in the Middle East, but an unexpected turn of events led to his unit’s capture. While a prisoner of war, they were subjected to cruel torture, and even though they were able to escape, they were each left with serious health consequences due to the drugs that were forced upon them. Back the US, their minds are still at war as they each try to find ways to cope with the pain. Blackbear decides he needs to take up boxing again under his old coach, but he never anticipated the journey he would have to go on to find healing.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a first-time, slightly underfunded production, Blackbear (formerly known as Submission) has some positive aspects but also some negative elements. For one, the attempts are constructing realistic sets, locations, and props, especially in the war scenes, are commendable and feel authentic. However, audio is sometimes unbalanced, and at times, the camera work is quite dizzying due to dramatic effect. While the video quality is very crisp throughout, a lot of spoken lines are obviously overdubbed, and there are some loud background noises throughout. Despite some cheap and disorienting special effects and one too many dark scenes, the soundtrack is quite good as it includes relevant NF songs. Moreover, the biggest drawback to this production is the poor editing; there are a lot of quick cuts and awkward transitions that make the viewer feel like things are rushing too quickly. For these reasons, the story comes off as choppy, but there are other concerns there as well. As a whole, while this is just an average production, there is potential here, and the complexity of the subject matter is definitely taken into consideration.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

All around, Blackbear is one big mixed bag. It’s clear that the creators really wanted to do something creative with this plot, but it got lost in its own head, so to speak. For one, the dialogue includes authentic military lingo that speaks to good expertise and research on the topic, but the plot itself moves forward too quickly as events occur without good reasons and as storytelling is overall disorganized. It seems like things happen because the writers need them to happen rather than natural events unfolding or characters making choices based on personality and motive. Moreover, there are still good things to note here, such as a good exploration of how self medication of military trauma comes to be and how secret government operations mistreat and abuse people for their own purposes. Nonetheless, all of these themes are just thrown into the proverbial pile since there aren’t any central purposes or focuses that keep the story grounded, which allows it to meander around various topics, like unethical value imposition in the medical field, cheesy portrayals of non-American characters, obscure boxing events, strawman sports villains, and vague references to abstract medical treatments that go over the audience’s heads. Throughout all of this spider-webbing, the dialogue isn’t enough to build believable characters, which is a shame due to the empty sequences of staring that waste precious time, not to mention some of the vague and understated subplots that need to be either integrated better or edited out. All of these issues are rolled in with typical sports movie tropes: training montages, impossible sports feat conversations, random local news reports, and unrealistic looks at heroin recovery; as a side note, this is the most addictive substance known to man, and nobody can just quit it cold turkey. Nonetheless, despite all of these complex issues, there is a surprisingly interesting and actually realistic twist at the end of the film that tries to tie things together in some fashion. The conclusion is very non-typical in most ways, but the monologue by one of the characters at the end isn’t enough to fix what could have been an interesting story. Characters all of a sudden become more interesting at the end, but it’s too late at this point; it would have been better to showcase the creative concepts throughout the movie rather than putting it all at the end. Even so, the way it ends still shows potential for future projects.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While a lot of the acting in Blackbear leaves something to be desired due to quite a bit of forceful and unnatural delivery styles, there are some good attempts at culturally authentic casting. Although there are a lot of blank and emotionless performances at key moments in the film, at least some of them can be explained by the psychological torture the protagonist underwent. In this vein, Scott Pryor is definitely good at playing a mind control victim. Elsewhere, some line delivery is very quick, and Eric Roberts is poorly cast as an incongruous character, but there are enough good performances throughout to keep this section average, which aligns nicely with the other sections of the movie.

Conclusion

No matter how convoluted it seems at times, on the whole, Christian entertainment is getting braver. New film makers are trying different things, and this is encouraging to see because it’s what we desperately need. The final sequences of Blackbear demonstrate creative ideas that can be used in more efficient ways, such as a series collaboration. This forum would allow the good concepts to be packaged in better ways that would reach audiences and get their messaging out there. The concept behind this film needs some type of redo, so hopefully, we’ll see more from this creative team in the coming days.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Breakthrough [2019] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

When Joyce Smith’s adopted son John falls through the ice one fateful winter day, she feels like she’s lost him forever. However, after praying over him in the intensive care unit, she witnesses a seeming miracle as her son is able to be stabilized into a coma rather than be on death’s door. Afterward, a battle for healing begins as Joyce faces perceived opposition on every side of her as her son keeps fighting for his life.

Production Quality (2 points)

Breakthrough falls in line with other inspirational productions DeVon Franklin has been involved with, such as Heaven is For Real and Miracles From Heaven. As such, Breakthrough hits all the right proverbial notes, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality. While the soundtrack is sometimes too loud and invasive, for the most part, the sets, props, and locations are fine. This film is really just a by-the-book, run-of-the-mill inspirational production with nothing to set it apart either good or bad. The biggest glaring error therein is the poor editing, but this is mainly due to its plot problems. As a whole, Breakthrough is a safe, non-dynamic film through and through.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

On the surface, the message of the plot is fine as it blatantly panders to an inspirational audience, yet Breakthrough sets itself apart by portraying the main character in unusually perfect and un-flawed ways even though she has plenty of issues in her behavior. This premise is likely due to the original book’s content, but empowering someone who seemingly believes she never really did anything wrong and feels like everyone else in the world needs to change except for her is very suspect. The storyline and characters are required to change according to her (sometimes judgmental) standards, and she never really learns anything as she continues to live in her own little world. This is the real hidden problem with Breakthrough besides the typical spoon-feeding of inspirational messages to a hand-picked audience. While there were some interesting psychological elements in this film that had the potential to make an interesting story about the miracles of God, we are instead left with the miracles of Joyce Smith; in doing so, prayer is mis-handled and poorly portrayed as people deciding what’s doing to happen. Elsewhere, random subplots are thrown together that cause a lot of story confusion and disorganization. In the midst of the swirl, there aren’t any substantial characters to relate to because dialogue is bland and pedestrian. Even though this was a small, focused time frame, we don’t really know who these people are beyond the molds the main character puts them into. Had this story been more about miracles and prayer, we would have had another Miracles From Heaven, which was safe, standard inspirational movie designed to target a specific audience. Breakthrough tries to follow in its footsteps, yet the dictates of the main character decide otherwise.

Acting Quality (2 points)

It’s understandable that this mainly Hollywood cast is professional and appears to know what they’re doing. However, some cast members who have more potential, like Josh Lucas, come off as underwhelming and downplayed, which suggests they’ve been cast wrong. It feels like more could have been done with this cast even though there aren’t any glaring problems. With the money and expertise behind the film, the acting needed to be more dynamic than this, but it overall rounds out a mediocre effort designed as a quick cash grab.

Conclusion

DeVon Franklin loves to make money off of the inspirational audience, and he’s clearly good at it. He’s found something that works, so good for him. Nonetheless, with all the marketing and fluff of this film, there’s no real substance to back it up. We were promised a movie about a miracle, yet we can’t connect with the real story due to tainted views of the main character. What’s more, the disjointed subplots make for a confusing viewing experience as it mostly just boils down to a collection of platitudes you could find in a generic white Christian book for sale at Lifeway. There’s nothing special here, but then again, Franklin never intended to do anything further, so he’s sticking with his business model, which is at least upfront and honest. Regardless, Christian entertainment can do better than this.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Heaven’s War {Beyond the Darkness} (Movie Review)

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The magic of the cosmos…

Plot Summary

Senator Jonah Thomas is a rising political star who wants to be the good guy in Washington, but evil individuals, both human and spiritual, have their own plans for him. Jonah’s political career is pushing his family to the brink, and he doesn’t realize the evil devices that await him in one fateful meeting. As his soul hangs in the balance, he will be given one last chance to battle for his eternal destiny in a very poorly-animated CGI world.

Production Quality (0 points)

Imagine you have this great idea for a complex sci-fi plot that requires a lot expensive CGI and animation tools. Would you go ahead and make it even though you didn’t have the funding to make it on a level we see in theaters today? Essentially, Heaven’s War is a poorly funded attempt at a possibly good idea that will fall totally flat due to how bad the production is. The extremely cheap special effects and the cheesiest possible animation and CGI draw so much attention to themselves that they negate any possible good elements in other parts of the production. They affect everything and make it an unpleasant experience whether via disorienting editing, cheap flashback quality, weird sound effects, or wild and quick cuts between scenes. Even if other elements of the film are fine, the special effects failings are the types of issues that infect everything, which keeps this production rated at zero.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Besides this, the plot is fairly confusing and hard to follow. Even though it’s an interesting idea to explore the spiritual realm, everything is too focused on American politics, which begs the question why the major spiritual battles highlighted here center around raising taxes and finding a vaccine for cancer. If this isn’t the intention, it comes off that way through expository dialogue and devices that move the plot forward, such as news reports and phone conversations. As the story wildly jumps from one random idea to the next, the slightly interesting flashback\psychological vision elements had something going for them, but the way they are presented is a disservice. Poor delivery and unclear direction doomed this plot from the start, not to mention the extremely cheesy portrayal of the spiritual realm that is almost a laughingstock. After lots of disorienting battle sequences and explorations of alternate realities, problems are suddenly quickly fixed at the end with no feeling or reality behind it, and by the time it’s all over, you suddenly realize that this film barely had any actual content in it. Hence, no points can be awarded in this section either.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Surprisingly, as bad as it is, the acting is the strongest point of this movie because it’s the only section that gets any points. Even still, the acting often comes off as un-earnest, overly practiced, and robotic. For the most part, emotions are black, forced, and unnatural. There are some good moments for some of the cast members that are basically just average, but as a whole, the acting is cardboard and the casting poor. This rounds out an unacceptably bad film in the new era of Christian entertainment.

Conclusion

Danny Carrales’ intentions to make different types of Christian films are definitely noted, but their application is way off the mark. It would have been better to make Heaven’s War fully animated so that more time could have been spent on making a real plot. Relying only on special effects of any quality level is never a good idea because they can’t write the story for you. Even the best sci-fi idea will fail if the characters can hold it up for you because the audience has no real connection to the concept without feeling like real people are experiencing it. Basically, better luck next time.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points