Brother’s Keeper [2015] (Movie Review)

 

Plot Summary

Andy and Pete Goodwynn are twin brothers and always have each other’s back, even when they do not see eye to eye on things.  However, when one of them is falsely accused by a powerful man in town who can have whatever he wants, neither twin brother knows what to do.  Though it seems like there will never be justice, little do they know that they will be challenged to grow closer to God as a result of the adversity they face.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It is clear that a lot of work was done in Brother’s Keeper to have a professional production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is very engaging and interesting.  Sets, locations, and props are all appropriate and realistic for the time period.  There are really no glaring errors to point out here.  The only caveat to raise pertains to some minor editing issues, since a large amount of content is being handled here.  But on the whole, this is nearly a model production and one we should see more of in the days to come.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The storyline of Brother’s Keeper is one of the most interesting yet most frustrating plots to witness.  It depicts an unfortunately realistic corrupt small-town premise filled with believable characters that each have their own flaws.  The plot writers were not afraid to be real in their depiction of people and thus have crafted some good dialogue here.  However, despite this plot’s many positives, it is hamstrung by a very disjointed structure that includes large and seemingly unnecessary plot holes and time jumps.  The portions that are chosen to be time jumps really make no sense as to why they couldn’t have been included.  Due to the other plot elements, one would think that the story could have more continuity.  Yet nonetheless, this is an interesting story that is at least worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is a relatively professional cast, and it even has an excellent villain cast for Ray Wise.  There are only minor errors to speak of here, mostly pertaining to some overdone emotions.  However, there are plenty of good moments to highlight, and line delivery is on point.  Though there are some small areas for improvement, this is a great example of good casting and coaching.

Conclusion

Due to the scope of this idea, the movie either needed to be split into two parts or it needed to be made into a miniseries.  There is enough content and character development here to sustain at least a two-part miniseries or movie.  Even though this film falls short of the Hall of Fame, there are plenty of positive elements in it that can be applied to other films, such as a non-typical, complex storyline, as well as professional production, casting, and coaching.  It will be interesting to see if this creative team makes anything else in the future.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Hitting the Breaks, Season 1 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

After racecar driver Randy Wilcox crashes his car in a race, his family convinces him to retire.  Thus, he decides to move the bed and breakfast in rural Colorado that his father willed to him.  What the Wilcox family finds there is a lack of modern conveniences and a collection of quirky characters who live eccentric lives.  Yet through the comedic mishaps they endure, they begin to like their new home, despite the inconveniences.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though the production of this series looks good on the surface, it really just boils down to a silly sitcom.  Video quality is fine, but camera work has a lot of shortcuts taken in it due to the genre.  The genre also brings with it an obnoxious laugh track, as if we are to believe that this was recorded in front of a live studio audience.  However, other audio quality is fine, even if the soundtrack is extremely generic.  Furthermore, sets and locations are severely limited, once again due to the sitcom genre.  Finally, editing is very standard and uninspiring.  Basically, PureFlix still knows how to make things look good on the outside without any real substance.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Much like past comedy projects from the bizarre minds of David A. R. White and Tommy Blaze, Hitting the Breaks is one half lazy and one half downright zany and nonsensical.  Full of cheesy small town characters that are obviously copycatting other films and series, one has to endure constant reality television confessionals that litter the series.  In these ten episodes, each one follows a predictable formula: David A. R. White gets himself into some comedic escapade and then has to get out of it in twenty minutes or less to leave himself time to read a ‘life lesson’ from his father’s journal at the end that attempts to force a purpose into this madness.  These ‘life lessons’ are laughably cheap Christian messages, thus leaving the series pointless and purposeless.  Most of the comedy isn’t even funny, whether it’s for the right reason or the wrong reason.  The dialogue is chock-full of stupid catchphrases and caricatures as everything generally gets zanier and less explainable as the series progresses.  In the end, it’s like they just run out of ideas and find a random way to end it.  Basically, there is little to no point in this mess.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

For this barn-burning cast, PureFlix trotted out ever crazy person they have ever had in their films and put them all together in one place.  Everyone is as absurd as can be expected, especially the Whites, Kevin Downes, Moran Fairchild, and everyone’s favorite Jennifer Lyons.  Gregg Binkley makes a special spectacle of himself throughout the series as he tries desperately to be the new Barney Fife.  It’s surprising that Tommy Blaze didn’t make an appearance in this cast, yet the cast of Ray Wise is actually appropriate for once and saves this section from the abyss.  But it’s still not good enough to count for much.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

With extremely short episodes that repeat the same formula over and over again, it’s safe to say there is no continuity here.  There are no story arcs or characters arcs to speak of.  Thus, there is nothing good to say here either.

Conclusion

Once again, PureFlix is one step ahead of other film makers by breaking new ground for Christian entertainment.  Though this is the first legitimate Christian sitcom, that doesn’t mean it’s any good.  The PureFlix crew basically just packaged up all the craziness they’ve had pent up since Me Again and put it all into one wild series just for the sake of making it.  There is zero purpose and no clear direction here and it only further serves as an embarrassment to Christian entertainment.  Needless to say, the world is still waiting for a truly legitimate and interesting Christian series, which is something that is obviously very difficult to come by.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 14 points

 

God’s Not Dead 2 (Movie Review)

Is this thing over yet?
Is this thing over yet?

Plot Summary

When Christian teacher Grace Wesley is sued by a student’s parents for daring to mention the name of Jesus in her classroom, she is confused as to what is even happening to her. Yet, inspired by the wisdom of her ailing father whom she takes care of, Grace refuses to back down and begins working with her union-appointed lawyer to fight back in court. With her faith under fire, Grace’s case draws the attention of many from the town of Hope Springs, including Pastor James White David Hill, who serves on the jury. As Grace’s beliefs are attacked and tested over and over again, she must dig deep to withstand the world’s onslaught so that Christianity is not snuffed out forever.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In the new era of PureFlix, video quality and camera work are no longer in question.  The sets, locations, and surroundings are respectable.  The musical score is average.  On the surface, God’s Not Dead 2 looks like a professional film, but there are many hidden issues therein.  Of the high profile Christian movies we have reviewed, this is possibly the worst edited one to date.  The many-subplots addiction from God’s Not Dead and Do You Believe? is back, and this time, they are more empty than ever.  As will be discussed next, there long sections of this movie that consist of characters staring into space and attempting to sing.  Essentially, this was just a lazy production effort that looks good on the outside but not on the inside.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In this plot, Christian characters are very perfect in every way while atheist characters are hopelessly evil.  What’s more, atheists are borderline ridiculed, giving an embarrassing feel to the film.  Subplots jump all over the place, confusing the viewer.  The premise and other plot happenings are unrealistic and cannot be reconciled with reality.  The storyline is saturated with legal rhetoric that is either only half-true or isolating to the audience.  Besides these glaringly obvious issues, the plot does not hold the attention and is very drab.  There are many slow and melancholy scenes that seem to be designed only to pad the runtime.  Large portions of the film are dedicated to advertising apologetic books and other Christian ‘celebrities’.  While there is a lot of good information in these product placements, it flies over the audience’s heads and is not remembered.  With all this wasted time, there is zero character development, therefore we cannot even appreciate the struggles that are portrayed.  In addition, the dialogue is chock-full of swipes at atheists and ‘worldly’ people.  The ending is very empty and anticlimactic (despite desperate attempts) and even includes an off-the-wall post-credits scene.  Basically, David A. R. White and company just phoned this one in, hoping that the title name recognition would garner them some more cash.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While this section is not all bad, there is a lot of monotone acting in this film.  In another attempt to create buzz by trotting out C-grade ‘big name’ actors and actresses (in addition to the typical PureFlix clowns), this attempt basically flops.  Most of the characters carry a Hallmark-ish look to them, with far too much makeup and costuming.  Other cast members are just blank—even though they show potential, there’s no one to draw it out.  In the end, there is really nothing new here.

Conclusion

In our experience, the world portrayed in this film has never existed.  This is not to diminish the plights of some, but the realm PureFlix constructs in many of their films is over the top and outside of reality.  Rather than preaching to the choir with a juvenile us-against-the-world narrative that further divides Christians and atheists, the money spent on these types of films would be better spent on films that actually strengthen the church as a whole and tastefully address how American Christian behavior can improve.  No one will be saved as a result of God’s Not Dead 2.  Christians will not be inspired to grow closer to God as a result of viewing this movie.  I would never recommend this movie to a non-believer because the creators give no concern to opposing points of view.  Since we as Christians have the truth, we have no need to force it down people’s throats with no regard for their feelings.  Delegitimizing someone else’s beliefs has no place in the gospel message.  Yet with an awkwardly placed post-credits scene, we are all but promised more of the same nonsense from PureFlix.  This is not the direction Christian film needs to go in and now more than ever we need someone who will stand up and combat the image movies like this one project.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Revelation Road 2: The Sea of Glass and Fire (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After witnessing the Rapture, Josh McManus sets out on the road trip of his life to discover the whereabouts of his family, whom he is unable to contact.  But making the trek back won’t be easy with a crazed biker gang on his tail, bent on revenge for how he stole their pride.  Josh is joined by Beth, whose grandparents were taken in the Rapture.  As they travel across the desert, navigating the strange new world they live in, Josh will have to come to grips with who he really is and what he has done in the past.  Not only him, but Hawg will also have to reconcile with the person he has become.  On a collision course, Josh and Hawg will both have to determine how they are going to change who they are.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Believe it or not, production quality improves from the first series installment to the second.  Video quality remains the same, but sound quality also improves.  Special effects are used more responsibly.  The weird lightning is still there, but it’s a step in the right direction.  The camera work is strange at times, but not nearly as bad as the first film.  The editing is still a work in progress, but there seems to be more effort put into this installment.  Overall, that’s the story of Revelation Road 2—the thought is there, but the execution is only half there.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The Beginning of the End was obviously driving to something, as that non-plot continually delayed the inevitable next film.  Thankfully, that something was actually worth waiting for.  Who knew that Pureflix would begin using flashbacks to develop characters?  Since when do the Whites and company create character backstories?  Stranger things do happen, and they happened in The Sea of Glass and Fire (whatever that title’s supposed to mean).  The core idea behind Josh’s character is very innovative, and seemingly beyond the reaches of the Pureflix creative realm.  Even Hawg is turned into a somewhat believable villain through flashbacks.  And Cat…oh wait, never mind.  But pitfalls still exist in this film—mindless violence rivals B-grade Hollywood action flicks and time fillers litter the plot.  Dialogue is better in the flashbacks than in the present plot.  The ending inevitably leads to another film, but we have to wonder if this is really necessary at this point.  Overall, this plot is a huge step in the right direction, but there is still work to be done.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Mostly due to the flashbacks, the acting slightly improves from the previous movie.  This is probably the best David A. R. White, Andrea Logan White, and Brian Bosworth will get when it comes to action acting.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are blasé, making this an overall underwhelming cast performance.  But hey, they got one point!

Conclusion

Revelation Road 2 is one of the rare Pureflix movies that really had something, but never found it.  The overarching idea behind the series, if you ignore the strange eschatology, is very creative and breaks genre barriers in Christian film.  Yet under all of this is a sad storyline, and this is the fact that four points is a monumental accomplishment for this creative team.  The Sea of Glass and Fire stands as an example of how good even this crew can be when they put their minds to it, but it also makes us hunger for more.  Unfortunately, that more is probably not going to happen, if history is any indication.  Basically, if this idea were put into the hands of another team, it would have been Hall of Fame and beyond.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Revelation Road: The Beginning of the End (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Josh McManus is a confused man.  As a traveling self-defense product salesman, he is used to meeting new people on a daily basis, but he is not comfortable with the secret man inside of him.  While travelling across the western America desert, strange things start to happen.  Pursued by mysterious biker villains and plagued by weather anomalies and electrical failures, he is finally forced to face off with his pursuers.  Hawg is a troubled biker gang leader with an agenda to take over random small towns in the western United States.  His disgruntled mentality tends to cause discontent in his gang, but they ride on, bent on destroying the mysterious Josh McManus.  All of the characters involved must not only come to grips with who they are, but with the strangely changing world around them.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Where to begin?  Let’s start with the positive.  The only reason this film’s production is not zero points is because there is at least clear video quality.  Otherwise, there is nothing good to discuss.  The camera work is obnoxious, with random dizzying cuts and zooms for faux-dramatic effect.  To ‘enhance’ action sequences, the camera jerks all around, getting weirdly close to important characters.  While we’re on the topic of action scenes, they are either very poorly executed or far too long, eating up huge chunks of the movie’s runtime.  Watching a David A. R. White action scene is usually dizzying, and Revelation Road is no exception.  Speaking of dizzying, the sheer overuse of special effects in this movie makes us wonder if it’s safe for epileptic viewers to watch.  Topping things of, the soundtrack is deplorable.  Therefore, as you can see, this is another horrific Pureflix production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With this movie packed so chock full with useless action sequences that add nothing to its overall purpose, whatever that is, actual plot depth is squeezed out of the picture.  The intended plot can be summed up in a nutshell: random guy drives to a random desert town to sell self-defense gear (does anybody really do that?) and gets caught in the middle of a store holdup, uses secret military training to defeat mindless biker villains, hangs out with the store owner and his family, observe strange weather anomalies with eccentric local policemen, calls his worried wife about stuff, plays vigilante with local deadbeats, and observes a strange ‘rapture’ from a local motel.  Elsewhere, we are shown the life and times of a bizarre desert biker gang led by a grunting leader and his sidekick, plus Andrea Logan White in a makeup disaster.  No character development occurs as the ‘plot’ jumps from one explosion and gunfight to the next.  Dialogue has a typical cheesy, off-the-wall Pureflix feel.  We are unsure what is trying to be communicated here except for another offbeat Christian apocalyptic concept.  This movie might as well be a commercial for the next one, as it delays the viewers any real substance for over ninety wasted minutes.  Finally, the ending is extremely confusing and isolating.  In short, Revelation Road is the story of the White action films: toss out convention and common sense and exchange it for cheaply constructed action sequences.

Acting Quality (0 points)

What more is there to say that hasn’t already been said?  With the same old Pureflix actors and actresses recycled in the Revelation Road saga, their acting skills do not improve.  When a collection of cast members is kept in such a bubble, there is no reason for them to improve when there is no constructive criticism or filter.  Through this film, emotions are forced and unbelievable.  Action scenes are sloppily acted and line delivery is lazy.  Unfortunately, there is nothing unique or surprising from this cast.

Conclusion

We promise we are really not out on some kind of Pureflix warpath, but when a company so consistently generates such low quality and bizarre content in the name of Christianity, they must be called out.  Revelation Road may be the pinnacle of the Whites’ action movie career.  It involves every possible element of a C-grade action flick.  With creations like this, only two conclusions can be determined: either Pureflix does not know how to make a good movie or they do not care to make a good movie.  Apocalyptic movies are usually bad enough, but this motorcycle madness takes things to a whole new level.  The end result is just another ridiculous Pureflix creation.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

Brother White (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Stuck in a long line of pastoral succession at a megachurch headed by the popular Johnny Kingman, James White is desperate to make his mark and to stand out from the crowd.  But doing so only gets him into further trouble.  After nearly ruining a children’s Sunday school class and an expensive painting and disrupting a church service, Kingman send James on a probation to pastor a struggling church in Atlanta.  So James, his wife Lily, and their two children make a cross-country move to the Peach State and find themselves thrust into a multicultural world they have never before experienced.  Not only must James find a way to save the struggling church, but he must come to grips with the fact that he is not invincible and must rely on God and his family for help.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Compared to other PureFlix productions, Brother White is not horrible.  It actually has a lot of potential.  The camera work is pretty good, as is the video quality.  However, the sound quality is inconsistent and some outside scenes are covered up with musical montages.  The editing is decent, but the sets and locations are obviously cheap.  There are some slight excuses for this, but it still could have been better.  Probably the worst production element is pretending like certain characters are singing when they are obviously not.  In short, the production of Brother White is just average—neither horrible nor dynamic.  There was a lot of potential here that was not brought to the surface.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Unlike many PureFlix plots, Brother White is slightly interesting.  Exploring racial relations by inserting an affluent white (White?) family into a predominantly African-American church has a lot of potential, if stereotypes are avoided.  For the most part, they are.  There is plenty of satire in Brother White that is actually funny, such as tongue-in-cheek swipes at prosperity gospel churches.  But there are also elements that are just trying too hard.  Too much comedy falls flat and some lines leave you scratching your head.  There are plot holes that are glossed over and some humor is way too obvious, such as the name ‘Lily White’.  The plot boils down to a simplistic save the farm storyline and seems to lose its original purpose in the end.  James’ character arc is commendable, but the whole movie just leaves you wanting more substance.  In short, Brother White is not so awful that it’s unwatchable, but it’s also frustrating to watch because there was obviously a lot of creativity left untapped.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is probably David A. R. White’s best lead role, it still leaves much to be desired.  The presence of more professional actors in this cast keeps it from sinking to the depths of most PureFlix casts.  However, there is still a lack of acting coaching.  Were all the actors up to par, this movie would have improved.

Conclusion

This is probably the closest the Whites and Tommy Blaze will ever get to true comedy.  But were this plot in different hands, we can’t help but feel it could have been Hall of Fame worthy.  It contains a unique plot on a good topic and as it is, has some humorous elements.  In the end, Brother White is the highest rated White comedy and unfortunately, it is hard to believe that it will get any better than this.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points