The World We Make (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

The Grove family has had their share of heartache over the past few years, but family friend Jordan Bishop has always been a constant support for them. However, the dynamics begin to shift when Jordan and Lee begin to develop a relationship after the grief seems to settle. Many discourage them from getting involved, and the small town seemingly works against their being together. Together, they experience unexpected prejudice and bias while discovering that they had more hiding below the surface than they previously realized.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a 2019 film, The World We Make is the type of respectable production we should be seeing time and again. There are very few flaws to point out here save for the slightly awkward editing near the end of the film (likely due to large story scope). Camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all basically flawless even though most scenes are filmed outdoors. The sets, locations, and props are extremely authentic and well-utilized; on-location shooting is definitely a big plus. Although the soundtrack could be a bit more than it is, this is a very high-level effort for a partially low-budget film, which goes to show what a little experience and proper collaboration can do for a movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Brian Baugh has always been committed to developing raw and real storylines based on accessible characters (I’m Not Ashamed). While The World We Make is one of his calmer tales, it’s nonetheless refreshing and believable. While the scope of this story may be a bit narrow, it’s nonetheless true-to-life and demonstrates great understanding of real people. The central romance is deeper than what we usually see in these types of films because it feels more believable and everyday. There are some very important themes explored, including grief avoidance, small town prejudice, and racial ostracizing. Characters make realistic decisions based on personality and motive rather than on plot necessity, and the storyline has a few slightly unexpected turns. As a whole, this is a very enjoyable plot to witness, and while it could have been a bit better since the ending is fairly rushed and somewhat cutoff, it’s still great as it is, which is enough to push this film over the top and onto the Hall of Fame.

Acting Quality (3 points)

There are virtually no flaws in the acting department. Caleb Castille owns another starring role, and Kevin Sizemore adapts a unique character that suits him. Gunnar Sizemore is a supporting role, but he could be a new rising star. Further, Gregory Alan Williams demonstrates a much more effective role than he’s played in the past. Overall, there is clear acting coaching present here as emotions and lines are authentically delivered, which rounds out a very commendable effort.

Conclusion

Although The World We Make could have been a bit more dynamic than this, it mostly reaches its fullest potential as a film. There are a few nitpicks, but in the grand scheme of things, Brian Baugh is continually setting himself apart as a master of characters, which seems to give him a better proclivity for series writing rather than movie writing. Indeed, not counting this year, we’ve had a longstanding drought in Christian series, so with new opportunities coming available (VidAngel), we may be poised to seeing a breakout in creators like Baugh directing their talents toward series rather than only films. Regardless of what happens, The World We Make is another good addition to the Hall of Fame and is one you’ll definitely want to make time for.

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

Run the Race (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

It seems like Zach and Dave Truett have always been dealt a bad hand in life. Their mother died, and their father soon after fell into alcoholism. Dave suffers from a medical condition, so when Zach tears his ACL at a party, his chances of a football scholarship, their only clear way out of their small town, are jeopardized. This forces Zach to do the soul-searching he had always avoided since their mother died, and it leads the brothers to unexpected places.

Production Quality (2 points)

As the first production funded and facilitated by the Tebow brothers, they have definitely shown that they can aggregate funds and put them to fairly good use. For the most part, this production is quite good and hits all the right notes, including good video quality, effective camera work, professional audio quality, and a great soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props are also adequately used and constructed. While the music is good, one drawback is the many dizzying sports montages that seem to eat up most of the runtime. Because of the time spent on this part, other scenes in the film are awkwardly and abruptly cut off with poor transitions. However, on the whole, this is an above-average production that is great for a first time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the money put into the production didn’t reflect well in the plot department. While something good is trying to be portrayed in this story, it doesn’t come through well at all, mostly due to the quick, clipped scenes that leave little room for proper development. Much of the dialogue refers to off-screen content or is very punctuated; this makes for awkward conversations that are inadequate in building characters effectively. While there are some attempts to take a real look at issues facing small towns in America and the people in them, too much time is spent on sports and training montages, which makes for a fairly choppy story presentation that doesn’t flow very well at all. There are too many missed opportunities as mindless sequences crowd the runtime, and many of the characters are too basic and one-dimensional. Difficult topics are mishandled with cliches, and unexpected time jumps leave the viewer disoriented to the story’s progression. Besides a handful of good scenes near the end of the film, this movie mainly talks about things without really showing them to you and fixes things without any heart behind them. In better screenwriting hands, this could have been a great exploration of relevant issues facing ordinary people, but we are left wondering what could have been.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

On the whole, the acting of this film could have been good, and while there aren’t any glaring errors, it’s still a bit thin. Better coaching would have likely brought out the potential in the cast members, and even so, it’s not as bad as it could have been. However, it’s not really dynamic either, which makes this an average section that rounds off a middle-of-the-road film.

Conclusion

In summary, Run the Race is fine for a freshman film effort, but with higher standards being set in the Christian entertainment market, new film makers will need to aim higher if they want to make their mark. Good productions have become more of a benchmark than they once were, and acting should at least be above average. The films that will truly set themselves apart moving forward are those that have dynamic plots and effective storytelling techniques. Perhaps in the their next attempt, the Tebow brothers can wield their fundraising skills to support a truly talented screenwriter.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Movie Renovation: Where Hope Grows

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

For starters, like most films that need remakes, Where Hope Grows has a poor budget allocation.  The camera work needs a total rework, and the presence of a substantial soundtrack would have also helped things along.  Post-production elements, such as editing, also need to be renovated, as the way the plot is presented is a bit disorienting at times.  Overall, this film had a very indie feel to it, which is not always bad, but the lack of proper funding crippled this film’s full potential.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

The plot of Where Hope Grows also has some work to do.  There is a disproportionate amount of time spent on the woes of troubled characters.  Although this is a realistic approach, it’s not always done in a tasteful way.  This is billed as a family film, but the audience therein will likely be disappointed by the slightly overdone amount of edgy content that lacks a proper amount of redemption to help things.  Also, even though the characters are realistic in many ways, their dialogue needs deepening in order to assist the audience in relating to them better as people.  For example, some flashbacks could have aided us in understanding the motivations of the characters rather than having another scene of the main character acting drunk.  Also, as previously mentioned, the disorganization of this plot is a drag on the experience and blunts the full impact of the otherwise good ending.  Essentially, a total rewrite of this plot by the right person could have put this film on the Hall of Fame.

Acting Improvements

This film’s important message regarding special needs people is reinforced by the excellent casting of a special needs actor.  Though there are some overly heated emotional moments that could use some toning down, this section is overall the most reliable section of the movie.

Conclusion

Where Hope Grows was closer to greatness than a lot of films with twice its budget.  This level of commitment to raw, imperfect characters is hard to come by in the plastic Christian market.  However, there is a balance to find between extremely fake and extremely realistic.  Perhaps a future Christian film maker can use this film as a model for how to walk the line between the two in order to make a truly dynamic film.

 

Sweet Sweet Summertime (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After experiencing the tragic death of his beloved mother, Caleb Burns just wants everything to stay the same.  Everything does stay the same for a time, until Caleb’s father announces that they will be moving from Franklin, Tennessee to Atlanta, Georgia after the summer is over.  Thus, Caleb and his friend Blake launch a summer master plan to not only do the things they want to do before the move, but to also try to convince Caleb’s father to change his mind.  Caleb and Blake also start a club dedicated to Caleb’s mom that does good deeds all around town.  Over the course of the summer, they learn more about themselves than they anticipated and discover just how much of a difference one summer can make.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

In keeping with their past reputation, Echolight Studios, along with its partners Triple Horse Studios and Abington Ridge Films, is certainly dedicated to building high-quality Christian productions.  Nearly every production element of Sweet Sweet Summertime is flawless.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all highly professional.  The original soundtrack suits this film.  Sets, locations, and props are also very appropriate for this film and demonstrate quality.  The only negative production element to raise is the editing, as there are one too many montages and the advancement of time is a bit too rapid.  Yet, as always, this is a top-notch production that should be commonplace in all Christian films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Also in keeping with past trends, Echolight and their team tend to leave much to be desired when it comes to their plots.  Sweet Sweet Summertime is a fairly predictable and formulaic coming-of-age film that basically writes itself from beginning to end, yet the writers did the best they could with what they had, which is all we can ask.  There is too much unnecessary and heavy-handed narration that stunts character development, yet there is also dialogue that assists in making the characters realistic and accessible.  While this story has been done before, this rendition of it is certainly not as cheesy as it could have been and many audiences will find it enjoyable.  The ending is very rushed and tidy, yet there are plenty of viewers who will like it.  Overall, while we would have liked to see more creativity, at least this team put their best foot forward.

Acting Quality (3 points)

This is the sort of cast that we should see in every Christian film.  They are highly professional and well-coached.  Line delivery is flawless and emotions are very believable.  It is rare that you see a film with no acting errors in it, but Sweet Sweet Summertime is one of those films.

Conclusion

Echolight has solidified themselves as a reliably professional studio when it comes to production quality.  They also know how to assemble a respectable, error-free cast.  Yet time and again, Echolight plots tend to leave something to be desired by choosing pre-written storylines that lack creativity.  While films like Sweet Sweet Summertime will have some impact on its target audiences, it will unfortunately be easily forgotten in time.  In order to have a lasting impact in film, the plot must be dynamic.  The day that Echolight uses a dynamic plot will be the day that the Christian film world is turned upside down.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

https://offers.pureflix.com/sweet-sweet-summertime-trailer

The Good Book [2014] (Movie Review)

The Good Book (2014)

Plot Summary

The Bible is a powerful book that has been changing lives for centuries.  A group of people in a small town individually face struggles and circumstances that lead them searching for fresh help, the Word of God comes to them and helps them understand exactly what they need to do.  Each situation is difference and each struggle is unique, but the same Book shows each one the way to go.  This Good Book can do the same for your life.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As an ambitious silent film, The Good Book boasts many professional elements.  The fundamentals—camera work, video quality, and audio quality—are all excellent.  In a silent film, the soundtrack is key, and this one delivers.  An original instrumental soundtrack is very effective with this type of movie.  Sets and locations are also realistic and down to earth.  The only real problem to point out here is the editing, as it is hard to follow where the movie is going.  But overall, this is a high quality production that shows great potential for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

It’s not easy to integrate unrelated multiple storylines in a way that is engaging and makes sense.  However, The Good Book does this fairly well, even though we would have liked to see a little more plot continuity.  There is always going to be a ceiling for silent plots, as dialogue is absent and can only be implied.  Yet this story is understandable and powerful all the same.  The situations experienced by the characters are realistic and relatable.  The ending of the story is powerful and could almost be a movie in and of itself.  In the end, this is a great effort and shows true talent.  When Sharon Wilharm and her team make a non-silent story, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Silent acting is sometimes better for some cast members (coughcoughJennGotzoncoughcough).  With silent acting, coaching is always needed and thus, the cast members have to work to show emotion, and this usually pays off.   Though silent, what this cast is trying to convey is mostly understandable.  The main caveat here is that it seems like some cast members are trying too hard to express themselves.  But otherwise, this is a good effort.

Conclusion

The Mainstreet Productions team was wise to begin with silent films like this one and ProvidenceThe Good Book has a powerful and undeniable message and is certainly worth a watch.  We believe Wilharm and company are talented and have a lot of offer to Christian film, so it will be exciting to see what they do next.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

 

Full disclosure: We were provided by the creator with a copy of this film in exchange for a fair and honest review

 

Where Hope Grows (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Calvin is a down on his luck ex-pro baseball player who has been struggling to get his career back on track ever since he blew it in a big game.  He’s addicted to alcohol and has a strained relationship with his daughter.  He’s aimless in life until he randomly meets a young man with Downs syndrome working at a local grocery store.  Named Produce, he immediately forms an unlikely bond with Calvin and begins to unknowingly challenge him to live better.  In talking with Produce, Calvin begins to have a whole new outlook on life—one that doesn’t revolve around himself.  But as the challenges and struggles facing them get tougher, they will each have to choose how they are going to respond in order to determine where they will end up in life.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Where Hope Grows is severely under-funded.  It’s painfully obvious that one main camera is used and that it is not stationary or mechanically movable, as the shots frequently shake around.  The video quality is also B-grade, but not as bad as it could be.  The sound is inconsistent, but mostly stays good.  Perhaps one of the biggest production issues is the painful absence of a soundtrack.  If this film had a musical score, it would be greatly improved.  On the upside, the sets and locations are good; the crew demonstrates a commitment to making everything look realistic rather than getting stuck in a few cheesy sets.  However, the editing is unfortunately very confusing, making the storyline hard to follow.  Overall, the production shows that this film was not a throw together and it feels like the crew did the best they could with what they had.  We only wish they had more funds to work with.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

There is a lot of great content in this plot that doesn’t seem to live up to its full potential.  The concept of this film is very ingenious in an inspirational market that is flooded with pedestrian movies.  It accurately and realistically (sometimes too realistically) portrays real issues facing ordinary people, whether special needs people or ex-professional athletes and their families.  However, it is sometimes too hard to connect with the characters because the plot is too choppy to create an environment conducive to character development.  Dialogue is too inconsistent—sometimes profound and other times understated and isolating.  There are too many portions of the plot that are either too short or not explained well enough.  There are also too many points where the audience is tempted to turn off the movie because it’s too confusing or too raw.  But if you do make it to the end, there is actually a very creative intersection of the characters that partially makes it all worth it.  This portion of the film is the best because it is well thought out but it is also frustrating to watch, knowing how much better it could be.  Elsewhere, as previously mentioned, there is too much raw and sometimes crude content in this film—even though this definitely realistic, it should be presented in a more palatable way.  In summary, there are many ways in which Where Hope Grows could have been a better film and we really wish a remake would be made.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, the acting is the strongest point of this movie.  It is so rare to cast a special needs person in a film, so the casting of David DeSanctis is both groundbreaking and highly appropriate.  The remainder of the cast sometimes lives up the acting genius of DeSanctis and sometimes they do not.  Emotional delivery is pretty good throughout, but sometimes it is over the top.  Therefore, the acting quality is overall above average.

Conclusion

In Christian and inspirational film, there is a list of movies that are frustrating to watch because they exhibit far more potential than they produce.  These films should all be up for remakes, and Where Hope Grows is one of those.  Special needs people need to be portrayed properly in movies; this is one way that this film breaks barriers.  If it had more money behind it and less crude content, we can’t help but think that it would have been Hall of Fame worthy and extremely successful in inspirational circles.  But alas, we are left with another film that could have been.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points