A Strange Brand of Happy (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

David Weathersby has no clear direction in life, especially after being fired from his job by his hotshot boss, who is impressed with himself.  He feels like he doesn’t have any purpose and decides to languish away, so his roommate decides to introduce him to a random life coach he ran into so David can find a fresh purpose for himself.  But this introduction only creates a problematic love triable between David, his old boss, and the life coach.  Will this silliness ever be resolved?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In a change from previous Rebel Pilgrim productions, such as Hope Bridge and the awful Fenced Off, A Strange Brand of Happy at least has an above-average production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine.  The soundtrack is a bit silly, however, and there is some odd soft lighting throughout.  There are also a lot of cheesy animated interludes that give the movie a juvenile feel.  Also, a lot of the sets are relatively limited, as well as the props, and there are no real locations.  Finally, editing is just average and contributes to a slightly above-average, but not quite all-the-way-there production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Full of cheesy and quirky characters, this story is just a childish romantic ‘comedy’ based on a silly and manufactured love triangle.  Nearly all the humor is very forced and dry and is thus not funny.  There is too much pointless goofiness throughout, including silliness for the sake of being silly.  At times, this story feels like a joke, and it contains some very vague Christian themes.  With no real direction or purpose, this plot is just a bunch of random content assembled in a formulaic and predictable fashion, with a side of weird edgy elements and a very strange tone throughout.  Any meaning that is tried to be inserted at the end is too little too late, thus making for mostly a waste of time.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast is very stiff and wooden in their delivery, as well as awkward.  There is definitely not enough coaching here, although there are some good moments to note.  However, there is a lot of odd makeup work throughout, as well as some unnecessary yelling throughout.  In the end, this rounds out an overall low-average and basically low-effort film.

Conclusion

Rebel Pilgrim certainly knows how to make a strange brand of movies.  What exactly are they going for?  They’ve attempted the dramatic emotional exploration in Hope Bridge and the stupid comedies in Fenced Off and A Strange Brand of Happy, but what do they really have to show for it?  They also present a strange brand of Christianity in their films, so perhaps the title of this movie is not by accident.  Are they actually just trolling like The Asylum to see what some money they can make off of their efforts?  Your guess is as good as ours.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Advertisements

The Frontier Boys (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a tight-knit group of high school basketball players and fans is directly affected by a seemingly random drive-by shooting, they band together to discover the truth behind the evil deed.  However, unbeknownst to the others, one of them is holding a terrible secret that would affect his very life if he disclosed it.  But as the trail grows cold, will be speak the truth and risk it all to save his friends?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Frontier Boys starts off as a very raw and rough production, which is not characteristic of Echolight Studios.  Camera work is quite shaky at first and video quality is inconsistent.  However, audio quality is always good and the soundtrack is creative.  Sometimes lighting is randomly poor, but this and other productions elements at least improve as the movie goes on.  Sets, locations, and props are stable throughout the film, but for some reason it takes until the middle of video quality, camera work, and lighting to improve.  However, the editing is bit odd as it leaves too many lagging scenes and unexplained sequences.  Overall, this production is a roller coaster and probably should have been redone.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The Frontier Boys is a rare circumstance in which the creative plot saves the film from total mediocrity.  Though it begins in a confusing fashion, the story becomes more interesting as it goes, even though it does take a while to get to the point.  Regardless, the characters are surprisingly well-developed through unique dialogue and realistic circumstances.  However, there are some typical sports and mystery story elements and sometimes it seems like the creativity of this suspense idea is not reaching its fullest potential.  It feels like this film was just a beta test because a lot of factors are too downplayed and not taken seriously enough.  Had they been taken more serious, this would be a whole different ballgame.  But in the end, though things tend to be fixed too easily in this plot, it is still a commendable effort and one that demonstrates story-writing talent, which is hard to come by in the Christian movie field.  Perhaps this talent will be utilized further in the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is some off-putting and unusual at first, they work well together and assume their roles very well.  Line delivery is on-point and emotions are believable.  This is a professional casting job and one that should be replicated in the future.

Conclusion

There’s really not a movie out there that’s like The Frontier Boys.  It actually follows a non-typical plot structure and dabbles into an untapped genre.  If the production were upgraded and the plot even slightly improved, this would have been a Hall of Fame film.  Perhaps with the backing of Echolight, this creative team has a chance to really make a difference in the field, if they put their mind to it.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Suing the Devil (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Luke, a struggling law student, is angry that the drunk driver who killed his mother is now walking free and contemplates killing him.  But he decides against this and instead directs his anger at the devil.  Concluding that Satan is responsible for everything evil in the world and that he needs to pay for it, Luke does the only rational thing he can think to do: file a lawsuit against Satan himself for damages totaling eight trillion dollars.  What could go wrong, especially when the devil actually shows up in the courtroom?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Though this production is not as deplorable as the horrid thing that is Final: The Rapture, Suing the Devil still has plenty of avoidable issues.  Timothy Chey prides himself in having money to make quality films, yet he is content to flush all of his funds down the toilet in some kind of bizarre effort to get attention.  Anything good about this production is drowned out by wild and amateurish cuts and transitions between scenes, inconsistent camera work, wacky camera angles…the list goes on and on.  Loud sound effects constantly annoy the viewing experience as a lot of the audio quality is overdriven.  There is no semblance of coherency when it comes to the editing, yet this is also a plot issue.  In short, just having a pile of money to make a movie doesn’t produce results—it actually has to be applied properly.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)

Guided by constant narration from a maniac, whoever subjects themselves to this torture is forced to witness a descent into utter madness.  Since the entire point of this film is to depict a zany trial sequence, the story speeds to this point and forces you to sit through the world’s most ridiculous legal premise, which is filled with heavy-handed messaging, obvious dialogue, and wacko strawman characters.  Chey chooses the strangest villain concepts to caricature and fills the movie with bizarre theology. The story gets stranger and stranger as it goes on until you feel like you are the victim of the world’s most serious trolling.  To get to the point, Suing the Devil is a juvenile effort and an absolute laughingstock of a movie.  There is no justifiable reason for this debacle to have ever been created.

Acting Quality (-2 points)

But it gets worse.  Emotions are extremely over the top and dramatic.  There are too many sequences of yelling and some cast members get more and more unhinged as the film slogs on.  It’s painfully clear that there was no thought put into any of this.

Conclusion

Is this film a joke?  That’s the only conclusion we can come to.  There is literally no point to this unstable diatribe that is fixated on Satan, oil companies, and big banks.  Sure, all three of these have their share of problems (especially the devil), but are they worth dedicating a movie to?  As Christians, we have too much of a tendency to give Satan more attention that he’s worth, and this movie is sort of an example of that.  But otherwise, Suing the Devil is a collection of incoherent and downright asylum-insane psychobabble that does nothing except further tarnish the name of Christian film.  Whoever keeps giving Timothy Chey money needs to stop, like now.

 

Final Rating: -4 out of 10 points

 

Unidentified [2006] (Movie Review)

Strange invaders…

Plot Summary

Keith and Brad work for a magazine that is more prominent its own mind and when they are sent by their supervisor to investigate some UFO claims in some obscure small town in Texas, they can’t believe it.  They think it’s all pointless, especially when the locals refuse to talk about the sightings.  But when their friend Darren invites them to take a different look at the UFO phenomena, their whole world is turned upside down.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Sometimes the Christiano brothers put together a respectable production, but not in Unidentified.  The okay camera work is the only positive quality to speak of.  The video quality is quite cheap and there are too many cheesy special effects littering the film.  Though the plot goes all over the country, the sets and locations are fairly limited and mostly focus on the office set.  Finally, the editing is extremely choppy in a failed attempt to be dramatic.  In short, there are not enough redeeming qualities to make up for the rest of the nonsense in this movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

The Christiano brothers might as well have not even tried to make this a fiction plot, because it’s mainly a docu-drama filled with regurgitated UFO documentary talking points.  There are tons of disjointed subplots that are nearly impossible to follow and that are based entirely on coincidences.  Things happen because they need to as the dialogue is filled with information dumps and consists of long and drawn out conversations.  There is also tons of off-screen content.  A clear agenda is being pushed here, placing this plot in the propaganda category.  Even though there may be some truth to what is being said here, it comes off as disingenuous and is mostly clouded with legalism.  As usual, opposing worldviews are treated offensively, thus warranting negative points.  Finally, this film has the weirdest end since Decision that you have to see to believe.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Except for a few small positive elements, this cast is very unprofessional.  It’s not only a very awkward cast, but they are not coached very well at all.  Their line delivery and emotional delivery are overly practiced and robotic.  Some cast members come off as lofty.  In short, this rounds out a very embarrassing effort.

Conclusion

It is clear that the Christiano brothers have a legalistic agenda to push both in this film and in others like Time Changer and A Matter of Faith.  The sad thing is that spiritual issues like the ones alluded to in Unidentified need to be discussed on Christian film, yet people like the Christianos are the only ones who seem to do this, and always in the wrong way.  There is some truth to the UFO phenomena, but no one is going to learn it from this film.  Unidentified only serves to further solidify a Pharisaical and sometimes bizarre image in Christian film, especially Christian sci-fi, which is a needed genre.  Who will stand up to reverse this trend?

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Sarah’s Choice (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sarah wants a big executive break like her boyfriend has, that’s why she sees an opportunity when she gets interviewed for a temporary job.  The only catch is that in order to get hired, she has to prove that she’s not pregnant.  But after she takes a test, she finds that she is pregnant and is faced with a serious decision: pursue a career and abort her child or give up her career and have her child.  Sarah will have to decide how real her faith is and what direction she wants her life to go in.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The one thing PureFlix usually has going for them is that they can put together a respectable-looking production.  Sarah’s Choice is not an exception.  Notwithstanding an odd opening sequence, the camera work is at least above average.  The video quality is good, as is the audio quality.  The soundtrack could use some improvement, but the sets are respectable.  Also, the editing is mostly average, though there are a handful of unnecessary scenes that put a damper on this production.  But overall, despite their obvious flaws, PureFlix can usually put together a semi-professional production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Leave it to PureFlix to take an important social issue and mutilate it with over the top messaging.  As a plot filled with typical White-style extremist characters, Sarah’s Choice sports a ridiculously unrealistic premise that is designed to force the issue of abortion on the audience.  As usual, pro-abortionists and other people who disagree with the PureFlix worldview are portrayed in offensive ways.  The dialogue is very obvious and forces the plot along, even though there is plenty of time wasted on bizarre asides.  There is also a silly shoehorning of the Christmas story into this plot, along with some odd ‘magical’ Christmas elements.  While the psychological parts are intriguing, they are not enough to offset the onslaught of nonsense in the remainder of the storyline.  As can be expected, the end is neat and tidy with no real justification for it ending up that way.  Basically, every horror story regarding the combination of PureFlix and the issue of abortion comes true in Sarah’s Choice.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While some cast members, including Rebecca St. James, post moderately respectable performances, this is probably Andrea Logan White’s most obnoxious role to date as she attempts to caricature a vain (well this mostly true) pro-abortion feminist.  There are some bright spots here that keep this category from being terrible, but there are still too many unrealistic emotions and drama moments.  Line delivery is fairly average throughout.  Overall, this is just average, despite Andrea Logan White.

Conclusion

In a PureFlix Christmas movie about abortion, what could go wrong?  Well, a lot, actually.  The Whites and company continue their addiction to portraying non-Christians as heartless ogres and construct an unrealistic framework designed to shove a social issue down your throat.  Do they even have any regard for reality or are they just trying to sell movies?  Movies like Sarah’s Choice are exactly why people tire of legalistic Christianity.  Unfortunately, while this blog is unashamedly pro-life, this is not the type of film we can support.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Faith of Our Fathers [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

John Paul George always wanted to know about his father and his experiences in Vietnam, but he could never learn any detailed information about him.  Now, on the verge of getting married, he stumbles upon a misplaced box of his father’s things and discovers a lone letter that could clue John Paul in on some more information.  He begins to search for the sender of the letter, but is unsuccessful until he accidentally reaches a cryptic character that interests John Paul just enough to make him go and see him in person.  Once he finally meets his new acquaintance, the two decide to embark on a redemptive journey to reconcile both their pasts and their fathers’ memories.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

PureFlix has improved over the years on production quality.  The camera work is decent and the sets seem pretty good.  The war scenes are the strongest parts of the movie, as they are actually not done in a cheesy manner.  The soundtrack is just average. However, the editing tends to be confusing.  Some scenes are wasted and drag on too long.  This is an improvement, but not quite there yet.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

This plot would have been improved with more inclusion of Vietnam War scenes.  The historical characters needed to be better developed and the present-day characters needed to be less-emphasized.  The present day plot is erratic and random; one subplot is introduced and then discarded with no real explanation to its purpose.  Some dialogue and subplots seem to just fill time.  None of the characters are believable, especially Wayne.  Perhaps the worst of all is that one character uses the same actor over a nearly forty year timespan, without aging appropriately.  In short, as far as PureFlix movies go, the plot is business as usual.

Acting Quality (1 point)

PureFlix needs acting coaching, plain and simple.  David A. R. White’s attempt at comedy falls flat.  Kevin Downes is not cast into the appropriate character.  Candace Cameron Bure and Rebecca St. James seem like Christian celebrity tack-ons, with neither one serving any real purpose.  Stephen Baldwin is passable, as are the historical characters, making them the only possible elements here.

Conclusion

In summary, PureFlix has improved a hair from the usual ways.  The production quality has improved, but that’s about it.  A potentially meaningful plot was once again wasted and the acting was once again sub-par.  Fatherhood is an important topic, as is the Vietnam War, but both seem like extra additions rather than the main points.  Maybe next time things will improve.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points