Love Different (Movie Review)

Thug life.

Plot Summary

When a dippy white blonde named Jenn Gotzon Lindsay decides to take a job at an African-American marketing firm, she finds herself in the midst of a major culture shock.  So the head of the firm assigns his best marketer, Neque, to help Lindsay integrate into the new culture that she is completely foreign to.  Little do neither of them know that they are both in for a new look at life, not only their own lives, but also the lives of others.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, Love Different sports professional production quality.  Camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all on par with what they should be.  The soundtrack is a little quirky, but it seems to work.  Sets and locations are adequate for this story.  There is really little to complain about here, except for some choppy editing as this film tends to jump from one supposedly funny sequence to another.  But otherwise, this is what productions should look like, even if the story is greatly lacking.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

What. Is. Happening.  From one forced comedy scene to the next and from one quirky racial joke to another, there is no sense here and little method to this madness.  A lot of the time, it seems like these cast members were set free to ad-lib with no real direction except to act as juvenile and silly as possible and to make as many racial jokes as they can get away with.  This story feels like it has the zany influence of David A. R. White, Kevin Downes, and Tommy Blaze, but it does not.  As previously mentioned, this story is really just a loose collection of skits about racial differences with a few ‘meaningful’ scenes sprinkled in.  It’s hard to follow the arc of these characters as one is constantly distracted by the outrageous behaviors of Jenn Gotzon that simply have to be seen for yourself.  A lot of the dialogue constantly refers back to racial differences without truly building these characters beyond their skin color.  Yet believe it or not, there is a powerful message hidden somewhere in the midst of the zaniness, if you stick around long enough to find it.  But in the end, any movie that includes Jenn Gotzon trying to act like she’s African-American cannot be taken seriously.  It’s funny for all the wrong reasons and is simply too much to be true comedy.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Sometimes it seems like this cast has potential.  But then it doesn’t.  Jenn Gotzon is a self-parody in this film with all her antics.  Other cast members seem like they have potential and even have good moments, but they short themselves by acting like fools in attempts to be comedic.  They really seem like they are better than this, which makes this performance overall disappointing.

Conclusion

In the opening credits, God is blamed as an executive producer of this train wreck.  Can I just say, please don’t blame God for your disasters.  There is certainly a place for comedy centered around cultural differences and how we tend to isolate ourselves from different people, but whatever good Love Different was trying to accomplish unfortunately falls flat.  There are simply too many outrageous sequences and purposely over-the-top comedy elements for this movie to fully accomplish its goal.  There are so many memorable moments in this movie that are memorable for the wrong reasons.  From a class dedicated to teaching white people about African-Americans to Bon Quisha and Jenn Gotzon’s thug life, Love Different is one for the history books, but we’re not sure if its original intent will be remembered in the midst of the outrageousness.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

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Love Covers All (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Michael goes on a business trip and leaves his very pregnant wife at home, he never anticipated the series of events that would occur.  The business trip turns out to be something he never expected to happen and this is compounded when his wife goes into labor and begins having complications.  In route home, Michael becomes stranded in the middle of nowhere and feels like all hope is lost until he begins to remember the faith he has easily forgotten about.  Will he be able to reconcile his past hurts and help those around him before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though the budget and the team were limited in what they could do with this film, it’s obvious that they were trying to create a quality production with what they had available.  The highest marks go to the excellent video and audio quality.  Camera work is also highly professional and the soundtrack is adequate.  The sets and locations are limited, but they are utilized fairly well.  However, some scenes have poor lighting and there are generally not enough extras.  Yet the editing is fine and rounds out an overall above average production effort.  It’s clear that this team cares about what they are doing, so it will be interesting to see what they create in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The biggest downfall of Love Covers All is its simplistic storyline, though it does have a meaningful message.  The writers did the right thing with a limited and pedestrian storyline: craft authentic and believable characters built on great developing dialogue.  The dialogue is one of the main saving graces of this film—without it, the story would be nothing.  The life circumstances the characters experience are very realistic and accessible, and the Christian message hits home.  However, we would have liked the plot to be a little more complex and creative than this.  But still, this is a non-typical storyline that deserves recognition.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

This is a very strong casting job that lifts the film away from total mediocrity.  With recognizable Christian actors and actresses, each character is cast very well.  There is clear acting coaching present here as they deliver their lines and emotions with only minor errors.  This is a job well done.

Conclusion

The Praise Pictures team, like many budding creative teams, it poised to take the next step.  They have the production and casting skills necessary to create a top film—now they just need a bigger budget and more complex plots.  As a side note, the Christian message of Love Covers All is quite profound and we hope it is transferred to another film.  In short, there is so much potential here that is just waiting to be brought out, so we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

The Screenwriters [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When the great movie producer Chester Mayer threatens the famous screenwriter Stewart Harvey to give him a script or else, aspiring intern Chip Leninskovich steps in to help Stewart, whom he has always looked up to.  Together, they begrudgingly agree to write a script in 24 hours in order to satisfy the hard-nosed producer.  But in the midst of their furious writing, the two men discover they have more in common than they thought.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s clear that the Advent Film Group team put their fullest effort into crafting historically authentic surroundings for this film.  Props and the few sets that there are speak to a commitment to being very authentic.  Even the black and white video is effective.  The soundtrack is also reminiscent of the era that is portrayed.  Camera work is professional as well.  There are very few errors to point out here, and they only pertain to editing, as some scenes are too long, while others are too short.  There are also too many montages that try to fill time.  But in the end, this production effort is a job well done—we can’t wait to see it applied to a bigger scale.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, the simplistic plot structure of The Screenwriters holds it back from being all that it could be.  The scope of the story is too limited to one room with a handful of people coming and going from it and talking about the past and what they want to do.  Flashbacks would have been helpful to get outside of that room.  Besides this, the plot follows a predictable progression—we actually like the plot the characters were writing better than the actual plot.  We would have loved to see it replicated alongside the main storyline.  Finally, some of the characters in this film are intriguing while some are cheesy.  Effort is put into developing their backstories, but we would have liked to see more.  In short, this plot needed to be more dynamic so that this movie could be all that it could have been.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

This casting job is surprisingly respectable, considering who the cast includes.  This is perhaps Richard Swingle’s best acting performance to date.  Jason Burkey is better than usual, and Jenn Gotzon is just herself.  The only issues to raise here is some silly emotional delivery and ‘goofy’ elements.  But in the end, this casting is a breath of fresh air.

Conclusion

Advent Film Group is on the verge of something great.  They have assembled the necessary tools to craft a high quality production.  They know how to cast a film and coach the cast members.  All that’s missing now is a dynamic plot.  Like many other almost-there film makers, once Advent solves the plot puzzle, they will be a force to be reckoned with.  We anticipate their next release.

 

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

 

Providence [2016] (Movie Review)

Image result for providence movie 2016

Plot Summary

As Rachel Cartwright and Mitchell Little grew up in the small town of Providence, Tennessee, they each took different paths until finally meeting up.  Though they were together for a while, they lost touch as they grew older and went different paths again.  But even as life takes them in their different directions, they are destined to meet up again no matter what.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It’s very interesting to take a risk by creating a silent film, and as it turns out, it’s better to have no audio than bad audio.  Additionally, it was wise to fill the sound with an original soundtrack, even though it is sometimes incongruent with the time period the plot is trying to portray.  However, we would have liked to hear more instrumental tracks.  Silent films rely heavily on camera work and video quality, and both of these elements passed the test of professionalism.  There are also historically realistic sets, locations, and props throughout.  The main caveat to raise here is that some scenes tend to lag too long—we would have liked to see more content, but it’s a good start.  Regardless, Sharon Wilharm and Mainstreet Productions demonstrate the ability to engineer high quality productions, and we can’t wait to see them reach the next level.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Due to the silence, there is no audible dialogue, only implied dialogue.  This is both good and bad because it limits the mistakes and the rewards.  Nonetheless, the viewer can figure out fairly well what is going on in the story.  However, the storyline is somewhat simple and typical.  Some sequences are too long while others are too short, but there is far more plot content in Providence than in many non-silent films.  We would have liked to know these characters a little better than we do, but that’s just a limitation of silent plots.  In the end, the plot is okay, yet we feel that this plot could have been a little more complex than this.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

It is definitely difficult to act and to acting coach in silent films, yet both are pulled off well in Providence.  These cast members show better emotions than some non-silent films—for the most part, we really know what is going on, and that’s a huge accomplishment.  While there is some historically inauthentic costuming, most of it is good.  In short, this is a professional performance.

Conclusion

We were wary of silent films before seeing Providence, but it seems like having no sound makes everyone, especially the cast, try harder to improve quality.  While silent movies may not be the future, this is definitely a good place to jump start from and to use to improve into greatness.  The good news for Christian film is that after an extended wilderness of the early 2000s, movie makers are finally moving to the point of higher production quality.  Providence is an example of this trend.  Mainstreet Productions shows great promise for the future and we look forward to what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 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

 

 

In His Steps [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a homeless man comes to the town of Raymond and does not find that the Christians there do not practice what they preach, he interrupts a church service to tell them just that.  But when he collapses in the middle of his speech, he spurs some on to action.  Though he dies, five church members commit to changing their ways and beginning to live their lives as Jesus did rather than as Christians in name only.  However, their decision is hard than they first thought.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

While money was spent on the ‘surface’ of production, that is, camera work and video quality, the beauty is only skin deep, so to speak.  Sets and locations are average, and the lighting therein is inconsistent.  Also, some outside scenes have quite loud background noises and there is a loud stock soundtrack that covers up far too much dialogue.  There was basically no editing present—pretty much all content was included to make the film long enough, including filler scenes.  Essentially, In His Steps is a generic bad production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on the famous novel by Charles Sheldon, this film unfortunately ruins the book’s original idea and alters the original plot for convenience.  The storyline is very slow and melancholy and struggles to hold the attention.  The characters begin as empty but quickly progress to annoying as they try to become better Christians.  This is such a travesty because it doesn’t make anyone want to be stronger in their faith, but rather may turn some off.  After their recommitment, the Christians in this film become legalistic, forceful, and sometimes offensive, while those who oppose them are laughable.  Because of this dichotomy, there is far too much unintentional comedy that ensues, thus making a mockery of the novel’s original intent.  In short, though there is some potential here, this plot is mostly a disaster.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This moderate cast appears to be overly practiced in their line delivery and they come off as stiff and wooden.  Also, their emotional delivery is awkward and sometimes over the top.  Makeup is not a strong suit either.  While it seems like this cast had potential, they did not reach it.

Conclusion

Like eerily similar films What Would Jesus Do? and Do You Believe?, In His Steps carries an important message about Christians truly living out their faith.  However, this message gets lost in translation as audiences cannot ignore poor production quality, a vanilla plot, and obnoxious acting.  Why do movies like this have to be packaged this way?  It’s so disappointing to review one movie after another that all commit the same old mistakes.  We plead with Christian film makers to get second and third opinions on their works before releasing them—this will do a world of good.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Christmas Grace [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Gary is a local toy shop owner, but when a rude rival toy shop owner comes to town and tries to sabotage Gary’s business, Gary suddenly has to close down and look for work elsewhere.  He knows that he shouldn’t be angry so he trusts God for the next step in his life.  As his wife has their first child, Gary suddenly has an idea for a business venture and decides to pursue it.  But little does he know that the rival toy shop owner is still miserable inside…

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

There’s not much to get excited about with this production.  The only positive thing to mention is the clear video quality.  The camera work is poor and some scenes have bad lighting.  The audio quality is quite inconsistent, including an annoying Christmas soundtrack and sound effects.  The sets and locations are limited and seem amateurish.  Furthermore, the editing is quite choppy—some scenes are too long while others are too short.  In short, there is really nothing much good to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In an attempt to include more plot content, the writers had to also include large time jumps, spanning from one Christmas to the next (since everything has to happen at Christmas time).  While there are slight attempts to be spiritually meaningful, there is too much heavy-handed messaging.  There are also some slightly interesting flashbacks that attempt to build characters, but a majority of the characters are still cheesy stereotypes.  This is mainly because the dialogue is very pedestrian and stock.  This is not to mention the fact that the entire premise of the film, which is warring toy shops, is absurd and unrealistic.  There are other happenings that are equally unrealistic, created for the sole purpose of the plot.  In the end, this plot is quite predictable and needs to be reworked.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The casting work, unfortunately, brings out the amateurism of the creators.  The acting is extremely wooden and stiff and line delivery is quite forced.  There are really no emotions to speak of.  Perhaps the worst part is the makeup, especially the eye makeup, which makes some people look like they have black eyes.  Basically, there’s nothing good to say here.

 

Conclusion

The creators of Christmas Grace seemed like they meant well, but they needed to choose a more realistic premise for their plot.  Honestly, in the advent of online ordering, nobody shops at toy stores anymore.  Yet the provision of God during hard times could be communicated in a different way that is less cheesy and more realistic.  At least there was some slight justification for this being a Christmas movie, and it definitely could have been better.  This creative team has some potential in them, and it will be interesting to see what they do next.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Princess Cut (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Grace has had her share of heartache when it comes to romantic relationships.  She feels like men have played games with her heart, even though she desperately wants to find the right man to spend the rest of her life with.  She looks to her parents for guidance, but she also wants to be her own woman.  After she finally hits rock bottom when a man treats her in a way she does not feel is appropriate, she decides to make changes in her life and to stop seeking men.  Little does she know that true love could be right around the corner.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

The production of Princess Cut is its one redeeming quality, but that still isn’t saying much.  The video quality is clear and the camera work is passable, except for in-shot zooming.  The editing is decent, but the sound quality is the biggest detractor here.  Many scenes are obviously overdubbed because of the lack of a boom mic.  Some sound is hard to hear and there are quite a few musical montages that cover up what could have been valuable dialogue.  Also, the sets are severely limited; too much content takes place off screen.  In short, we realize that Princess Cut had a very small budget, but it seems like more could have been done here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

There is an underlying philosophy in this plot that is slightly commendable, but there are so many negative issues.  Good principles of dating are talked about, but they are also forced down the throats of the audience through robotic paragraph dialogue.  Also shoved in the viewers’ faces is a far right Christian-ese worldview based on patriarchy, matronly women’s roles, anti-psychology ideals, and self-help books.  The female characters are portrayed as empty-headed and clueless.  ‘Bad’ characters are over-the-top strawmen.  As previously mentioned, there is no real dialogue that builds the characters—most of the time, the characters seem to be reading self-help books verbatim.  The plot is choppy and leaves out many key parts, some of which are made up for with extremely awkward and strange dialogue.  Intended humor falls flat.  In summary, this plot contains only a small amount of positive amid a conglomerate of strange philosophies and robotic characters.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

We felt like there was some potential in this cast—Rusty Martin Sr. and his son has both demonstrated good acting skills before—but it was not tapped in Princess Cut.  Ashley Bratcher seems like a good actress, but she is not given any help.  Unfortunately, most of the line delivery is emotionless and very stodgy.  If coaching had been employed, the acting quality could have improved.

Conclusion

It’s great that more independent Christian film-makers are making movies and are able to make them, but what is the cost of these sorts of films?  Princess Cut portrays Christians as living in their own bubble, owning a farm that the men run while the women slave away in the kitchen all day and knit.  People outside of this bubble are portrayed as bad, and psychology is a definite no-no.  Yet at the same time, the Bible is not given near as much attention in this film as self-help book product placements.  What type of philosophy is exactly being espoused here?  It is wonderful to portray healthy dating, but if you’re looking for that, we highly recommend Old-Fashioned, not Princess Cut.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Indescribable (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Blynn Lehman is just one of nine children in a second generation immigrant German family, living in California during the early days of World War I.  Times are hard, and his pastor father must take on extra work in order to make ends meet.  Blynn’s older brother has been drafted into the war, and Blynn’s father grows more frustrated by the day as he tries to write a song about the love of God.  Blynn becomes determined to help his father finish the song so that it will bring their family needed income.  In order to do so, he and his siblings begin to explore the origins of a mysterious Jewish poem that will take them further than they ever imagined.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

First off, Indescribable has good video and sound quality, but unfortunately, this is the extent of its positive production elements.  The film contains amateur camera angles, which can be slightly forgiven due to its microscopic budget.  However, the editing is all over the map, including unnecessary filler scenes and awkward cuts to historical flashbacks and fantasies.  The sets are very cheap.  There is also bad makeup and costuming; however, much of this can be overlooked for the sake of its budget.  Yet this begs the question: with such a small budget, was this movie worth making?

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The idea behind the plot has some interesting potential, but due to the wasted time and confusing flashbacks\fantasies, the original point is eventually lost.  This movie is based on true events, and Box Office Revolution realizes that it is attempting to be realistic in its day by day feel, but it just comes off as amateurish.  Some of the scenes are downright head-scratching as to why they are even included.  Much of the dialogue is unfortunately childish, thus making for odd character development.  There is an uncanny worldview undertone to the plot that cannot be quantified, except to say that it feels like a vague point about Christian-Jewish historical relations is trying to be impressed upon the viewers.

Acting Quality (0 points)

There is no acting coaching whatsoever.  It seems like a lot of the actors have been pressed into service with no backup.  The emotional delivery is unbelievable and goes over the heads of the audience.  Most of the actors are overly practiced and extremely stiff, and they commit out of place actions with no warning.  In short, some amateur acting can be forgiven, but the blame for this cast must fall upon the movie’s creators, since many of these people are being expected to play parts they have not been properly prepared for.

Conclusion

The Christian movie scene is full of good intentions.  Indescribable is a well-meaning movie about an important topic.  It could have been a truly intriguing historical plot, but it simply falls short.  Once again, funding of independent Christian films is a huge issue, but with a budget this small, the creators should have thought twice about forcing it to happen.  If one wants to get started in independent Christian film making, short films is probably the best route to begin on.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points