A Christmas Snow (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Kathleen hates Christmas and thus likes to make her restaurant staff work all the time on the holidays.  But she likes Andrew, so she decides to help watch his Christmas-loving (and slightly obnoxious) daughter, Lucy, while he completes a business trip before the holiday.  So when Kathleen and Lucy get snowed in with a random guy who saved Kathleen from some hoodlums in a parking lot, Kathleen thinks her life is over, especially when they are forced to play board games that remind her of her parents.  Will they ever be able to make it through the day?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The good thing about this film is that is has high production quality.  Tracy Trost and her team are usually committed to this, and it shows again in A Christmas Snow.  The positive elements include good video quality and camera work, as well as adequate audio quality and an okay soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are fine and are mostly utilized well.  There are really no glaring errors to note here.  There are just some small issues pertaining to some choppy cuts and transitions, but this is not enough to derail the production.  On the whole, this is an applaudable effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the plot of this film.  It is based on a stereotypical holiday-hating-character-is-forced-to-like-the-holidays-because-of-some-outside-event plot sequence.  It would be one thing if the characters were fine, since this is a character-based plot, but that is not the case here.  The main character in particular is quite obnoxious, as are some of the supporting characters.  This is mostly due to absurd dialogue and ridiculously forced comedy, such as statements like ‘chickatarian.’  There is really nothing creative about this story as it depicts a collection of random characters stuck in a house during the holidays again.  While there are some attempts to use flashbacks to build the characters, they fall flat.  The character arcs are far too steep, and the Christian message is too vague.  Unfortunately, this is a swing and a miss.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

For a majority of the film, the lead actress and the child actress of this film are quite annoying, in keeping with the characters they play.  This is demonstrated through forceful emotions and stiff line delivery.  They are clearly trying too hard, while other cast members just come off as off-beat.  Needless to say, this movie will be remembered for the wrong reasons.

Conclusion

There was a good idea behind this movie, this much must be noted.  Trying to develop a grumpy character through establishing flashbacks can be a great way to present a nice holiday story, but A Christmas Snow does it all wrong.  Unfortunately, although the production was good in this film, it was wasted on a poorly written story and off-putting acting.  Maybe next time, Tracy Trost and her team will improve upon their past films.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

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The Messenger’s Box (Movie Review)

It’s magical!

Plot Summary

Jake Casper is just a random teenager who stumbles upon a magical box while cleaning out his late grandfather’s attic.  He discovers a magic nail inside that was used to piece the hand of Jesus.  Since it’s Christmastime, Jake decides to go around and heal people with the magical power of the nail, even the most evil bully in town, who’s dying in a hospital bed.  But will Jake and his friends be able to get past the security guards to save him?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Messenger’s Box has plenty of issues, but at least the production is mostly average.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all mostly fine.  However, the soundtrack is generic, and sets, locations, and props are somewhat cheap, even though there is definitely effort here.  Some flashbacks have an odd quality about them, and there are some cheesy special effects.  The most obvious error here pertains to the very abrupt scene chances and transitions, like this film was chopped together in post.  Basically, though there is effort here, it still only comes out as average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This film has one of the dumbest magical Christmas device plots ever.  Everything about it is extremely juvenile and overly dramatic.  Even with all of this, there is still not much content to speak of as not much happens outside of the magical elements and the awkward forced comedy sequences.  Most of the dialogue is very forced and scripted, and a majority of it focuses on the magical plot device and other insignificant asides.  Thus, this creates characters that are all fixated on either the magical ‘thing’ or on the dumbest sidebar topics.  Besides this, they come off as uninspiring and flat rather than accessible and realistic.  Essentially, whoever dreamed up this stupid idea of a film needs to seriously revamp their movie making process.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To match their characters, this cast is very robotic, stiff, wooden, and empty in most of their performances.  Emotions are basically non-existent as everything is either very dramatic or very matter-of-fact.  Line delivery is overly practiced.  Unfortunately, there is very little positive to say about this extremely cheesy film.

Conclusion

Gary Bosek and his team obviously did not think this one through very well.  Using Crystal Creek people as cast members is one thing, but basing your entire plot on a stupid ‘Bible’ magical device in a Christmas context is a completely worn out idea and is so juvenile that it has no place in Christian film.  This is just all wrong as a movie and should have been scrapped from the beginning.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Pawn’s Move (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jimmy unexpectedly inherits the secretly wealthy estate of his eccentric antique-collecting mentor, he doesn’t quite know what to do with it.  Therefore, in order to escape from people who only want him for his money, he decides to take a trip to the small town where his mentor grew up so he can sort things out.  But what he finds there is unexpected and reveals a side of himself he never thought he had.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a first-time, limited-funding production, Pawn’s Move is raw and honest.  Camera work is mostly good, as is video quality.  However, lighting is sometimes inconsistent and audio quality tends to pick up a lot of background noises.  Yet the soundtrack is okay.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and authentic, even if they are a bit limited.  Finally, the editing also needs some improvement, even though it shows plenty of potential.  In the end, this is an average and honest production that definitely showed potential for the future, as we saw in The Matchbreaker.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Much like their second film, the Vetter Brothers’ freshman effort Pawn’s Move is artistic and creative.  It utilizes quirky yet believable characters in a muted romantic comedy setting.  Yet despite the huge amount of potential here, this story is severely underdeveloped and understated.  The characters are accessible, yet they need more exploration.  Comedy is subtle, and sometimes too subtle.  Overall, there are too many random ideas floating around in this plot that need better organization, but it was a great start that led to better things.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this amateur cast is somewhat awkward, they are definitely trying.  Sometimes it seems like they need a little more direction than they are being given.  They would have definitely benefitted from upgraded coaching, especially when it came to emotional expression.  Yet nonetheless, like the rest of this film, it showed promise for the future.

Conclusion

There are few film makers that can pull off comedy properly because true comedy requires an understanding of flawed and human characters, as well as superb dialogue.  While Pawn’s Move does not necessarily fully meet these requirements, it is still a step in the right direction.  All film makers, even the best, sometimes have meager beginnings, so the important thing is to keep moving forward and to keep trying to improve.  The ones who do this are set apart from the rest and make a real difference.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The King’s Messengers, Season 1 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

Anwaar Osem and David Sutherland are on the run from the powerful force that has taken over the American government and has sent its enforcers to capture and kill those who resist their anti-Christian rule.  As they hide in the woods, they decide to record the truth about Christianity for all the world to see, even though the enforcement tries to stamp it out.  Will they be able to spread the truth and save people’s lives before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Despite a somewhat strong beginning and several years of production experience, this Crystal Creek series is not what it should be.  Camera work is very shaky throughout, like a camcorder is being used.  Video quality is fine, but there are way too many scenes filmed in the dark.  Audio quality is also below standard as sound effects that sound like they came from Final: The Rapture are included.  The soundtrack is also underwhelming.  Sets, locations, and props are severely limited and cheap-looking.  Finally, editing in this series is very poor a lot of unnecessary scenes and sequences are included, seemingly just to make the ‘episodes’ longer.  In short, a 2017 production should be much higher quality than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though there are plenty of potentially interesting and creative ideas at the heart of this series, they are never properly developed.  This season overall lacks focus as it relies on a very vague and unexplained dystopian premise and stock suspense dialogue.  There are far too many unrelated and empty characters that are put through unrealistic circumstances.  The subplots are overall disjointed and any ‘twists’ that are employed are actually quite cheesy.  Finally, the end of this season is very confusing and really doesn’t inspire one to want a second season.  It’s very difficult to see the justification for this so-called series.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Can someone explain to us why Daniel Knudsen consistency uses an obviously fake British accent?  It’s very off-putting and annoying.  Elsewhere, this is a typical Crystal Creek cast with a few new additions that have some talent.  However, acting coaching is still lacking as a lot of the line delivery in this series is monotone and phoned in.  Emotions are difficult to grasp.  It’s possible that this cast could do better with coaching, however.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

Each so-called ‘episode’ is basically just the same plot over and over again.  Thus, there are no character arcs or real plot twists, as previously mentioned.  The format this ‘series’ is placed in makes it more like a movie than a season, since the breaks between the episodes are totally arbitrary and unnecessary.  They all run together, thus creating zero continuity.

Conclusion

We are certain that the Crystal Creek Media team means well, so we hope they will accept constructive criticism and use it improve in the future.  They have the drive to make movies and series, which is good, and they have the means to consistently produce them, though not very well.  They definitely like to build strong messages in their stories, but they need to build strong stories to hold their message properly.  They need to pool their resources to make one good production rather than a collection of bad ones.  Finally, their acting pool is limited, but they can be worked with if better coaching is employed.  We know all of this is easier said than done, but it’s so worth it in the end.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 14 points

 

For the Glory [2012] (Movie Review)

Your guess is as good as ours

Plot Summary

Kurt Kuykendall is a highly gifted basketball player who has it all, including a possible Olympic future.  But his home life is a wreck, which leads to tragedy and his being cut from the basketball team.  He feels like his life is over, but all is not lost, because God opens up a new door for him—playing soccer—that he would have never thought was possible.  The only question is, will Kurt seek God or remain bitter about the past?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

While some measures were taken to make this production good, too many corners were cut here.  Video quality and audio quality are on par, though the soundtrack is pedestrian, but there is too much shaky camera work, especially in the sports sequences.  Speaking of the sports sequences, they are too repetitive and redundant, including some unnecessarily recycled footage.  Thus, there are too many sports montages, which reflects poor editing and a general lack of content, even though this film is supposed to be an epic about a real person’s life.  Sets and locations are also fairly limited.  Therefore, though this production looks good on the surface, it does not do enough to warrant more than one point.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This is an interesting true story to depict in movie form, but it overall lacks focus and causes too much confusion for the audience.  For the Glory commits the amateur epic mistakes of creating too many time jumps and referring to off screen content too often.  Besides the constant sports montages, there are too many head-scratching sequences and random occurrences that do nothing to help us get to know these characters at all.  Time is not spent wisely, thus making it hard to be able to relate to the struggles of these characters.  Dialogue also meanders and is generally hard to follow, which creates cheesy and empty characters.  In short, while For the Glory highlights some true-to-life issues, it does so in a very lazy fashion that will unfortunately have no real impact.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, cases that include Jason Burkey and Richard Swingle that have no connection to the Erwin Brothers do not fair well.  They are their usual awkward selves, as are other cast members.  Emotions are over the top and forced and line delivery is sometimes hesitant.  This cast would have benefited from coaching.

Conclusion

In the grand scheme of things, films like For the Glory are very easily forgettable and fall into the massive heap of Christian movies that just blow over your head after you’ve watched them.  There is nothing particularly good or bad to remember about this category of films—you just watch them and then you’re done and never watch them again.  What we need is greatness in Christian film, not more failed attempts like this one.  Perhaps movies like this one can serve as reminders of how film makers can improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Courageous Love {Rather to Be Chosen} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Alex Shelby inherits his father’s real estate investment company, he feels like he is in over his head because he does not know how to lead.  But he decides to trust in the experienced people who assisted his father all of his career.  However, when he is faced with an impossible situation involving accusations against an employee of his that he is falling in love with, Alex will have to make hard decisions as he tries to discover who is really trying to sabotage his company.  Will love win out in the end?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While Courageous Love is an improved production effort compared to the track record of Crystal Creek Media, it is still just average.  For example, video quality and camera work are fine, but inconsistent audio issues still plague this film, which is an error Crystal Creek has yet to rectify in their films.  Also, the soundtrack is very stock.  In this film are many of the same limited sets from Unexpected Places, especially the office sets.  Finally, the editing of Courageous Love is very sloppy, with very confusing and abrupt transitions and cuts.  Overall, while this production looks better than the past ones, there are still commonly recurring issues that plague it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unlike past plots from this studio, Courageous Love has an interesting and slightly complex idea behind it, even though it gets severely covered up by incompetent writing.  There is really no way to follow what’s happening as the audience is presented with a dizzying amount of unconnected and underdeveloped subplots.  From one scene to the next, there is little continuity or understanding of what is happening.  Many sequences and scenes are empty and wasted, doing nothing to deepen the story.  This story’s characters are one-dimensional, act disingenuous, and demonstrate no real purpose or personality as they are driven by mindless dialogue.  Finally, the plot rests on unrealistic yet extremely convenient occurrences in order to make the story go where it ‘needs’ to go.  In short, while we believe the Knudsens and company have good intentions, their messaging is all wrong.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While this is another film filled with the same old under-coached Crystal Creek cast members, there is still some potential here.  Tim Kaiser seems to be improving with time.  However, there are still many errors that plague this section, including useless fake accents and overdubs and the usual emotion and line delivery problems.  This group may mean well, but they are in severe need of coaching.

Conclusion

After a handful of movies under their belt, has the Crystal Creek team really made it anywhere?  Following such poor productions like Unexpected Places, Indescribable, Christmas Grace, and Creed of Gold, they are just now getting the hang of a proper production, even though they still have a ways to go.  But what of their writing?  We sincerely implore the Knudsens to reach out for help in this area, because whatever good ideas they have are being wasted as they are lost in translation.  Furthermore, please find some new cast members or at least try to coach the ones you have.  Movies like Courageous Love are easily forgotten for all of the previously listed reasons.  If you want to make an impact, aim for quality over quantity.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Polycarp: Destroyer of Gods (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Polycarp was a great Christian who led the church at Smyrna in the second century just as the Roman Empire was becoming more radicalized and hostile towards Christians.  When a couple in his church rescues a young slave girl named Anna, Polycarp takes a personal interest in her, as he was also rescued as a slave boy.  As times become tumultuous for Christians, Polycarp seeks to lead his flock to always be strong in the Lord and to stand firm in the day of trouble.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It is evident that the Henline Productions team cares about historical authenticity, as a great amount of time, effort, and resources were put into the realistic sets and props of Polycarp.  This is difficult for an independent film to pull off, yet they did it anyway.  Camera work is highly effective and professional.  Video and audio quality are also top-notch.  However, the soundtrack needs an upgrade, as it rarely can be heard.  Also, the editing needs to be worked on, since some scenes drag on too long and there are too many seemingly unnecessary or repetitive sequences.  But in the end, this is an excellent place to begin for a freshman production and gives great hope for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The plot of Polycarp starts out with an excellent historical idea, however, it wastes too much time getting to the point.  The first half struggles to hold the attention and we fear many viewers will give up on it halfway through.  However, once the second half of the movie begins, the real meat of the story is finally uncovered and things become interesting.  The characters are pretty good throughout, especially at the end, but we would have liked to see more development and deepening.  There is plenty of interesting and meaningful dialogue, but not all of it builds the characters as it should.  But as everything progresses, the ending sequences are very effective and drive the point home well—we hope the audience will stay until the end, because it is worth it.  In the end, though we can’t help but think what could have been, this is a formidable effort and shows potential for the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this is a largely amateur cast, most of the cast members deliver solid performances with few errors to speak of.  Line delivery is on point and emotions are believable.  The main thing that drags this score down is very over-the-top acting by one or two cast members that perhaps took their parts too seriously.  But overall, like the rest of this film, this is an excellent start to a budding career.

Conclusion

The story of Polycarp the bishop and martyr is a long and complex one, and the Henline team obviously did not have the resources to fully capture it in an epic, but it still may be worth doing in the future.  There are so many things the Henline team can do with more resources, so we pray that they are provided with what they need to take that next step into greatness.  With slight production upgrades, a more complex plot, and slightly better acting coaching, they are going to go places.  We know they have the ability to do so and can’t wait to see what comes next from their studio.

 

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

 

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

 

Creed of Gold (Movie Review)

The permeations are insanely complex

Plot Summary

Cody Williams was entrusted a secret by his parents, but it is a secret that could change the world forever.  When he moves to America to go to school, he feels that it is his destiny to use his secret—a list of the world’s most powerful elites—to make a difference and bring down the Federal Reserve.  With the help of God and some newfound friends, Cody sets out to do just that, but they encounter trouble along the way from those who want to silence them forever.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Creed of Gold is supposed to be some serious action adventure epic, but it’s just not.  Unfortunately, Crystal Creek Media still doesn’t have production quality down.  From poor lighting to dizzying camera angles to cheap special effects and CGI, this one is a real doozy.  With clearly no boom mic to speak of nearly all of the dialogue is voiced over in post, and it’s very obvious that they are voiceovers.  Any audio that is not voiced over is very poor, and the ‘action’ soundtrack is very loud and annoying.  In short, if you don’t have the resources to make a good action production, please don’t make one at all.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

What is this plot?  From the confusing prologue to the silly unrealistic premise of a bunch of college students trying to hack the Federal Reserve, there is no sense or continuity here.  Random things just happen for no reason, subplots jump all over the place, and leaps in logic are constantly used to drive the plot.  Despite the constant in-your-face anti-Fed propaganda and many long and drawn out conversations about isolating topics, the plot is still extremely complicated and offers no explanation as to how characters go from point A to point B.  Due to the droning conversations, the characters are extremely one-dimensional and the villains are very cheesy.  Creed of Gold just feels like an idea that never figured out what it was supposed to be.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there is nothing good to say here either.  The acting is very wooden and robotic.  Little emotion is demonstrated from this cast, and there are too many obviously fake accents.  I wish there was something good to say, but there’s just not.

Conclusion

We think the Crystal Creek Media team means well, but they have been short on delivery.  Since Creed of Gold is almost a National Treasure knockoff, we strongly suggest they reconsider what types of plots they are writing.  Also, until more resources are available for better production quality, action adventure films are probably not the way to go.  We believe they have potential, they just need some direction and better backing.  Perhaps they will improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 0 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

Alone Yet Not Alone (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Recent immigrants from Germany to colonial America in order to find religious freedom, Barbara Leninger, her parents, and her siblings did not expect to come face to face with the violence between the Native Americans and the settlers.  In a shocking raid, Barbara and her sister Regina are separated from their mother after witnessing the deaths of their brother and father.  Barbara and Regina are forced to become Native American girls in every way, including attire and behavior.  They band together with other captive children, keeping each other morally afloat by singing the Leninger family hymn, Alone Yet Not Alone.  But when Barbara and Regina are separated, their true faith in God is tested to the limits as they risk their lives by attempting to escape in order to find each other again.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For a first time filmmaker, Alone Yet Not Alone has above average production quality.  The camera work is good, as multiple complex action scenes are filmed relatively well.  The editing is okay, considering the large amount of content and the passage of time in this movie.  One drawback is that some of the makeup work and costuming show indie qualities, but this does not cause irreparable harm.  In short, this is a good start for production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

This movie is based off of true events, so realism in the plot cannot be argued with.  There are realistic twists, turns, and disappointments throughout.  As previously mentioned, a lot of time is covered, and this is pulled off fairly well.  However, the characters are not developed as well as they should be as the dialogue is just average.  Regardless, inaugural film projects should tend to be based on real events, and this criteria is met.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For a cast of allegedly inexperienced actors, there are not too many glaring errors.  Some movie-makers commit grave errors with casts of allegedly professional actors.  Sometimes it is difficult to cast multiple actors for the same character in a plot that requires age differences, but Alone Yet Not Alone does not make this a problem.  Some negative elements should be examined however, such as the poor acting of some of the supporting actors and the fact that not all of the Native American characters were played by true Native Americans.  Box Office Revolution realizes that it is difficult to acquire so many Native Americans for a movie, so this may be a moot point.  In summary, more is made out of this little-know cast than is made out of casts that are supposedly star-studded.

Conclusion

Alone Yet Not Alone is a good start for the team behind it; it is definitely something to build off of.  It contains a believable plot that can relate to most audiences, highlighting a little known historical period well.  In short, if more Christian movies were of this caliber instead of so many unwatchable movies in the Christian genre, the movement as a whole would have a greater reputation than it currently does.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Beyond the Mask (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

William Reynolds is not a good man.  As an unofficial contracted ‘enforcer’ for the East India Company, he has committed many undocumented international crimes.  That’s why his boss, Charles Kemp, enlists him and his partner to steal and replace an incriminating Parliamentary report that could shut down the entire company for unethical business practices.  However, after this mission is complete, William intends to put his criminal life behind him.  Little does he know that Kemp has other plans for him.  After secretly surviving a failed attempt on his life, Reynolds is forced to take on the identity of the man who foiled the murder—a young vicar headed to a local parish.  It seems easy until Reynolds must fabricate a knowledge of the Scriptures and come to grips with his newfound love for a local girl who has no idea who he really is.  What Reynolds learns is that life in hiding is anything but straightforward, especially during the tumultuous political times of pre-Revolutionary War England and America.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

Burns Family Studios did an excellent job on the production of this adventure epic movie, including camera work, special effects, and historical costuming.  It would have been very easy for this type of large scope movie to be cheaply produced, but this was not the case.  The editing must have been very tricky, given the time that the movie covers, but it is done fairly well.  There are virtually no errors here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

However, the same cannot be said about the plot.  Box Office Revolution believes talented writer Paul McCusker bit off more than he could chew with this historical epic.  The movie covers at least two years of highly important content, and it walks the line of being too fast paced and being just good enough.  In some respects, the plot moves too fast to develop the characters, but in other respects, it is a very exciting movie full of intriguing plot twists.  It is creatively woven around historical events, yet BOR wonders if Mask should have been two movies or even a miniseries.  At the same time, BOR realizes that money is always an issue with independent Christian films, so it is likely that McCusker and Burns Family Studios did the best they could with what they had.  In short, the only real errors in this aspect of the movie are the fast paced plot and some small yet unrealistic action scenes.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Andrew Cheney and Jon Ryhs-Davies are obviously well-seasoned actors, and they are coached well.  However, the ‘amateur’ actors are also coached very well.  BOR noted that staff positions on the production of this movie were devoted to acting coaching, something that other Christian productions need to take note of.  There are virtually no acting errors in Beyond the Mask.

Conclusion

In short, there are two ways of looking at Beyond the Mask, much like the masks of William Reynolds.  Either McCusker and Burns Family Studios did the best with what they had or they did not do enough.  BOR chooses to adopt a position in between these two options.  Beyond the Mask is clearly above average and Paul McCusker has always been known as an excellent story writer.  The movie is a breath of fresh air in the Christian movie industry and has made BOR very excited to see the future movies of Paul McCusker and Burns Family Studios.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points