A Love That Hurts (Movie Review)

 

Plot Summary

Chris and Samantha are newlyweds who can’t wait to start a family.  However, their dream ends in heartbreak as their first child miscarries.  This tragedy pushes them apart as a couple and causes them each to seek fulfillment in all of the wrong places.  When another tragedy strikes their family, they will have to make a choice: will they grow apart or seek God to save their marriage?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

A Love That Hurts has a surprisingly above-average production for such a small budget.  Although there are some moments of echoed audio and some disorienting special effects, video quality and camera work are quite good.  Sets, locations, and props are slightly limited, but they are good considering what the creators had to work with.  Further, there are some abrupt cuts and transitions throughout, but as a whole, this is a very good production considering the tiny budget that was allotted for it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While there are some good attempts to portray accessible characters with realistic struggles, the characters of this story really need to be deepened, not only because this is a character-based plot, but also because it would make the story more meaningful.  As it is, a lot of the dialogue is too obvious and forces the plot along.  Some characters are too robotic as they appear to be pawns in the plot, only serving the purpose of spoon-feeding the audience an obvious message.  This message comes off as a somewhat plastic version of Christianity, including an odd portrayal of women.  Also, some characters are ‘overly Christian’ or become perfect through quick resolutions and easy fixes to problems.  However, not all is bad here as the writers at least demonstrate a care for realism, even if the plot is sometimes boring and slow.  The ending is a bit forced and rushed, as well as somewhat vague and abrupt.  In the end, it’s clear the writers meant well here, even if the delivery was misguided.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this is an ‘amateur’ church cast, the cast members show a lot of potential and desire to do well.  There are plenty of good acting moments as real effort is evident.  The main issue to point out here is that sometimes the cast members appear to be overly practiced in their lines and emotions.  Some cast members could use a little more natural emotion, but as a whole, this film is an applaudable effort.

Conclusion

It’s rare to find a movie this highly rated with such a small budget.  Further, it is clear that this creative team was putting their great effort into making this a good project.  However, it seems like more could have been done in the plot department.  Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see if they produce any more content in the future.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

My Grandpa Detective (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Robert Whitmore III was just awarded a prestigious police award and promoted to lead detective, a role that used to be held by his famous grandfather, Robert Whitmore Sr.  However, Bob III’s world is rocked when he discovers that his new partner is none other than his grandfather, who has been pressed back into service by the force for retiring too early to collect his pension.  Together, they will have to get along to catch a notorious criminal who has come back to town with the goal of stealing the coveted Bronze Basin of Bitterness.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, the production of this film is not as bad as the rest of it.  All the usual elements, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality, are fine and professional.  There are really no glaring errors here.  The soundtrack is a bit silly, which is to be somewhat expected for a comedy like this.  Sets, locations, and props are average and passable, except for the fact that some unusual props are constantly emphasized.  Also, as usual for this sort of film, the editing is somewhat poor and disorienting.  In the end, this production is the best component of this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

My Grandpa Detective is one of the most nonsensical ‘comedy’ plots since The Takeover.  Besides having absolutely no purpose and being completely aimless, this film has an extremely absurd feel to it that includes a lot of head-scratching and deadpan-inducing moments and sequences.  There is no way to understand what is trying to be communicated in this film as a collection of very eccentric and bizarre characters fumble around, looking for a reason to keep this film going.  The premise is very trumped up and the Christian message is very forced and awkward.  Nearly every line of dialogue is stupidity, thus making the storyline impossible to take seriously.  There are also a lot of cliqued mystery tropes and a predictable ending to top things off.  Essentially, the creators of this film were either confused, delusional, or purposely satirical.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Besides the fact that several cast members are made to look much older than they are, nearly all of the acting in this cast is as absurd as the plot.  Everyone seems intent on making a fool of themselves with childish emotions and outbursts, as well as poor line delivery.  In the end, most elements in this film are completely ridiculous.

Conclusion

Why are Christian films like this still being made in 2016?  What does this sort of movie accomplish, outside of making a further mockery of Christian movies?  True comedy takes well-developed characters and realistic, witty dialogue, not all of the raving nonsense you find in My Grandpa Detective.  Alas, this is another embarrassment and one that should be forgotten, unless you need to know how not to make a movie.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Slow Fade [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Since Thomas grew up without a positive father influence in his life, he was influenced by the television and by the wrong crowd of friends.  As he embraces violent behavior, his mother is at a loss of what to do with him except to pray for him.  One day, his violence finally catches up with him and gets him in trouble with an elderly man.  But rather than press charges, the elderly man takes Thomas under his wing and decides to positively influence him.  Slowly but surely, Thomas’ life turns around.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This production begins very roughly, with very cheap video quality and some poor lighting.  Camera work is relatively stable throughout, but audio quality is very poor, including loud background noises and an overbearing soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are relatively limited.  However, most production elements improve as the movie goes on.  Yet the editing is consistently a problem as it allows too many montages and lagging scenes.  Overall, this is a very raw production that needed better funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though on its face this is an interesting plot idea, it does not translate to reality.  Heavy-handed narration stunts character development, as does the cheap dialogue.  The message presented here is very juvenile as it treats all entertainment as evil (what about this film?) and offers an extremely simplistic and childish view of why people act the way they do.  Large time jumps cause a lot of off-screen content to be referred to, which makes the storyline vague and hard to pin down.  As previously mentioned, there are too many flat and meandering scenes that simply boil down to a conclusion that unrealistically fixes all the problems with no real consequences.  The story leaves too many vague concepts unexplored and will likely cause viewers to roll their eyes at the simplicity and silliness of how these otherwise important issues are handled.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this small cast has some potential, they are too often unsure of themselves.  Line delivery is inconsistent, as are emotions.  There are some good moments here, but the bad moments hold the cast back from being all they could be, thus warranting an average score.

Conclusion

Movies like Slow Fade feel like beta tests that were not necessarily intended for full release to the public.  The good thing is that most people will likely not see this film, but that’s so unfortunate to wish such a thing on a movie.  This creative team may mean well, but they are lacking in proper presentation.  They need to try to connect their plots with reality rather than vaguely and childishly explore important concepts.  Then they will possibly find themselves with some better funding and more success as film makers.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Remember [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Carl Onoway is a captain in the new world army and is constantly tasked with making sure the new laws are enforced.  Children are not allowed to be raised by their parents and can only be raised by qualified professionals.  Everyone is required to take weekly medication to make them forget about their pasts and what has happened.  Propaganda, such as religious materials, is not allowed.  But what happens when these rules begin to be disobeyed?  What happens when Carl and his wife begin to remember the past?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Here’s a good rule of thumb for production: if you don’t have the budget to make it good, don’t make it at all.  This is especially true for sci-fi\speculative dystopian productions.  These types of projects require a lot of funding to create proper special effects, props, sets, and locations.  Unfortunately, Remember does not have what it takes in this department.  Audio quality is especially horrific, with lots of echoes and background noises.  Lighting is very inconsistent, with a lot of the outside scenes inordinately bright.  Camera work is very shaky and video quality is inconsistent.  Sets, locations, and props are very cheap-looking, with obvious low-quality special effects and animation riding on top of them.  The editing is lazy as it includes constant useless time subtitles and repeated sequences.  In the end, this is one of those nightmare productions that should have never been released to the public.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Much like the propaganda pushed in the plot of this film, the writers obviously had their own agenda in making this movie.  Otherwise, there’s no reason for its creation.  The dystopian premise constructed here is extremely absurd and juvenile as the viewer is constantly reminded that kids cannot be raised by their parents in this world but is given no realistic explanation as to why.  This is combined with constant obvious references to how the natural family structure is attacked in this dystopian world.  Rather than create meaningful characters, time is filled with message-pushing and repeating the same activities over and over again.  The villains are laughable and the protagonists are plastic.  As the story meanders and repeats itself, it still follows a predictable progression with a typical suspense climax scene.  Basically, what appears to be a convoluted idea just boils down to a typical plot structure with no real surprises.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Another grave error of a poorly-funded dystopian thriller is terrible costuming, and Remember sports this quality.  In an attempt to be futuristic, the costuming is very cheap and rushed.  As for the acting, line delivery is very half-hearted while emotional delivery is very forced and sometimes over the top.  Once again, this is another swing and a miss.

Conclusion

We desperately need new genre-breaking films in the Christian market, but this is just not the way.  What could be better than a well-funded, well-constructed dystopian thriller with a Christian worldview that’s not too pushy?  Unfortunately, Remember’s attempt to do this totally failed.  Maybe the creative team should have saved their money a bit more or made a dystopian short film just to get the ball rolling.  We know that funding an independent Christian film is very difficult, especially starting out, but that doesn’t mean you need to bite off more than you can chew.  There is no shame in doing the best you can with what you have.  Unfortunately, Remember is not the best.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

The Good Book [2014] (Movie Review)

The Good Book (2014)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

 

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

 

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